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.
Obesity is diagnosed when an individual’s body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. Your body mass index is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in meters (m) squared.
Below 18.5 – Underweight
18.5 — 24.9 – Normal
25.0 — 29.9 – Overweight
30.0 and higher – Obese
40.0 and higher – Extreme obesity
Because BMI doesn’t directly measure body fat, some people, such as muscular athletes, may have a BMI in the obese category even though they don’t have excess body fat.
Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including:
Inactivity. If you’re not very active, you don’t burn as many calories. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can easily take in more calories every day than you use through exercise and normal daily activities.
Unhealthy diet and eating habits. Having a diet that’s high in calories, eating fast food, skipping breakfast, eating most of your calories at night, drinking high-calorie beverages and eating oversized portions all contribute to weight gain.
Pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman’s weight necessarily increases. Some women find this weight difficult to lose after the baby is born. This weight gain may contribute to the development of obesity in women.
Lack of sleep. Getting less than seven hours of sleep a night can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite. You may also crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain.
Certain medications. Some medications can lead to weight gain if you don’t compensate through diet or activity. These medications include some antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, antipsychotic medications, steroids and beta blockers.
Medical problems. Obesity can sometimes be traced to a medical cause, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, and other diseases and conditions. Some medical problems, such as arthritis, can lead to decreased activity, which may result in weight gain. A low metabolism is unlikely to cause obesity, as is having low thyroid function.
The goal of obesity treatment is to reach and stay at a healthy weight. You may need to work with a team of health professionals, including a nutritionist, dietitian, therapist or an obesity specialist, to help you understand and make changes in your eating and activity habits.
You can start feeling better and seeing improvements in your health by just introducing better eating and activity habits. The initial goal is a modest weight loss — 5 to 10 percent of your total weight. That means that if you weigh 200 pounds (91 kg) and are obese by BMI standards, you would need to lose only about 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9.1 kg) to start seeing benefits.
All weight-loss programs require changes in your eating habits and increased physical activity. The treatment methods that are right for you depend on your level of obesity, your overall health and your willingness to participate in your weight-loss plan. Other treatment tools include:
Exercise and activity
Prescription weight-loss medications
Whether you’re at risk of becoming obese, currently overweight or at a healthy weight, you can take steps to prevent unhealthy weight gain and related health problems. Not surprisingly, the steps to prevent weight gain are the same as the steps to lose weight: daily exercise, a healthy diet, and a long-term commitment to watch what you eat and drink