A Word with the DOCTOR
by Dr John Winsor
The Sunday Times of Malta

A ‘diet’ in reverse

ON a number of occasions I have had patients who complain that they are too thin, that they are ashamed to be seen in swimwear because their bones stick out, and that they cannot put on any weight.

These people are not suffering from the well-known affliction called anorexia, but sometimes there is a medical explanation for their weight.

For example, if a patient has an overactive thyroid gland, then the food they eat will be burnt up so rapidly that they will stay skinny however much they eat. A patient who has a chronic infection, may suffer from a serious loss of weight.

Anyone who loses weight suddenly or unexpectedly, or without wanting to, must always see a doctor for advice.

In some cases weight loss will follow a temporary infection or illness of some kind.

It is quite common for people who have had viral infections, such as viral hepatitis or simple influenza, to lose their appetite. That appetite loss can then 'lead to a considerable weight loss.

The loss of appetite that accompanies depression, may also lead to a weight loss.

If you are going to get your appetite back and put on weight, you must rebuild your interest in food carefully. Make sure that your food is well presented, and that it looks good. An attractive plateful of food is much more likely to be eaten.

It is also important that there isn't too much on the plate to start with. An enormous mound of food will be forbidding.

There are also some obvious things to remember. Favourite foods are more likely to get eaten as are foods that don't need a lot of chewing, cutting or fiddling with.

Sometimes there isn't an explanation for a weight loss or a failure to gain weight. Some people seem to be naturally skinny.

If that is your problem, then you have to take up some of the bad habits that slimmers are always advised to avoid.

So, for example, trick your body by eating when you are doing something else. That way your appetite control centre won't be able to switch off your desire to eat, and you'll eat more than you need.

Finally, never miss fixed meal times, use a bigger plate than usual, and avoid snacks that spoil your appetite.

If you still can't put on weight - see your doctor!