Learn About Obesity

What is obesity?

Obesity is defined as having an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity is more than just a cosmetic concern, though. It increases your risk of diseases and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Being extremely obese means you are especially likely to have health problems related to your weight. The good news is that even modest weight loss can improve or prevent the health problems associated with obesity. You can usually lose weight through dietary changes, increased physical activity and behavior changes. In some cases, prescription medications or weight loss surgery may be options. 

What causes obesity?

There are many things that can lead to an unhealthy weight. These include:

  • Family history — Genes do play a part in how your body balances calories and energy. Children whose parents are overweight are also more likely to be overweight. You can’t change your genetic makeup by willpower any more than you can make yourself taller or shorter by wishing. But, you can still lose weight and keep it off, even if you have a family history of unhealthy weight.
  • Culture — We tend to eat and cook the same way our parents did and the foods we choose are often those we grew up with. Family gatherings and social events such as weddings and holiday parties often center around food.
  • Physical inactivity — Not getting enough physical activity can lead to an unhealthy weight. These days, many people spend a lot of time watching TV, playing video games or doing other activities that do not require a lot of energy.
  • Emotional or psychological factors — For many people, food is a source of comfort or celebration. Some people eat when they are feeling sad or stressed. In order to lose weight and keep it off, it is important to find more healthful ways of dealing with emotions.
  • Gender — Women are more likely to have an unhealthy weight than men simply because men have more muscle than women. Muscle uses more energy than fat does, and men burn 10 to 20 percent more calories than women do at rest.
  • Age — As you get older, the amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease and fat accounts for a greater percentage of your weight. This lower muscle mass leads to a decrease in metabolism, meaning a body needs fewer calories.
  • High-fat/high-calorie diets — Typical restaurant meals are high in fat and calories. Even seemingly healthful foods such as salads can be high in fat if you add a lot of salad dressing. Ounce for ounce, fat provides more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates.

Is my weight unhealthy?

A calculation called the Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to determine if you are overweight or obese. If your BMI is over 25, you are considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese. Click here to calculate your BMI.

Another indicator of risk for obesity is if waist circumference is greater than 40 inches for men or more than 35 inches for women.