What is Obesity?
Obesity is a condition characterized by being excessively overweight, with a large amount of body fat.
Children, as well as adults, of any race, age or gender can be obese. However, the majority of obese individuals are between 40 and 59 years of age.
The severity of obesity can differ depending on how much the individual weighs. A range of other medical disorders often occur alongside obesity. (1)
There are a multitude of factors which can contribute towards the development of obesity. Your genetics play an important role in determining your weight.
Your risk of being obese is much higher if one or both parents are (or were) also obese. Similarly, genetics can influence where your excess fat is stored – e.g. in the abdomen.
Lifestyle habits are also significant where your weight and overall health are concerned. A poor diet which is high in calories, combined with a lack of exercise, leads to weight gain.
Certain medical disorders can also result in obesity. Hormonal disorders, such as Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism and others, tend to cause weight gain.
Some medications (corticosteroids, antidepressants, etc.) also encourage weight gain. If taken for lengthy periods of time, you have a greater risk of becoming obese. (2)
The symptoms of obesity can be described as follows:
Excessive Weight Gain
The primary symptom of obesity is being extremely overweight. You may notice that you have gained a significant amount of weight.
Many individuals go through weight changes at different stages of life. However, if you are frequently increasing your clothing size or even if you just find yourself steadily gaining weight, you may be obese.
Unhealthy Fat Distribution
If you have a large amount of fat localized to one area, it could be a symptom of obesity. This typically manifests as excess fat around the waist. (3)
Weight Interfering with Daily Activities
If your weight makes it hard for you to perform daily activities, it is a potential warning signal of obesity.
Excess weight may cause you to feel fatigued even without exertion, or have trouble breathing although you are at rest.
Physical activities, such as climbing stairs or bending over, could be difficult. You might find your weight hinders you from basic tasks, like bathing. (4)
A person’s age, height and fat distribution all play a role in what their appropriate weight should be.
Obesity can be staged according to your body mass index (BMI). This is a system that measures your ideal weight according to your height.
BMI is calculated by dividing weight (kilograms) by height (meters). Divide the total by your height once again – this final figure is your BMI. (5)
For the majority of individuals, BMI is a good indicator if you are an appropriate weight. The higher your BMI, the more you weigh.
A body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a normal weight.
Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine to stay healthy.
A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 means you are overweight.
You are at an increased risk of contracting an obesity-associated disease, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. (8)
At this stage, you are classed as obese. Your BMI is between 30.0 and 34.9.
Your risk of obesity-related disease is now high. You may begin suffering from other
symptoms, such as joint pain and breathlessness.
A BMI of 35.0 to 39.0 means you are severely obese, with a very high disease risk.
Your weight is now actively interfering with your ability to perform routine activities (e.g. bathing or walking).
Morbid obesity is classed as a BMI of 40.0 to 49.9. You have an extremely high risk of contracting one or more diseases which are associated with obesity.
This stage of obesity is also associated with significantly impaired quality of life. Social interactions, hygiene activities and mobility are all severely affected. (9)
Severe Morbid Obesity
Severe morbid obesity is characterized by a BMI of over 50.
Health consequences are extreme, and quality of life is heavily affected. (10)
Obesity can be diagnosed by calculating your body mass index (BMI). Your doctor may also take a waist circumference measurement.
A BMI of over 30 is classed as obesity. If you have a waist circumference of more than 35 inches as a woman or more than 40 inches as a man, you are obese.
Your doctor will review your medical history to determine what is causing your obesity. You are likely to be asked questions about your diet and physical activity level.
Treatment for obesity aims to bring you down to a normal weight. If you have any underlying conditions worsening or causing your obesity, they will be addressed. (11)
Your doctor will recommend one or more of the following treatment options. (12)
Following a healthy diet is essential for treating obesity. Consult with your doctor to determine your daily caloric limit.
It is crucial to follow the diet your doctor recommends. You must avoid high calorie, processed foods that can increase weight gain.
However, do not pursue an extremely low-calorie diet (e.g. below 800 calories) without your doctor’s supervision.
Regular physical activity can improve your health and help you lose weight. Depending on your stage of obesity, you can practice different intensity exercises.
For example, a severely obese individual might not be able to do high intensity cardio exercise. Instead, they may perform light intensity stretching exercises as a start.
Over time, determine what exercises you enjoy and are able to perform. You can gradually build your way up to moderate or higher intensity activities.
If you have other conditions, such as heart disease, check with your doctor before beginning a workout routine.
If you are obese as a result of lifestyle habits, you must learn to alter your behavior when it comes to food.
This can include overcoming bad eating habits or a dislike of physical activity. It is also important to avoid discouragement, as weight loss is not usually immediate.
Support groups, your doctor or a therapist can help you develop healthy strategies for adapting to your new healthy lifestyle.
Weight Loss Medications
Drugs that promote weight loss may be prescribed if diet and exercise alone are ineffective.
These include orlistat, lorcaserin hydrochloride, and qsymia (a mix of topiramate and phentermine). They are usually taken for long term weight management.
Such medications may also be used if your obesity is causing serious complications. Weight loss medication is most effective alongside regular exercise and a good diet.
Weight Loss Surgery
For people who are morbidly obese, weight loss surgery may be an option. Surgery might also be recommended for individuals who have not responded to other treatment.
Your doctor may insert a gastric band or perform gastric bypass surgery.
A gastric band involves the creation of a pouch at the top of your stomach, held together with a band. This limits the quantity of liquids and foods your stomach is capable of holding. In turn, it promotes weight loss.
A gastric bypass is a more serious procedure. It involves the creation of a stomach pouch through a surgical bypass near your small intestine.
After the surgery, you will be unable to eat more than a certain amount of food at a time.
Both procedures are major operations which require lifelong follow-up with your doctor.
What is obesity? Obesity is defined as being severely overweight with a high percentage of body fat.
What are the signs of obesity? The primary symptom of obesity is excessive weight gain. Other symptoms can include unhealthy fat distribution, and weight interfering with daily activities.
How do you develop obesity? Genetics, poor diet and lifestyle habits, certain medications and medical disorders can all cause obesity.
How are you diagnosed for obesity? Obesity is diagnosed according to your BMI and waist circumference.
What is the best treatment for obesity? Treatment for obesity can include lifestyle changes, addressing underlying conditions, medication or weight loss surgery.
What are the long term complications of obesity? Obesity can cause a range of health complications. The condition increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease. It can also impact your quality of life over time. (13)
Is obesity considered a disability? If your obesity is the result of a medical condition (e.g. endocrine disorders) it may be considered a disability. If you have developed a life threatening or severe health issue (e.g. stroke) as a result of your obesity, you may also be eligible to claim disability benefits. (14)
Is there any cure for obesity? There are a range of treatments to encourage and maintain weight loss.
Is obesity life threatening? Obesity significantly heightens your mortality risk, due to the conditions that frequently occur alongside it (e.g. stroke). The disease also reduces your life expectancy. (15)
If you are obese, seek medical advice to begin losing weight. It is important that your doctor monitors your diet and exercise, particularly if you also have other health issues.
Treating obesity is a lifelong endeavor. Even if you have returned to a healthy weight, you must maintain good lifestyle practices to avoid gaining weight again.
Set achievable goals and do your best to avoid eating unhealthy foods. There are numerous support groups for obese individuals to encourage you. (16)