Sunday, August 21, 2011

Obesity: Definition, Kinds of Obesity, and Getting Help

What is Obesity?

Obesity means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. The weight may come from muscle, bone, fat and/or body water. Both terms mean that a person's weight is greater than what's considered healthy for his or her height.

Obesity occurs over time when you eat more calories than you use. The balance between calories-in and calories-out differs for each person. Factors that might tip the balance include your genetic makeup, overeating, eating high-fat foods and not being physically active.
Being obese increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and some cancers. If you are obese, losing even 5 to 10 percent of your weight can delay or prevent some of these diseases.

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories than he or she burns. For many people this boils down to eating too much and exercising too little. 
But there are other factors that also play a role in obesity. These may include:

Age. As you get older, your body's ability to metabolize food slows down and you do not require as many calories to maintain your weight. This is why people note that they eat the same and do the same activities as they did when they were 20 years old, but at age 40, gain weight.

Gender. Women tend to be more overweight than men. Men have a higher resting metabolic rate (meaning they burn more energy at rest) than women, so men require more calories to maintain their body weight. Additionally, when women become postmenopausal, their metabolic rate decreases. That is partly why many women gain weight after menopause.

Genetics. Obesity (and thinness) tends to run in families. In a study of adults who were adopted as children, researchers found that participating adult weights were closer to their biological parents' weights than their adoptive parents'. The environment provided by the adoptive family apparently had less influence on the development of obesity than the person's genetic makeup. In fact, if your biological mother is heavy as an adult, there is approximately a 75% chance that you will be heavy. If your biological mother is thin, there is also a 75% chance that you will be thin. Nevertheless, people who feel that their genes have doomed them to a lifetime of obesity should take heart. Many people genetically predisposed to obesity do not become obese or are able to lose weight and keep it off.

Environmental factors. Although genes are an important factor in many cases of obesity, a person's environment also plays a significant role. Environmental factors include lifestyle behaviors such as what a person eats and how active he or she is.

Physical activity. Active individuals require more calories than less active ones to maintain their weight. Additionally, physical activity tends to decrease appetite in obese individuals while increasing the body's ability to preferentially metabolize fat as an energy source. Much of the increase in obesity in the last 20 years is thought to have resulted from the decreased level of daily physical activity.

Psychological factors. Psychological factors also influence eating habits and obesity. Many people eat in response to negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, or anger. People who have difficulty with weight management may be facing more emotional and psychological issues; about 30% of people who seek treatment for serious weight problems have difficulties with binge eating. During a binge-eating episode, people eat large amounts of food while feeling they can't control how much they are eating.

Illness. Although not as common as many believe, there are some illnesses that can cause obesity. These include hormone problems such as hypothyroidism (poorly acting thyroid slows metabolism), depression, and some rare diseases of the brain that can lead to overeating.

Medication. Certain drugs, such as steroids and some antidepressants, may cause excessive weight gain.

Types of Obesity.

Different people have different body types. Similarly, different people can become obese in unique ways. How one person stores his or her excess fat may be different from how another does. It used to be that being heavy was uniformly deleterious to ones health. It is true, given a choice, one would rather be an appropriate weight for ones height. However, recent research has shown that it is not just weight, or even Body Mass Index (BMI), that is always a reliable predictor of health and/or risk factors for developing obesity related disorders.
 Several years back, researchers began to categorize three major body types of those who are obese. The categories were:

Pear shaped", "apple shaped", and a third that was a combination of the other two.

1. Pear shaped individuals store much of their fat around their buttocks and upper  thighs, with little stored in the torso, neck, arm or shoulder areas.

2. Apple shaped individuals store much of their body fat in their torsos, arms, neck and shoulders, giving them an apple like shape. As clarification.

3. The third type was a combination of the other two. I guess they couldn't come up with a third fruit shape that would fit.

 The most notable point about these different types of obesity is that there may be a difference regarding likelihood of developing obesity related complications (i.e. cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke and high cholesterol). It appears that pear shaped individuals are less likely to develop these disorders and apple shaped individuals are more likely. Why this is, no one really knows. It may not be a coincidence that pear shaped individuals tend to be women and apple shaped individuals tend to be men. Women appear to have some degree of protection from cardiovascular disease until middle age. Some believe hormones related to menstruation may offer protection. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to have symptomatic vascular disease, especially coronary artery disease. 

Getting Help Against Obesity

When your Body Mass Index, or BMI is between 25 and 30 you are considered overweight, but if it is over 30 you are considered obese. Many people confuse being overweight with being obese. When you are obese you are at a much greater risk of many health related issues that plain and simply could end your life prematurely. Therefore if you are obese, it may be time to get some help.
First it should be noted that before an obese person can get help they have to fess up to the fact that they are in fact obese and realize that certain aspects of their lifestyles must change. Once they are ready to institute some change, then there is all kinds of help that is available.
While you could take certain drugs to quell your appetite or get surgery to make your stomach smaller, these methods require a good deal of money that many people simply don't have. But fear not because there is still much you can do to help yourself out including:

- Exercise: Yes it is a word that many do not like but it is also the best and cheapest way to help obese people. Start slow with your exercise program especially if it has been awhile since you exercised. Walking about a half a mile to a mile once in the morning and then once more at night will add up to a lot over the course of a month or two and as you begin to drop weight you can then either increase your distance or incorporate other exercises into your daily routine.

- Take stock of what you eat: Look in your cupboards and pantry and really look at the foods you have. Then sit down and write out a typical day of eating for you. You may shock yourself at just how much food you are consuming on a daily basis. What could be worse is that a good deal of it may be bad foods such as chips and sugary snacks. This is where will power comes in. You have to change your eating habits and this may not be easy to do. But remember, your bad eating habits probably took years for you to develop so your good eating habits won't develop overnight. Take baby steps. First cut out all the chips, then the candy, and so on down the line. Before you know it you will be eating a much healthier diet and could be looking at cutting your daily caloric intake significantly.

- Get support: Find others who share the same desire to help their obesity problem and support one another. It is much easier to be successful and lose the necessary weight when you have others around you who understand what you are going through and can be there for you when you need them.
Being obese is no laughing matter. If you don't want to change for yourself, then consider all those who love you. The road may not be an easy one to go down, but once you make it to a successful point you will be further motivated to do even better and before you know it your BMI will drop to an acceptable level and you will feel great both physically and emotionally.

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