Obesity is one of the major medical problems in the western world. The clinical definition of obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. The BMI is the body’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of the body’s height in meters. A more accurate way to determine obesity is by finding out your body fat %. Body Fat Testing
Obesity results when a person ingests more calories than he or she can burn off. If this happens regularly over a period of time, the body will store the extra calories as fat. The body is able to burn off calories as energy needed throughout the day, but if the energy is not burned away, it will be stored as fat.
Every person has his or her own metabolic rate. This is the rate at which calories are used or burned off within the body. People who take a lot of exercise or are employed in strenuous jobs usually have a very high metabolic rate. They require a lot of calories, but burn them off easily. People who do not exercise or are involved in jobs such as office work do not need as many calories.
The body stores extra calories as fat as a precaution against times of starvation. In the western world, starvation rarely affects people who eat regularly. If a person continually eats calories that he or she cannot burn off, obesity may occur.
Obesity is very serious health problem. Research has shown that it can shorten life expectancy by at least nine years. In the last two decades, the obesity rate in adults has quadrupled. Obesity can also lead to many other health complications, including infertility, depression, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Being slightly overweight may not affect your health seriously, but when weight reaches levels of obesity, then problems will occur. Everyday activities may become difficult, and irregularities may appear with breathing. Sweating may occur during the simplest tasks, and a persistent feeling of fatigue may result from the extra weight.
Obese people often have problems with regular sleeping patterns. They are also very susceptible to snoring and awaken frequently during the night. Conditions such as arthritis and diabetes may also set in as a result of obesity. Serious problems, such as breast cancer and ovarian disease, have also been linked to obesity.
Obesity is usually caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise, but there are some medical causes for the problem. These are rare, but conditions such as an underactive thyroid or Cushing’s disease may be the cause of obesity. There are also certain medications that add weight when taken, such as steroids and certain antidepressants. Medications such as the contraceptive pill or quitting smoking can also contribute to weight gain.
Defining Overweight and Obesity
Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.
Definitions for Adults
For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat.
- An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
- An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
See the following table for an example.
||124 lbs or less
|125 lbs to 168 lbs
||18.5 to 24.9
|169 lbs to 202 lbs
||25.0 to 29.9
|203 lbs or more
||30 or higher
It is important to remember that although BMI correlates with the amount of body fat, BMI does not directly measure body fat. As a result, some people, such as athletes, may have a BMI that identifies them as overweight even though they do not have excess body fat. Therefore BMI should not be used with athletic people.
Other methods of estimating body fat and body fat distribution include measurements of skinfold thickness and waist circumference, calculation of waist-to-hip circumference ratios, and techniques such as ultrasound, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Read about my personal experience with obesity.