Obesity: Ultimate Guide
According to the CDC, in 2015 and 2016, approximately 71.3% of adults in America were either overweight or obese. Obesity is considered to be a preventable disease, meaning there are things you can do to NOT be obese.
We’ve spent time compiling helpful information about obesity and what you can do if you currently struggle with it.
What Is Obesity?
Obesity is a type of medical condition where individuals have a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or more. BMI is calculated with the equation BMI = kg (weight) divided by height in meters squared.
In simplified terms, obesity is another way of saying someone has too much body fat for their height.
There are calculators you can use online that can help you determine if you are considered to be obese or not. The BMI categories are as follows:
- Anything under 18.5 = underweight
- 18.5 to 24.9 = normal weight
- 25 to 29.9 = overweight
- 30 or greater = obese
When it comes to children and teenagers, their BMI is calculated differently. There are age-specific growth charts in place, set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which translates their BMI figures and puts them in a percentile based on age and gender.
These categories are:
- Less than the 5th percentile = underweight
- 5th percentile to 85th percentile = normal weight
- 85th percentile to 95th percentile = overweight
- Anything over the 95th percentile = obese
Types of Obesity
For some people, there are only two types of obesity: obese and morbidly obese. Experts, however, believe there are more and they have more to do with age and gender that percentages.
The types of obesity are:
Younger Healthy Females
While this group is still overweight, they exhibit the healthiest behaviors of all of the other types.
Heavy Drinking Males
These people generally exhibit healthy behaviors and they also have levels of physical exercise higher than the average, but they’re still overweight. This group is a lot like the younger healthy females group, except they consume high levels of alcohol.
Unhappy and Anxious Middle Aged
This obesity group has a high percentage of females. They have poor mental health and generally suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia.
This group is also known to have high levels of fatigue, depression, and anxiety, but have the lowest alcohol consumption.
Affluent Healthy Elderly
This group is considered to be in good health, but they do tend to have high blood pressure and blood sugar levels. They’re also known to drink above average levels of alcohol, but they do engage in healthy behaviors.
This group contains individuals who have the highest levels of fatigue and pain, with the most chronic health conditions. The poorest health type has the highest body mass index and they’re known to have the most financial difficulties.
Physically Sick but Happy Elderly
People with this type of obesity are more prone to chronic health conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes. This group, however, exhibited low levels of depression and anxiety.
Obese and Morbidly Obese
A normal BMI is anywhere from 20 to 25. Someone who is considered morbidly obese is at least 100 or more pounds overweight and has a BMI of 40 or more. They may also have some obesity-related health conditions which can include diabetes and high blood pressure.
Health Risks of Obesity
Being obese is much more than just having some extra body fat; in fact, it’s a condition that can lead to many other conditions. Some things you might be at risk for are:
- Sleep apnea
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Certain types of cancer
Obesity can also cause problems during pregnancy. Someone who is pregnant and obese might struggle with high blood pressure for the duration of the pregnancy, they also might have high blood sugar, and there’s an increased risk of having to delivery by c-section instead of a vaginal one.
Obesity and Cancer
There’s some evidence that links obesity to certain types of cancers. These include:
- Endometrial cancer
- Gastric cardia cancer
- Esophageal adenocarcinoma
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Colorectal cancer
Evidence shows that obese individuals have a greater chance of having low levels of chronic inflammation, which can end up causing damage to their DNA. The damage to the DNA can end up leading to cancer.
Causes of Obesity
Many people have the misconception that obesity is only caused by overeating, but it’s actually much more than that. There are many factors that can lead to obesity, including:
Genetics can play a big part in weight. Children who have obese parents are more likely to develop obesity but it isn’t guaranteed, though. Lifestyle changes and developing healthier food habits can prevent a person from becoming obese.
Many foods that people consume on a daily basis have sugar and a high-fat content that stimulate the reward centers in the brain. Eating too many of these foods can result in a food addiction, which is serious enough to be compared to a drug, caffeine, or alcohol addiction.
When you become addicted to eating these unhealthy foods, it can be a challenge to stop.
Taking Certain Medications
There are many medications on the market that have a common side effect: weight gain. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, blood-pressure reducing medications, epilepsy medications, and medicine for diabetes can cause weight gain.
When sugar is added to foods, it contains half fructose and half glucose, which can end up changing your body’s biochemistry, which in turn can lead to obesity. Consumption of high levels of fructose can end up leading to elevated insulin levels and lead to insulin resistance.
Unhealthy Eating Habits
If you constantly eat more calories than you burn, you’ll eventually start gaining weight. Junk food, high-calorie beverages, and fast food are all unhealthy eating habits you should work to change.
Lack of Exercise
You need to be active to burn calories. It’s easy to consume more calories than you burn if you live a very sedate lifestyle, which ends up leading to weight gain.
Who Is at Risk for Obesity?
Sadly, there are many risk factors for obesity. Just some of these can include:
- Medical problems
- Unhealthy diet
- Family lifestyle
- Lack of physical activity
- Taking certain medications
- Social and economic issues
- Not getting enough sleep
- People who have quit smoking
Lack of sleep is linked to obesity because it can end up changing the hormones in the body, making you have more of an appetite. It’s also likely that with lack of sleep, you’ll end up cravings foods that have high calories and carbohydrates.
Even though you can become obese at any age, the older you get, the more your hormones change. Pair changing hormones with a lifestyle that doesn’t have much physical activity, and you may find yourself gaining weight.
Family lifestyle plays a big part in who may be at risk of obesity. If a family has unhealthy eating habits, children may end up developing these habits throughout their life, which can end up getting passed on through many generations.
When to Seek Medical Care for Obesity
Obesity can be a challenge to overcome. If you are considered obese, now is the time to seek help. Talking to a medical professional can help give you the guidance necessary to change your eating and exercise habits so you can start seeing positive results.
With a doctor, you’ll be able to set small, realistic goals so you can begin to see the health benefits. Even very small, gradual changes can result in an improvement to your health.
A dietitian is someone that can access your current diet and eating habits and help you develop a plan to eat better, without completely changing your way of life.
Sometimes, diet and exercise are not enough to lose the amount of weight you need to. There are certain prescription medications that can aid in weight loss. A doctor may even suggest weight loss surgery as an option.
There are certain things you might want to ask your doctor that can help provide you with the insight you’re looking for. It can be beneficial to tell them about your past efforts to lose weight and ask them why they didn’t work for you.
You can also ask what you can do to overcome your family history of obesity, or what you can do to prevent obesity in your children. You can also ask them about weight loss surgery if you have a significant amount to lose, and the pros and cons of getting it.
Diagnosing obesity typically starts with a doctor calculating your BMI. They’ll also perform a series of tests and exams to learn more about your family history and to assess your health.
A doctor may perform a general physical exam to check your height, vital signs, temperature, blood pressure, and examine your abdomen.
The doctor may also measure your waist circumference because having too much fat stored around the waist can increase the risk of certain diseases. During the examination, a doctor will be on the lookout for other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
There’s a lot you can try on your own to treat obesity. The first step is to take a look at your diet and find your most problematic areas.
Taking small steps, such as cutting soda or eliminating junk food and sugar, can make a big difference in how you feel. Some other dietary changes to consider are:
- Tracking and cutting calories
- Restricting certain foods
- Finding foods that make you feel full for longer
- Meal replacement shakes or meal bars
Eating right can also be paired with adding physical activity into your day for optimal results. If you live a sedentary lifestyle and find yourself sitting for most of the day, there are ways you can start to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
- Taking a walk on your lunch break
- Stretch at your desk
- Clean your house
- Ride a bike
- Park your car far away from the entrance
- Take the stairs
- Go to the gym with a friend
Prescription weight loss medications are helpful to those with a BMI of 30 or higher and have other health complications such as high blood pressure. Some of the most common weight loss medications doctors can prescribe are:
A doctor will assess your current health and your family health history before prescribing weight loss medications.
Weight loss surgery is also called bariatric surgery and is an option if you have a BMI of 40 or higher and have other health complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure. You would have to be committed to making lifestyle changes because just getting the surgery doesn’t mean you’ll lose all the weight you need to.
There are many things you’ll have to do on your end to make the surgery a success.
Preventing obesity starts with your diet. You’ll want to eat six servings of vegetables and fruit every day. Choose whole grains, such as whole wheat bread over white bread or brown rice over white rice.
Understanding portion size is a crucial part of preventing obesity, which is why weighing your food can be helpful.
Take at least 30 minutes each day to exercise. It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes all at once, just try to get moving as much as possible.
Start changing your family’s eating habits so the entire family can benefit. You’ll want to set a good example for your children. When a parent eats healthy foods, their children are more likely to mimic those eating habits.
Stock the pantry and the fridge with healthy snacks such as fresh fruits, low-fat milk, and nuts. Eliminate high sugar fruit juices, junk food, sports drinks, and foods high in sugar.
Obesity is not something you can eliminate overnight. You didn’t gain the weight all at once and you can’t lose it that way either.
However, you can take immediate steps to start turning your health around. Consult with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet and exercise routine, but then take that first step to a whole new you!