Feet standing on a bathroom scales

How to check if your weight is healthy

Maintaining a healthy weight is important to help prevent malnutrition. During social distancing, you may not be eating as well as you usually do, either because you are unable to shop for the foods that you usually eat or because your appetite and interest in food has been impacted by isolation. It is important to be aware of your weight and appetite, particularly if you are older or have a medical condition, as you may be at risk of becoming malnourished.

Malnutrition is a serious condition which can increase a person’s risk of infection as well as slowing down their recovery. Malnutrition can also lead to frailty, where our bodies become weaker and more vulnerable to infections, falls and needing extra care.

Malnutrition can also lead to frailty, where our bodies become weaker and more vulnerable to infections, falls and needing extra care.

Body Mass Index

A BMI which is less than 18.5 kg/m2 may suggest malnutrition while a BMI which is less than 20 kg/m2 may suggest that someone is relatively underweight and at an increased risk of becoming malnourished. Your Body Mass Index (or BMI) is a useful way to assess how healthy your weight is, by considering your weight in reference to your height.

  • A BMI of between 20 and 25 kg/m2 is considered to be ideal for good health.
  • A BMI of over 25 kg/m2 might suggest that you are overweight.
  • A BMI of less than 20 kg/m2 indicates that you might be slightly underweight and at increased risk of malnutrition.
  • A BMI of less than 18.5 kg/m2 might indicate that you are underweight and already malnourished.

How to calculate your BMI

To calculate your BMI yourself, you will need to know your current weight in kilograms (kg) and height in metres (m).

A simple equation can be used to calculate your BMI:

BMI = weight (kg) ÷ height squared (m2)

Step 1)

Calculate your ‘height squared’ (m2) by multiplying your height (m) by itself. E.g. If you are 1.65m tall, multiply 1.65m x 1.65m = 2.7225m2.

Step 2)

Divide your weight (kg) by your height squared (m2). E.g. If you are 55kg, divide 55kg by 2.7225m2 = 20.2 kg/m2.

BMI calculator

A BMI calculator is available at the Malnutrition Pathway website which can calculate this for you. Visit https://www.malnutritionpathway.co.uk/resources to calculate your BMI.

Self screening for malnutrition

A self-screening tool is also available from the Malnutrition Self-Screening website, which you can use to help you check whether you are a healthy weight, whether you are losing too much weight and whether you are at risk of becoming malnourished.

Malnutrition Self-Screening website: www.malnutritionselfscreening.org/self-screening.html

What to do if you are concerned

If your BMI is low (below 20 kg/m2), or if you are experiencing a loss of appetite or recent unintentional weight loss, it’s important to try to make some changes to improve your dietary intake.

Having extra snacks, nourishing drinks and adding cream, butter and cheese to your meals whilst you have a poor appetite can help to increase the nutrition you get from your food. Specially formulated milkshake powders are also available to purchase from supermarkets or pharmacies, for those with a poor appetite who are struggling to manage to eat and drink enough. When this isn’t enough, oral nutritional supplements (ONS) may be prescribed by a healthcare professional. ONS are foods for special medical purposes and must be used under medical supervision. They provide additional energy, protein, vitamins and minerals which may be helpful when you are unable to get everything you need from food.

If you have serious concerns about your appetite or weight, or that of a family member, you should speak to a healthcare professional.

For more information, visit: https://www.malnutritionpathway.co.uk/leaflets-patients-and-carers

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority, as national and local authorities will have the most up to date information for your region. If you have any questions or concerns, seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

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