Alice,

What should my normal body weight be? I am 4 feet 11 inches tall and I weigh 75 pounds presently. I think that I am underweight because I haven't had my period in almost a year. If I were of normal weight, what percentage of my calories should come from fat?

— Weight conscious

Dear Weight conscious,

The fact that your menstrual cycle has stopped is a telltale sign that your weight has gone too low. It is unclear from your question whether or not you've experienced any of the signs of anorexia over the last year. Few people experience all of them, but if you have a cluster of anorexia's warning signs, it's wise to see a health care provider.

Signs of Anorexia 

  • Your sense of taste is different from before, changing your appetite.    
  • You've been constipated.    
  • You feel bloated, which makes you get full earlier in a meal. 
  • You're expending less energy than you used to. 
  • Your hair is falling out.  
  • You have mood swings and difficulty concentrating.   
  • You are preoccupied with food.     
  • You're growing new downy (soft) hairs on parts of your body.   
  • You've lost muscle mass.   
  • You fear becoming fat.    
  • You constantly think about food.  
  • Your skin is rough, dry, scaly, and cold. 
  • You get dizzy, and may have blacked out.   
  • You have become preoccupied with cooking and preparing food, often fixing meals for others without actually eating.  
  • You and/or other people have become concerned that you are too thin.  

Anorexia, a disease with no simple causes or solutions, affects at least one percent to three percent of college-aged women. Eating disorders are rooted in multiple causes — biological, psychological, and social. Anorexia may begin as an attempt to lose weight, and, over time, may become life-threatening.

Talk with a health care provider who specializes in eating issues about your loss of menstrual cycle and concern about weight; or, with a registered dietitian about your weight issues and percentage of calories from fat; or, with a counselor about your feelings associated with your weight loss and cessation of period. Please talk with someone and take care of your health before serious long-term effects (i.e., fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, low pulse rate, kidney failure, heart arrhythmias, and heart failure) on your body set in.

You might reach out to your campus' health services to make an appointment with a health care provider or a registered dietitian. You might also see if your school offers counseling services to speak with a mental health professional about your concerns. If you can't locate these services on campus, you can try contacting the National Eating Disorders Association for eating disorders information and referrals.

Alice!

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