What is Obesity and what causes weight gain

Obesity scales

Obesity and weight loss – That thing we talk about so much, but do so little. It is either a favorite muse or it’s just dropped like hot coals.

People have a voracious appetite when it comes to consuming content regarding obesity and weight loss, but unfortunately this subject is rife with misconceptions, and altered perceptions. More dangerously, there are a lot of unapproved weight loss methods that can do more harm than help. In this section, we shall approach obesity in a scientific manner, know its causes, and know how best it can be managed.

Before we go about addressing the many misconceptions and perceptions regarding obesity, let’s first get this right.

What is Obesity?

A person is obese or overweight when there is presence of excess body fat. It is a medical condition that can lead to many non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, and many others.

People generally perceive obesity in terms of waist circumference; however, obesity and overweight is measured in a function called body mass index (BMI) and hip to waist ratio (body fat distribution).

Body mass index is a mathematical formula that is calculated by dividing the weight of a person in kilograms by the square of the height in meters.

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Other methods to measure obesity

Though BMI gives a fair understanding of a person’s body fat, it is not totally effective. It serves as a basic method like hip to waist ratio, and waist circumference. Other scientific methods to measure obesity include:

  • Bioelectrical impedance
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry
  • Densitometry (weight measurement underwater)
  • Air displacement plethysmography
  • Hydrometry

What causes obesity?

A lot of people have a major misconception that obesity is caused due to overeating. This is only partly true. There are many other reasons for people to be overweight. Obesity can result from poor dietary choices, sedentary lifestyle, genetic causes, and medical reasons.

Causes for obesity

  • Consumption of processed foods, trans fats, and sugary beverages.
  • Consuming larger portion sizes.
  • Excess consumption of alcohol.
  • Excess consumption of foods due to psychological reasons (food addiction).
  • Lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle.
  • Genetic factors (this mainly leads to childhood obesity).
  • Leptin resistance.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Polycystic ovarian disease.
  • Cushing’s syndrome.
  • Usage of medications like corticosteroids, some antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, oral contraceptives, seizure medications, and hormone therapy medications among others.

Ill effects of obesity

There are many health risks associated with obesity. It reduces the life expectancy of people and is a leading cause for many serious diseases. Here are some medical conditions that are caused due to obesity.

  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • High cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Gouty arthritis.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Gallbladder stones.
  • Cardiovascular diseases.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Cancer.

Popular misconceptions and perceptions of obesity

It is unfortunate that people tend to take nonscientific ideas regarding obesity. Here are a few of those opinions on obesity that can be harmful.

  • Obesity is caused due to overeating and lack of physical activity.
  • People with obesity are less active when compared to their “normal weight” counterparts.
  • People with obesity can lose weight with willpower.
  • Dieting leads to weight loss.
  • Exercise is better than dieting.
  • People are overweight due to their bone weight.
  • People get obese due to slow metabolism.
  • Weight loss does not have any side effects.

In the next section, let us know more about energy balance and what it means for obesity.