According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity is
defined as "the condition of an excessively high amount of
body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass."
1 A more commonly-known definition of obesity is
that of an individual's weight being 30% or more above what
is considered normal as defined by a standardly-accepted
height/weight chart (e.g. The National Center for Health
Statistics or Metropolitan Life Insurance Company).
Overweight and obesity are also commonly determined by
calculating an individual's body mass index.
Morbid obesity means that the individual weighs anywhere
from 50 to 100% percent more than normal weight or they are
more than 100 pounds over normal weight. Morbid obesity
literally means that the amount of overweight a person is
carrying is life-threatening, due to its related health
risks. Morbid obesity also often significantly hinders or
prevents an individual from accomplishing many day-to-day
functions. Surgical procedures like gastric bypass are often
seriously considered as a weight control option for those
who are morbidly obese.
Fats are organic compounds that are made up of carbon,
hydrogen, and oxygen. They are a source of energy in foods.
Fats belong to a group of substances called lipids, and come
in liquid or solid form. All fats are combinations of
saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
Function of Fatness
Fat is one of the three nutrients (along with protein and
carbohydrates) that supply calories to the body. Fat
provides 9 calories per gram, more than twice the number
provided by carbohydrates or protein.
Fat is essential for the proper functioning of the body.
Fats provide essential fatty acids, which are not made by
the body and must be obtained from food. The essential fatty
acids are linoleic and linolenic acid. They are important
for controlling inflammation, blood clotting, and brain
Fat serves as the storage substance for the body's extra
calories. It fills the fat cells (adipose tissue) that help
insulate the body. Fats are also an important energy source.
When the body has used up the calories from carbohydrate,
which occurs after the first 20 minutes of exercise, it
begins to depend on the calories from fat.
Healthy skin and hair are maintained by fat. Fat helps the
body absorb and move the vitamins A, D, E, and K through the
You might see ads for foods that say they're "low-fat" or
diets have been recommended for
health and to help people lose weight. But nutrition experts
are finding that fats are more complicated and that some
kinds of fat are actually good for your health. As a bonus,
fat in food helps people feel full, so they don't eat as
But that doesn't mean a high-fat diet will be good for you.
And some fats are better than others. Here are the three
These are found in plant foods and fish. These may be good
for heart health. The best of the unsaturated fats are found
in olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, albacore tuna, and
These fats are found in meat and other animal products, such
as butter, cheese, and all milk except skim. Saturated fats
are also in palm and coconut oils, which are often used in
commercial baked goods (the kind you buy at the store).
Eating too much saturated fat can raise blood
and increase the risk of
These fats are found in margarine, especially the sticks.
Trans fats are also found in certain foods that you buy at
the store or in a restaurant, such as snack foods, baked
goods, and fried foods. When you see "hydrogenated" or
"partially hydrogenated" oils on an ingredient list, the
food contains trans fats. Like saturated fats, eating too
much can raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart
What Causes of
Gone is the simplistic notion that obesity is caused by a
lack of willpower when it comes to food and laziness when it
comes to exercise. Although the basis of obesity is not only
fully understood, the condition has been recognized since
1985 as a chronic disease caused by a complex set of
Studies show that obesity has a strong genetic component. If
one or both of your parents are obese, your obesity risk is
raised because genes determine your body shape and, to some
extent, your weight. Just because you are vulnerable to
obesity, however, doesn't mean your fate is sealed. You can
defy Mother Nature by learning to control your diet and
exercise habits. In certain cases, medication or surgery
also can help.
Hot dogs, Big Macs, french fries, macaroni and cheese,
nachos, potato chips, ice cream -- all these high-fat
American favorites are cheap, accessible and delicious. Is
it any surprise that fatty foods are contributing to the
soaring obesity rates in this country?
If you spend most of your time at a desk or on a sofa, your
risk for obesity is increased. Likewise, the risk is higher
for people whose fat intake makes up more than 30 percent of
their daily caloric intake. Studies show that people who get
20 to 30 minutes of exercise most days are less likely than
sedentary people to be obese. Your obesity risk is lower
still if you combine an active lifestyle with a low-fat,
This term refers to the rate at which your body uses food as
a source of energy. If your metabolism tends to be slow, you
are more likely to store excess calories in the form of fat.
A slow metabolism means you probably need to work harder at
losing weight. However, your efforts may ultimately increase
your metabolic rate. Muscle burns more calories than fat,
even at rest. So reducing fat and building muscle through
weight-bearing exercise can help you burn calories more
Some people overeat (binge) when they feel stressed out or
depressed. (Research shows that about 30 percent of obese
people are binge eaters.) According to psychotherapist
Shelia Harbet, Ph.D., binge eating temporarily relieves the
stress of negative feelings. Unfortunately, bingeing is
usually followed by feelings of guilt, shame, disgust and
depression. "Often, binge-eating episodes are followed by
resolutions by the compulsive overeater to stop bingeing and
adhere to diets," says Harbet, a professor in the Department
of Health Sciences at California State University,
Northridge. "These resolutions are eventually broken,
filling compulsive eaters with guilt and depression, leading
them back to binge eating again."
A diet high in simple carbohydrates
The role of carbohydrates in weight gain is not clear.
Carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, which in turn
stimulate insulin release by the pancreas, and insulin
promotes the growth of fat tissue and can cause weight gain.
Some scientists believe that simple carbohydrates (sugars,
fructose, desserts, soft drinks, beer, wine, etc.)
contribute to weight gain because they are more rapidly
absorbed into the blood stream than complex carbohydrates
(pasta, brown rice, grains, vegetables, raw fruits, etc.)
and thus cause a more pronounced insulin release after meals
than complex carbohydrates. This higher insulin release,
some scientists believe, contribute to weight gain.
Medications associated with weight gain include certain
antidepressants (medications used in treating depression),
anti-convulsants (medications used in controlling seizures
such as carbamazepine and valproate), diabetes medications
(medications used in lowering blood sugar such as insulin,
sulfonylureas and thiazolidinediones), certain hormones such
as oral contraceptives and most corticosteroids such as
Prednisone. Weight gain may also be seen with some high
blood pressure medications and antihistamines.
Reasons for excess weight include:
Emotional issues—Fear, Hidden anger, Resistance to forgive,
Need for protection, Running away from feelings. Insecurity,
Oversensitivity, Self-rejection. Seeking fulfillment,
Childhood trauma—sexual abuse, corporal punishment and
Diet high in carbohydrates
Water retention—kidney/heart malfunction (edema, phlegm
Weak digestive function
Blood sugar swings (glycogen/insulin imbalance or
SYMPTOMS OF EXCESS WEIGHT AND OBESITY
Excess weight and obesity are characterized by having at
least three of the following symptoms:
Insulin Resistance (when the body can't absorb blood sugar
or insulin properly) - elevated fasting insulin
Abdominal fat - in men this means a 40 inch waist or larger,
in women 35 inches or larger
High blood sugar levels - at least 110 milligrams per
deciliter (mg/dL) after fasting
High triglycerides - at least 150 mg/dL in the blood stream
Low HDL (the "good" cholesterol) - less than 40 mg/dL
Pro-thrombotic state (e.g. high fibrinogen or plasminogen
activator inhibitor in the blood)
Blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher
Factors that increase your risk of being obese include:
Regular consumption of high-calorie foods, such as fast
foods, contributes to weight gain. High-fat foods are dense
in calories. Loading up on soft drinks, candy and desserts
also promotes weight gain. Foods and beverages like these
are high in sugar and calories.
Sedentary people are more likely to gain weight because they
don't burn calories through physical activities.
Some people overeat to cope with problems or deal with
emotions, such as stress or boredom.
If one or both of your parents are obese, your chances of
being overweight are greater. Your genes may affect the
amount of body fat you store and where that fat is
distributed. But, your genetic makeup doesn't guarantee that
you'll be obese.
As you get older, you tend to be less active. In addition,
the amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease with
age. This lower muscle mass leads to a decrease in
metabolism. These changes also reduce calorie needs. If you
don't decrease your caloric intake as you age, you'll likely
Smokers tend to gain weight after quitting. This weight gain
may be partially due to nicotine's ability to raise the rate
at which your body burns calories (metabolic rate). When
smokers stop, they burn fewer calories. Smoking also affects
taste; quitting smoking makes food taste and smell better.
Former smokers often gain weight because they eat more after
they quit. However, cigarette smoking is still considered a
greater threat to your health than is extra weight.
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.
Corticosteroids and tricyclic antidepressants, in
particular, can lead to weight gain. So can some high blood
pressure and antipsychotic medications.
Uncommonly, obesity can be traced to a medical cause, such
as low thyroid function, excess production of hormones by
the adrenal glands (Cushing's syndrome) or other hormonal
imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. A low
metabolic rate is rarely a cause of obesity. A medical
problem, such as arthritis, can also lead to decreased
activity, which can result in weight gain.
Drinking alcohol adds calories to your diet — just one
regular beer is about 150 calories. If you don't cut back
somewhere else, adding just one beer daily could cause a
weight gain of more than one pound a month. Additionally,
excessive drinking can stimulate your appetite and make you
less likely to control portion sizes.
The environment plays a vital role in causing of obesity to
the person. So, healthy environments should be creating to
Adopting healthy habits for lifelong weight control purposes
includes regular physical activity and nutritious eating.
If you're obese, you're more likely to develop a number of
potentially serious health problems. These may include:
High blood pressure
As you put on weight, you gain mostly fatty tissue. Just
like other parts of the body, this tissue relies on oxygen
and nutrients in your blood to survive. As demand for oxygen
and nutrients increases, the amount of blood circulating
through your body also increases. More blood traveling
through your arteries means added pressure on your artery
walls. Weight gain also typically increases the level of
insulin, a blood-sugar-controlling hormone, in your blood.
The increase in insulin is associated with retention of
sodium and water, which increases blood volume. In addition,
excess weight often is associated with an increase in your
heart rate and a reduction in the capacity of your blood
vessels to transport blood. All of these factors can
increase blood pressure.
Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes. Excess fat
makes your body resistant to insulin, the hormone that helps
your body maintain a proper level of a sugar (glucose) in
your blood. If your body is resistant to insulin, your blood
sugar is high — which isn't good — and leads to negative
Abnormal blood fats
A diet high in saturated fats — red meat and fried foods,
for example — can lead to obesity as well as elevated levels
of low-density lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol. Obesity is
also associated with low levels of high-density lipoprotein
("good") cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides.
Triglycerides are the form in which most fat exists in food
as well as in your body. Over time, abnormal blood fats can
contribute to atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty
deposits in arteries throughout your body. Atherosclerosis
puts you at risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.
Coronary artery disease
This is a form of cardiovascular disease. It results from
the buildup of fatty deposits in arteries that supply your
heart. Over time these deposits can narrow your heart's
arteries, so less blood flows to your heart. Diminished
blood flow to your heart can cause chest pain (angina).
Complete blockage can lead to a heart attack.
Obesity is associated with atherosclerosis — the buildup of
fatty deposits in arteries throughout your body, including
arteries in your brain. If a blood clot forms in a narrowed
artery in your brain, it can block blood flow to an area of
your brain. The result is a stroke. Being obese raises your
risk of a stroke.
This joint disorder most often affects the knees, hips and
lower back. Excess weight puts extra pressure on these
joints and wears away the cartilage that protects them,
resulting in joint pain and stiffness.
This serious condition causes a person to stop breathing for
short periods during sleep and to snore heavily. The upper
airway is blocked during sleep, which results in frequent
awakening at night and subsequent drowsiness during the day.
Most people with sleep apnea are overweight, which
contributes to a large neck and narrowed airways.
Many types of cancer are associated with being overweight.
In women, these include cancers of the breast, uterus,
cervix, ovaries and gallbladder. Overweight men have a
particularly higher risk of cancers of the colon, rectum and
Fatty liver disease
When you're obese, fats can build up in your liver. This
fatty accumulation can lead to inflammation and scarring of
the liver. Such scarring can cause cirrhosis of the liver,
even if you're not a heavy alcohol drinker.
Because overweight people may produce more cholesterol,
which can be deposited in the gallbladder, the risk of
gallstones is higher in obese people. Fast weight loss —
more than 3 pounds a week — also can increase the risk of
People who are overweight suffer from one more irksome
problem piles. Constipation is a favorable condition to
cause piles among over weight persons. This is more so with
those cause piles among overweight persons. This is more so
with those overweight persons who use the western type of
toilets instead of squatting position. Sitting for long
periods increases piles.
Whether you're at risk of becoming obese, currently
overweight or at a healthy weight, you can take steps to
prevent obesity and the associated health problems.
Not surprisingly, the steps to prevent weight gain are the
same as the steps to lose weight: Daily exercise, a healthy
menu, a long-term commitment and constant vigilance.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent
weight gain is to exercise regularly. Studies suggest that
it takes 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical
activity daily to keep the pounds off. Moderately intense
physical activities include fast walking and swimming.
Enjoy healthy meals and snacks:
Focus on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits,
vegetables and whole grains. Keep saturated fat low and
limit sweets and alcohol. Remember that no one food offers
all the nutrients you need. Choose a variety of foods
throughout the day. It's not out of the question to eat and
enjoy small amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods on
occasion. But the main thing is that you choose foods that
promote a healthy weight and good health more often than you
choose foods that don't.
Know and avoid the food traps that cause you to eat:
Know which situations trigger out-of-control eating for you.
The best way to identify food traps and emotionally
triggered eating is to keep a journal. For as long as you
find it helpful, write down what you eat, how much you eat,
when you eat, how you're feeling and how hungry you are.
After a while, you should see some patterns emerge. Once you
know these patterns and triggers, you can plan ahead and
develop a strategy for how you'll handle these types of
situations. This will help you understand and stay in
control of your eating behaviors.
Monitor your weight regularly:
People who weigh themselves at least once a week are
more successful in keeping off the pounds. Monitoring your
weight can tell you whether your efforts are working and can
help you detect small weight gains before they become
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.
If you really want to prevent weight gain, the best approach
is to focus on lifestyle changes and develop an eating plan
that's enjoyable, yet healthy and low in calories. This
approach results in weight loss that you can live with —
that is, that you can maintain over a long period of time.
Benefits of Weight Loss
Lower blood glucose if your blood glucose is higher than
Lower blood pressure if your blood pressure is higher than
Improve your blood fats if they are not in a healthy range
Lighten the stress on your hips, knees, ankles, and feet
Move around easier and breathe easier
Have more energy
Be more attractive to your partner
Play more with your children or grandchildren
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