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Obesity And Overweight: Everything You Must Know Before Weight Control

Updated on June 26, 2016
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Obese world: Fat Planet

The world is overweight. Nearly 30% of the world’s population is either obese or overweight. While 2.6% of the world's population was obese in 1975; it jumped to 8.9% in 2014. The world has now more adults classified as obese than underweight. Once considered a problem only in high income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. Obesity and overweight is on the rise in nearly every country and hence pose a global challenge.

Most people want to be slim or remain slim if they can. Every year, a large number of people have spent huge sums on books and other fitness related products to lose weight. But unfortunately majority of them miserably fail to prevent their weight from increasing.

The failure to control weight has damaging effects on the appearance and health of many people. Being obese can also affect one's overall life expectancy; obese people are more likely to die at a younger age. At least 2.8 million people each year die as a result of being overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

But the health benefit one gets by weight loss is exclusive. It is difficult to quantify the benefits of reducing some weight. Many feel better, boost self-esteem and have more energy. One is less likely to develop diseases, which are more common in obese and overweight, if s/he loses some weight. Further s/he tends to be healthy and live longer.

People do gain weight despite their best efforts to avoid doing so. This is not surprising as there are simply too many variables or conditions that influence the balance between our internal needs and the food we consume. Apart from genetics and environmental factors, there are various other variables such as external food cues (appearance or sight and smell of delicious food), feedback from chewing and swallowing, cognitive and cultural conditions that regulate eating.

Obesity and Overweight Defined: Am I Overweight Or Obese?

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive body fat that increases the risk of health problems of an individual. U.S. is one of the few countries that have declared obesity as a disease. The American Medical Association ( AMA) has declared it as a disease in 2013. Obesity can last for years or be lifelong.

Usually self-diagnosable, obesity or overweight does not require either lab testing or imaging. Obese people often experience pain in the back or joints affecting mobility, feel easily tired and fatigue, binge eating, bulge belly, sleeping difficulty or snoring.

Am I Overweight Or Obese?

Body mass index (BMI), which is the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (kg/m2), is commonly used to indentify overweight and obesity.

WHO defines overweight as a BMI equal to or more than 25, and obesity as a BMI equal to or more than 30.

BMI range of normal, overweight and obesity:

  • Ideal (normal) BMI is 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2.

  • A BMI of 25-29.9 kg/m2 is overweight.

  • A BMI of 30-34.9 kg/m2 is obese (Grade I).

  • A BMI of 35-39.9 kg/m2 is obese (Grade II).

  • A BMI of ≥40 kg/m2 is obese (Grade III) or morbidly obese.

Generally, the health risks increase the higher the BMI. The more overweight you are, the more is your health risks. For those who are obese (Grade III), weight is a serious and imminent threat to health. Bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) is an option for people who have a body mass index (BMI) above 40 or people with a body mass index between 35 and 40 having health problems like type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

Those whose obesity is obese (Grade I), waist circumference is also taken into account to calculate the risk to health. BMI may be less accurate in very muscular people.

Waist circumference is taken around waist at the belly button level. Measurement of 94 cm / 37 inch or above increases health risks in men while 80 cm / 31.5 in women increases health risks.

The person with a bigger waist circumference will be at a greater risk of developing health problems if two overweight or obese people have the same BMI. This is because it is not just whether one is carrying excess fat but where s/he is carrying it, is more crucial. The risks to one's health are greater if one is mainly carrying a lot of extra fat around his / her waist ('apple-shaped'), rather than mainly on his / her hips and thighs ('pear-shaped').

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Causes Of Obesity And Overweight: Why Am I Overweight and Obese?

Weight depends on the amount of energy intake (the calories in food and drink) and the amount of energy the body uses up (burns):

If the amount of calories intake in eating & drinking equals the amount of energy that body uses up, the weight will remains stable.

If it is more, extra weight is added and the excess energy is converted into fat and stored in the body.

If it is less then weight is lose. The body has to tap into its fat stores to get the extra energy it needs.

The main reasons for increasing incidence of overweight and obesity can be explained by the following factors:

1. Rising consumption of junk food: There has been a massive increase in the consumption of junk food (fatty and sugary foods), alcohol and smoking. Alcohol and sugary drinks contain a lot of calories. Even drinking too much of fresh fruit juices can add up a significant part of your daily calorie intake.

There is increasing tendency to eat out, where people are more likely to eat energy-dense food compare to what they would eat at home. The ease of availability of processed foods and ready-made meals has also sharply increased in response to daily busy lives.

In short, many people are overweight or obese simply because they eat and drink more than their body needs.

2. Sedentary life-too much sitting, not enough moving : The variety of labour-saving devices and gadgets in most homes such as remote controls, washing machines, dish washers and other modern convenience devices and the overuse of cars has significantly increase population of overweight and obesity. Popularity of computers and laptops and the emergence of the internet, smartphones and social media have contributed further to this problem.

Lack of physical activity is considered to be a major cause of the increase in obesity in recent years.

3. Sleep deprivation- not sleeping enough: Research has suggested that if you do not sleep enough (about 7 hours daily in adults) your risk of becoming obese doubles.

Sleep deprivation could increase the chances of becoming obese due to various reasons; sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise, or they are awake longer and have more opportunities to eat.

4. Genetics- beyond your control: Chance of obesity is more if one of one’s parents is obese, or both of his / her parents are obese. It may be partly due to learning bad eating habits from them. It is said that some people inherit a tendency in their genes that makes them prone to overeat.


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Obesity And Overweight

An increased consumption of high calorific foods, without an equal increase in physical activity, leads to an unhealthy increase in weight. Decreased levels of physical activity will also result in an energy imbalance and lead to weight gain. Lack of sufficient amount of sleep and obese parent(s) also contributed to weight gain. Once we start to gain weight, it becomes harder and harder to stop.

One is overweight if BMI=/> 25, and obese if BMI=/> 30. Weight control is difficult. It never gets easier, but you will just get better by controlling your weight today. Attaining safe weight loss and controlling overweight or obesity is a challenge but definitely achievable. “If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you" said Fred Devito.

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    • Kimberleyclarke profile image

      Kimberley Clarke 17 months ago from England

      A great article and an outstanding title image! Thank you.