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Friend Is Dangerously Underweight

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
One of my friends is dangerously underweight. She knows it too, but to her it seems nothing she does helps. She eats a a hamburger everyday at lunch too. I try convincing her to work out with me and my friends so she can gain more muscle, but her schedule doesn't allow us to see each other until after the gym closes. Oh, and we're college students with limited money and the evil Sodexo monopoly that charges more than our meal plan allows without going broke mid-semester, and the healthier stuff costs to much. Not that she'd think it would help, seeing as she's afraid healthy food will make her lose more weight. I tried getting her to go to the school nutritionist, but she's not very sympathetic with students and college dining, and assumes we have money to buy health food. What's a healthy way for her to gain weight that won't cost the arm and leg she's trying to put pounds onto.
Signed: Friend Is Dangerously Underweight

Dear Friend Is Dangerously Underweight,


Some people are significantly underweight due to eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. Emotional issues impact upon the person’s behavior and they subsequently significantly restrict their caloric intake and/or purge following any eating in efforts to avoid weight gain. And in these instances some people will not be able to maintain a healthy body weight and will become dangerously underweight.


Other people are unable to gain weight despite their diet or physical activity levels because of underlying medical issues. Possible causes of unintentional weight loss may include hyperthyroidism, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, malnutrition, depression, and anemia, to name a few.


FX is uncertain from what you have described if your friend’s low weight is due to an eating disorder or an underlying medical issue. FX recommends that your friend meet with a doctor to discuss these concerns. After meeting with your friend and running any necessary tests, a doctor can advise your friend about what is contributing to her inability to increase he weight and what she needs to do about – whether it is mental health treatment for an eating disorder, medical treatment for a physical illness, or combination of the two.


If your friend doesn't have a doctor and lives in northern New Jersey, she can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact her local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. If she lives in NJ she can also contact Girl’s Street – A Young Woman’s Health Program – at 908.522.2555.


If your friend lives in northern New Jersey and needs help finding a therapist she can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 973-247-1400. Outside of this area she can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in her area. She can also contact her insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers.  She can also contact the Eating Disorders Program at Atlantic Health at 908-522-5757 for more information and to set up an evaluation.

Signed: TeenHealthFX