The term obese describes a person who’s very overweight, with a lot of body fat. It has increasingly become a common problem because for many people modern living involves eating excessive amounts of cheap high-calorie food and spending a lot of time sitting down at desks, on sofas, or in cars. Over the last few decades, obesity has become a considerable health problem. In fact, it’s now considered to be an epidemic in the United States.
The most widely used method to check if you’re a healthy weight is body mass index (BMI). It measures your weight in relation to your height and provides a score to help place you in a category:
- Normal weight: BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight: BMI of 25 to 29.9
- Obesity: BMI of 30 or higher
Obesity is complex. Although there are genetic, behavioral, metabolic, and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when you take in more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities. Your body stores these excess calories as fat. A few of the causes and contributing factors are:
- Family inheritance and influences
- Lifestyle choices
- Certain diseases and medications
- Social and economic issues
- Lack of sleep
Obesity reduces life expectancy by an average of 3 to 10 years, depending on how severe it is. It’s very important to take steps to tackle obesity because, as well as causing obvious physical changes, it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease and strokes
- Certain types of cancer
- Sleep apnea
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Pregnancy problems, such as high blood sugar during pregnancy, high blood pressure, and increased risk for cesarean delivery (C-section)
Day-to-day problems related to obesity include:
- Increased sweating
- Difficulty doing physical activity
- Often feeling very tired
- Joint and back pain
- Low confidence and self-esteem
- Feeling isolated
The psychological problems associated with being obese can also affect your relationships with family and friends and may lead to depression.
Obesity affects nearly every part of the body. If you’re living with obesity, you can treat or manage many of these risk factors with a combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Remember that even losing what seems like a small amount of weight, such as 3% or more of your original body weight, and maintaining this for life, can significantly reduce your risk of developing obesity-related complications like diabetes and heart disease. Treatment for obesity usually involves a long-term plan for making lifestyle changes. Medicine or surgery is sometimes used.
A healthy weight is important in maintaining good health. Taking steps to prevent obesity in your daily life is a good first step.
- Keep a food diary of what you ate, where you ate, and how you were feeling before and after you ate.
- Eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Choose whole-grain foods, such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Don’t eat highly processed foods made with refined white sugar, flour, high-fructose corn syrup, and saturated fat.
- Weigh and measure food to be able to learn correct portion sizes.
- Learn to read food nutrition labels and use them, keep the number of portions you are really eating in mind.
- If you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight. Weigh yourself on a weekly basis.
- Simply reducing portion sizes and using a smaller plate can help you lose weight.
- Look for ways to get even 10 or 15 minutes of some type of activity during the day.
- Eat slowly and avoid situations where you know you could be tempted to overeat
Obesity isn’t necessarily a permanent condition. Yet it is much much harder to lose weight than it is to gain it.
Prevention of obesity, beginning at an early age and extending across a lifespan could vastly improve individual and public health, reduce suffering, and save billions of dollars each year in health care costs.