Obesity is a common but complex disease that isn’t just about how you look. Having an excessive amount of body fat can lead to serious health consequences such as poor mental health, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Symptoms of Obesity
Overweight and obesity can be defined as an excessive accumulation of fat that affects your health.
It can be measured by the body mass index (BMI), an index of weight-for-height. You can find your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres (kg/m2).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) classes overweight and obesity in adults as:
- Overweight: BMI of 25 or more
- Obesity: BMI of 30 or more
Although BMI can be a helpful tool to gauge your ideal healthy weight, it should be used only as a rough guide because everyone’s bodies are different.
The WHO classes overweight and obesity in children under five years old as:
- Overweight: weight-for-height more than two standard deviations above the WHO Child Growth Standards median
- Obesity: weight-for-height more than three standard deviations above the WHO Child Growth Standards median
The WHO classes overweight and obesity in children aged between five to 19 years old as:
- Overweight: weight-for-height more than one standard deviations above the WHO Child Growth Standards median
- Obesity: weight-for-height more than two standard deviations above the WHO Child Growth Standards median
You can find out more about WHO’s Child Growth Standards here.
Causes of Obesity
Obesity is affected by many factors including behaviour, genetics, and lifestyle. To put it simply, becoming overweight or obese is due to consuming more calories than you burn.
It is widely known that a sedentary lifestyle and a diet that is low in whole foods and high in sugar, salt, and oil will definitely contribute to obesity.
A Closer Look at the Most Common Causes of Obesity
1. Behavioural Habits
People who lead sedentary lives and do not perform physical activities such as going on walks, taking public transport, and exercising, are more at risk of obesity.
Your food choices make a difference, too. This CircleDNA article talks about why eating too much after working out, skipping meals, banning entire food groups, detox diets, and not eating in moderation is a bad idea.
When you pair inactivity with poor dietary choices such as oily, fatty, sugary, salty, and highly processed foods, it is recipe for disaster.
While you can’t change your family genetics, you can change your lifestyle and behavioural habits. By making small changes throughout your day, you will be able to create a significantly positive impact on your health.
Our bodies react to changes in their environment by taking instructions from our genetic makeup. Changes in genes can cause increased hunger and food intake, which can lead to obesity.
It is hard to find a clear pattern in inherited obesity and a specific variant of one gene. Instead, it is usually due to complex interactions between multiple genes and environmental factors.
If you have a family history of obesity-related diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, you should take extra precaution to prevent obesity.
3. Diseases and Drugs
Sometimes, obesity isn’t caused by your body or your habits, but an external factor such as drugs or disease.
Steroids, antidepressants, Cushing’s disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome are known to cause weight gain.
If you find yourself inexplicably gaining weight, you can check with your health care provider to find out if there are any underlying causes to your sudden weight gain.
Other causes of overweight and obesity may include:
- Pregnancy: Weight gain during pregnancy is completely normal, but some women struggle to lose the baby weight after the baby is born.
- Quitting smoking: To cope with withdrawal, many smokers turn to snacks and end up gaining weight while they try to quit smoking.
- Insufficient sleep: Getting too little (or too much) sleep changes your hormones and can affect your appetite and cravings which can lead to weight gain.
- Stress: When we are stressed, we usually crave high-calorie, sugary, and salty foods.
- Yo-yo dieting: Rapid weight loss can negatively affect your body and cause you to gain weight as fast as you lost weight.
- Environmental and societal changes: The lack of supportive policies in healthcare, transport, and food processing can affect your lifestyle habits.
Health Risks of Obesity
As mentioned throughout this article, obesity can cause many serious and negative consequences including the following:
1. Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
People with obesity are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Childhood obesity may also lead to early signs of cardiovascular disease, breathing problems, higher risk of fractures, hypertension, and insulin resistance.
2. Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Obesity may change how your body uses insulin to manage blood sugar levels, which increases the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
3. Increased Risk of Some Types of Cancers
Obesity may make you at higher risk of contracting certain cancers such as:
4. Digestive Problems
Obesity may make you develop heartburn, gallbladder disease, and liver problems.
5. Fertility and Sexual Problems
Obesity may lead to infertility and irregular periods in women and erectile dysfunction in men.
6. Sleep Apnea
People with obesity may develop sleep apnea, a sleep disorder where your breathing stops and starts repeatedly.
Obesity may lead to inflammation in the body and osteoarthritis as more stress is put on weight-bearing joints.
8. Severe Covid-19 Symptoms
In the time of the pandemic, it is important to note that obesity may increase your risk of developing severe symptoms if you get Covid-19. This may result in needing assistance to breathe or treatment in an intensive care unit.
9. Societal Problems
Obesity may make you more prone to judgement and mistreatment from the public. People with obesity often report suffering from stigma, discrimination, lower wages, and lower quality of life.
10. Mental Illness
With all the aforementioned problems weighing on mental health, people with obesity may develop depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.
Multiple studies have shown that obesity and mental health issues are closely connected as obesity greatly impacts one’s quality of life.
Treatment for Obesity
1. Create A Healthy Environment
Customise your physical work and living space in a way that encourages you to get up and move rather than stay seated in the same spot all day.
To cultivate healthier habits that will last, encourage your family and close friends to embark on this journey with you.
You will feel more motivated to stick to your decisions if everyone around you is doing the same. It is also more enjoyable to go on walks and bike rides together with loved ones rather than dragging your feet through the activity alone.
2. Make Smarter Food Choices
Changing your diet can be a journey full of fear and uncertainty, so you shouldn’t make any sudden changes if you want to be able to stick to it long term.
Start slowly by increasing your whole food consumption by adding more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds into your meals.
Then, reduce the number of times you eat fast food and opt for healthier drinks such as water, tea, or fresh juice instead of empty calories in alcohol and soft drinks.
Need more reason to eat healthier? You can help save the Earth while you’re at it!
3. Being More Active Throughout The Day
Small changes add up, so if you find that you’re sitting down at your desk for hours on end, try setting an alarm to get up and walk or stretch every hour. You can also use a cup instead of a bottle to drink water so that you have to get up and move to refill it.
If that’s too distracting, you can try a standing desk or adding a portable pedal exerciser under your desk to keep you moving while you’re working.
You can also make changes out of the office by going on morning walks, opting for stairs instead of the elevator, walking to nearby places instead of taking the bus or car, and adding exercise into your daily routine.
You don’t have to run on a treadmill or work out in a gym for two hours every day to be healthy – 150 minutes of exercise per week for adults is a good start.
Stuck at home due to the pandemic? No problem. Here are five easy and affordable tips for staying fit at home.
Food organisations can also help drive a healthier society by:
- Adding less fat, sugar, and salt to processed foods
- Making sure there are affordable, healthy, and nutritious food options for all customers
- Regulating marketing of highly processed and unhealthy foods to children and teenagers
We know the phrase “prevention is better than cure”, and there’s no time better to apply it than now.
By making healthier lifestyle choices, eating more whole foods, and being active, you will be able to reduce your chances of obesity.
Even if this article has shocked you into making some big changes in your life, try not to go cold turkey overnight. Instead, make small changes over time so that you are more likely to keep up with those good habits.
You should also remember that it’s ok to indulge once in a while, as long as you do it in moderation and don’t go overboard with oily, salty, sugary, and highly processed foods.
If you’re unsure about the best exercise regime and diet plan for your body, why not try a CircleDNA test? The comprehensive test results will give you a rundown on the best foods and workout for your DNA, among many other interesting facts about yourself that you wouldn’t have known otherwise! One CircleDNA user was able to lose 25 kilograms with the help of her CircleDNA test results – so read on and find out how she did it.