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.
|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 occurs when you eat and drink more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities. Your body stores these extra calories as fat. Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including:
- Genetics. Your genes may affect the amount of body fat you store and where that fat is distributed. Genetics may also play a role in how efficiently your body converts food into energy and how your body burns calories during exercise. Even when someone has a genetic predisposition, environmental factors ultimately make you gain more weight.
- 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 burn off through exercise and normal daily activities.
- Unhealthy diet and eating habits. Having a diet that's high in calories, eating fast food, skipping breakfast, consuming high-calorie drinks and eating oversized portions all contribute to weight gain.
- Family lifestyle. Obesity tends to run in families. That's not just because of genetics. Family members tend to have similar eating, lifestyle and activity habits. If one or both of your parents are obese, your risk of being obese is increased.
- Quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is often associated with weight gain. And for some, it can lead to a weight gain of as much as several pounds a week for several months, which can result in obesity. In the long run, however, quitting smoking is still a greater benefit to your health than continuing to smoke.
- 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. Not getting enough sleep at 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.
- Age. Obesity can occur at any age, even in young children. But as you age, hormonal changes and a less active lifestyle increase your risk of obesity. 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 and can make it harder to keep off excess weight. If you don't control what you eat as you age, you'll likely gain weight.
- Social and economic issues. Certain social and economic issues may be linked to obesity. You may not have safe areas to exercise, you may not have been taught healthy ways of cooking, or you may not have money to buy healthier foods. In addition, the people you spend time with may influence your weight — you're more likely to become obese if you have obese friends or relatives.
- Medical problems. Obesity can rarely 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.
When to see a doctor
If you think you may be obese, and especially if you're concerned about weight-related health problems, see your doctor or health care provider. You and your doctor can evaluate your health risks and discuss your weight-loss options. Even modest weight loss can lessen or prevent problems related to obesity. Weight loss is usually possible through dietary changes, increased physical activity and behavior changes. In some cases, prescription medications or weight-loss surgery may be options.
Treatment and Drugs
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.
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:
- Dietary changes: Reducing calories and eating healthier are vital to overcoming obesity. Although you may lose weight quickly at first, slow and steady weight loss of 1 or 2 pounds (1/2 to 1 kilogram) a week over the long term is considered the safest way to lose weight and the best way to keep it off permanently.
- Exercise and activity: Increased physical activity or exercise also is an essential part of obesity treatment. Most people who are able to maintain their weight loss for more than a year get regular exercise, even simply walking.
- Behavior change: A behavior modification program can help you make lifestyle changes, lose weight and keep it off. Steps to take include examining your current habits to find out what factors, stresses or situations may have contributed to your obesity.
- Prescription weight-loss medications: you need close medical monitoring while taking a prescription weight-loss medication. Also, keep in mind that a weight-loss medication may not work for everyone. If the medication does work, its effects tend to level off after six months of use like any other method of weight loss. You may need to take a weight-loss medication indefinitely. When you stop taking a weight-loss medication, you're likely to regain much or all of the weight you lost.
- Weight-loss surgery: In some cases, weight-loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, is an option. At HFH our internationally trained specialists offer a wide range of state of the surgical techniques to help you reduce and maintain a healthy weight. Such surgeries include minimally invasive gastric banding and other procedures like gastric bypass. Weight-loss surgery limits the amount of food you're able to comfortably eat or decreases the absorption of food and calories, or both. Our multidisciplinary team will provide you with the best comprehensive treatment and follow-up to ensure you reach a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle.