Obesity is a term most of us are familiar with. It’s often talked about in the news or in articles, and we’ve probably heard it in a medical context at one point or another. But what exactly is obesity and when does it become a problem?
Obesity is defined as having excessive levels of body fat and being very overweight. This is usually measured using body mass index (BMI) with a level over 25 considered overweight, and more than 30 considered obese. It’s a common condition in the UK and around the world, with around 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children affected in the UK.
The most common way to measure if a person might be obese is using BMI, though this is only a starting point. BMI measures your weight against your height to see if you fall within the healthy range, but naturally it doesn’t take other factors into account. For example, a very muscular person might register as obese on the BMI scale even with a low body fat level.
BMI calculations generally fall into these ranges:
18.5 – Underweight
18.5 to 24.9 – Normal weight
25.0 to 29.9 – Overweight
30 to 39.9 – Obese
40 – Severely obese
Along with BMI, waist size is very often used to measure if a person is obese. If your medical professional thinks you might be at risk of being obese with a BMI over 25, checking your waist size can help with a diagnosis. Larger waist sizes can put you at greater risk of developing obesity-related health problems.
The most basic answer for what causes a person to become obese is consuming more calories than they use. Eating a lot more than you need can mean the body stores the excess calories as fat.
A lack of physical activity can also increase the risk of obesity, which is why it’s becoming increasingly common these days because we have more sedentary lifestyles.
There are also other possible causes for obesity, including health conditions such as an underactive thyroid gland, as well as some genetic disorders.
There are all sorts of ways being very overweight can affect the body, from everyday discomforts to higher risk of disease and serious health conditions.
The extra weight being carried around can cause issues such as aching joints or back pain, and getting tired or out of breath more easily. There are also potential affects on mental health, from low self-esteem and confidence to feelings of depression.
There’s also an increased risk of developing more serious conditions, including:
There are many approaches to tackling obesity, from controlling your diet to doing more exercise, and they generally take a lot of time and dedication. It’s often also about changing your lifestyle in the long run rather than going on and off diets. Identifying where you might be getting excess calories or how you’re missing out on exercise can help you to make lasting changes that help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
There is also the option of weight loss surgery if you’re struggling to make progress with lifestyle changes. This includes procedures such as a gastric bypass or a gastric band, sleeve, or balloon.
You should always consult your doctor before making any drastic lifestyle changes or making any decisions about weight loss surgery.