When we hear the word “obesity”, the words “crisis” or “epidemic” often follow. And as being overweight, obese and eating an unhealthy diet are leading contributors to disease in the USA. Being overweight puts people at a higher risk for serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The number of overweight people in industrialized countries has increased significantly, so much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) has called obesity an epidemic. In the United States, 69% of the adult population is overweight or obese. In Canada, the self-reported data shows that 40% of men and 27% of women are overweight, and 20% of men and 17% of women are obese.
What are the causes of Obesity?
When your body consumes more calories than it burns.
Many people thought that obesity was simply caused by overeating and under-exercising, resulting from a lack of will power and self-control. Environmental and behavioral factors have a greater influence – consuming excess calories from high-fat foods and doing little or no daily physical activity over the long run will lead to weight gain.
In some cases, certain genetic factors may cause
the changes in appetite and fat metabolism that lead to obesity.
For a person who is genetically prone to weight gain (e.g., has a lower metabolism) and who leads an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle, the risk of becoming obese is high. Although these are significant contributing factors, doctors recognize that obesity is a complex medical problem that involves genetic, environmental, behavioral, and social factors. All these factors play a role in determining a person’s weight. Although a person’s genetic makeup may contribute to obesity, it’s not the primary cause. Psychological factors may also foster obesity. Low self-esteem, guilt, emotional stress, or trauma can lead to overeating as a means to cope with the problem.
Certain medical conditions such as binge eating disorder (BED), Cushing’s disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome can also lead to weight gain and obesity. BED is an eating disorder where a person has recurrent episodes of binge eating. During these episodes, the individual eats a large amount of food quickly and feels a lack of control over this eating.
Symptoms and Complications
The health risks associated with obesity include:
- breathing disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- certain types of cancers (e.g., prostate and bowel cancer in men, breast and uterine cancer in women)
- coronary artery (heart) disease
- gallbladder or liver disease
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- joint disease (e.g., osteoarthritis)
People who are obese may have symptoms of the medical conditions mentioned above. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, breathing problems, and joint pain (in the knees or lower back) are common. The more obese a person is, the more likely they are to have medical problems related to obesity.
Aside from the medical complications, obesity is also linked to psychosocial problems such as low self-esteem, discrimination, difficulty finding employment, and reduced quality of life.
Prevention and Cure
An appropriate weight management program usually combines physical activity, healthy diet, and change in daily habits. Other programs may also involve psychological counselling and, in some cases, drug therapy. Losing weight and keeping it off is very challenging because lifestyle and behavioural changes are required.
What’s important is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. To lose weight successfully, and to maintain a healthy weight, requires lifelong changes in eating and exercise habits as well as an understanding of emotional factors that lead to overeating. It also involves setting and achieving specific and realistic goals. People who are medically obese should consult a doctor or dietitian for a safe and personalized weight-loss program.
Regular physical activity is an important part of weight management. In addition to managing weight, exercise also improves overall health and can help reduce the risk of diseases such as certain cancers, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Regular physical activity doesn’t mean you have to join the nearest gym. It can be as simple as climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator, walking or cycling to work and leaving the car at home (if at all possible), or going for a walk at lunchtime with coworkers.
Medications may be part of a weight management program. Weight gain isn’t “magic cures” leading to permanent weight loss. They’re generally used in combination with a proper diet and exercise program. Some medications that are very common in the USA are Phentermine and Zocor. And it is available online
When reviewing suitable management options, it’s important to consider the risks and benefits of each option. Your doctor and other health care professionals can provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice about what options are best for you.