In a nutshell, obesity is defined as too much body fat. Today it is no longer considered “just” a weight problem. Doctors now recognize it as a chronic disease, and recommend an aggressive, lifelong commitment to bringing it under control, especially given its numerous health risks. Obesity doubles your risk for high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and strokes, triples your risk for gall bladder disease, and quadruples your risk for diabetes. Studies have also linked obesity to the risk of breast cancer, womb cancer and kidney cancer.
That’s not even looking at the discomfort and fatigue that you feel today. Severe obesity may cause shortage of breath, varicose veins, backache and even psychological problems. Many report experiences of discrimination, ridicule, or being judged or criticized for being “too fat and too lazy to do anything about it.” Self-esteem, ability to socialize, confidence and pride in oneself and one’s appearance—these are all affected by obesity, and sadly enough, make going on a diet and exercise program so much harder. Several simply lose hope that they can ever make a real difference. The problem seems to big to overcome.
It’s important to understand that obesity can never be reduced to getting the willpower to go on a diet. In 1985, breakthrough research confirmed that it is a chronic disease caused by a complex set of factors.
Heredity. Obesity runs in families, and if one or both of your parents were obese, you could carry the genes that determine your body shape and (to a certain degree) your weight. This doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it, though. Diet, exercise, even medication or surgery can help you bring obesity under control.
Fatty foods. It’s not all Mother Nature’s fault. Today’s diets make it very easy to gain a tremendous amount of weight. Look at the calorie content in cappuccinos, hamburgers, chips, ice cream and it’s no surprise that so many people are struggling with weight issues. The rapid pace of urban living also makes take-out, delivery and microwave meals an easier option than cooking from scratch—many of which are just plain unhealthy.
Lifestyle. Sedentary lifestyle, where you spend most of your time sitting at a desk or vegging on the couch, increases risk for obesity. Studies show that just 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise can make a significant difference.
Metabolic rate. This is the rate at which your body uses food. Some people are born with a slow metabolism, and are more likely to convert excess into fat. You may also need to work harder to lose this weight, starting by developing muscles which burn calories faster even when you’re at rest.
Psychological factors. Stress, depression and anger can trigger binge eating episodes. It’s a difficult cycle. You feel bad, you binge, you feel guilty about binging, you resolve to go on a diet, you break the diet, feel bad again… For this reason, people who have problems with obesity are often encouraged to seek therapy or other forms of emotional support while undergoing a diet and exercise program.