Kevin Lutz, MD, FACP
Aug 1 2018

Obesity and overweight are terms used to describe a level of excess weight that’s considered unhealthy for your body size.

DietHeart Health

Obesity and overweight are terms used to describe a level of excess weight that’s considered unhealthy for your body size. One way to determine if you are overweight or obese is to figure out your body mass index (BMI). This formula relates your weight to your height. You can find BMI calculators online. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. However, BMI doesn’t directly measure body fat, so some people, such as muscular athletes, may have a BMI in the obese category even though they don’t have excess body fat. Calculating the BMI is simply a first step to screen adults for weight problems.

Around the world, more than one billion adults are overweight and about 300 million of them are obese. In the United States, 66% of all adults are overweight and, of those, 32% are obese.

What causes obesity?

While some causes of obesity can be attributed to genetics, there are other many other factors to consider. Easy access to fattening fast foods and high sugar foods plays a large role in the cause of obesity, especially in the United States. Also, because of our modern lifestyles, we are not as active as we once were. Weight gain is inevitable if you regularly eat more calories than you burn. The end result, and in general the principal causes of obesity are: an unhealthy diet with poor eating habits and inactivity.

Obesity can sometimes be traced to an underlying medical issue, such as Polycystic Ovarian syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, or other medical conditions. Hormonal imbalance can also be a cause of obesity in some people. For example, insulin resistance, which causes the body not to process sugar properly, has been heavily linked to obesity. Different prescription medications, such as specific antidepressants, are associated with weight gain as well. Adequate sleep is an aspect of life not to be over looked. Sufficient sleep is essential for weight regulation. Disrupted sleep and sleeping for less than 7 hours or more than 9 hours can be a cause of obesity.

What are the complications of obesity?

Obesity is currently the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States, second to tobacco. The following potentially serious health problems are more likely to occur if you are obese: High triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, infertility, erectile dysfunction, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and osteoarthritis.

How can you treat and prevent obesity?

In order to conquer a disease, such as obesity, a multifaceted approach should be considered. Below are several strategies to combat obesity:

Exercise regularly. You need to get 2 ½ - 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity activity to prevent weight gain. Moderately intense physical activities include fast walking or swimming. Try to break a sweat!

  • Eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables daily. A fruit or vegetable serving is one cup of raw fruits or vegetables or one-half cup of cooked vegetables.
  • Use vegetable-based oils rather than animal-based fats.
  • Avoid saturated fat and limit sweets, carbohydrates and alcohol.
  • Eat small meals and chew your food slowly.
  • Avoid foods that are high in “energy density” or that have a lot of calories in a small amount of food. For example, a large cheeseburger and a large order of fries may have almost 1,000 calories and 30 or more grams of fat. By ordering a grilled chicken sandwich or a plain hamburger and a small salad with low-fat dressing, you can avoid hundreds of calories and eliminate much of the fat intake.
  • Make opportunities during the day for even just 10 or 15 minutes of some calorie-burning activity, such as walking around the block or up and down a few flights of stairs at work. Every little bit helps.
  • When eating out at restaurants, ask the server to box up half of your meal before they even bring it to you. You are controlling your portion size and will enjoy get another delicious meal later.
  • Monitor your weight regularly. People who weigh themselves at least once a week are more successful in keeping off excess pounds. Monitoring your weight can tell you whether your efforts are working and can help you detect small weight gains before they become big problems.
  • Be consistent. Sticking to your healthy-weight plan during the week, on the weekends, and amidst vacation and holidays as much as possible increases your chances of long-term success.

For more information, please visit: