What is obesity?
Obesity is having too much body fat. It is a common problem, estimated to affect around one in every four adults and one in every five children in the UK.
A person may be classified as being obese based on their Body Mass Index (BMI), a statistical measurement derived from your height and weight, which is considered a useful estimate for a healthy body weight. Having a BMI of 30-39.9 is considered obese, while a BMI of 40 and above is considered severely obese.
Obesity occurs over time as you accumulate more fat that you burn. There are numerous factors that affect weight gain individually or in combination, such as your genetic make up, lifestyle habits and dietary habits,
Obesity is more than just a cosmetic concern, in the long run it is a leading risk factor for developing serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and some cancers. Even modest weight loss in an obese person can significantly improve health conditions.
Obesity doesn’t usually have associated signs or symptoms. The primary symptom of being obese is having excessive body fat and being extremely heavy weight. However as the condition develops slowly over time, one isn’t necessarily aware when they move from being overweight to obese.
Obesity can also be determined by measuring the waist circumference. Men with a waist circumference of 94cm and over and women with a waist circumference of 80cm or over, indicate the development of obesity.
Obesity is generally caused when you c onsume more calories than you lose, with body fat accumulating over a long period of time. There are a number of factors contributing to obesity, individually or in combination.
Consuming foods that are rich in fats and sugar cause a build up of calories. When it is not burnt off thereafter through exercise and physical activity, the surplus energy is stored in the body as fat, which keeps accumulating with time.
Eating processed foods that are rich in fat and sugar, having larger portions than needed, drinking too much alcohol or sugary drinks and comfort eating when you are feeling low and depressed, all comprise of a poor diet, high in calories.
Lack of physical activity
Leading a sedentary lifestyle, having a desk job, relying on cars for transport etc. all cut down on physical activity. Without daily exercise you don’t end up using the energy you consume.
Genetic traits can be inherited from your parents such as having a large appetite, contributing to obesity.
Underlying medical conditions may contribute to obesity, such as an underactive thyroid, over production of steroid hormones and having certain medicines such as corticosteroids, antidepressants, medicine for diabetes etc.
Your Body Mass Index measure is a quick and reliable process of diagnosing obesity. Your BMI is calculated using your weight and height measurements. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 indicates healthy weight, 25-29.9 indicates overweight, 30-39.9 indicates obese and 40 or more indicates severe obesity. However these ranges may not be accurate in all scenarios, such as for muscular people, who might have a high BMI but very low body fat.
Your GP may also ask about your lifestyle, diet, physical activity, any underlying conditions, your emotional state and family history.
Further tests may be administered to confirm the diagnosis, such as checking your blood pressure, blood glucose levels and blood cholesterol levels. Additionally, your waist circumference might also be measured.
If you are obese, your GP will be able to advice you on losing weight safely, through a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise.
We can prescribe the anti-obesity medication, Orlistat, which works by preventing almost one-third of the fat consumed from the food you eat from being digested. Undigested fat is passed out with faeces, helping avoid weight gain, but not necessarily causing weight loss. It is recommended for people who have unsuccessfully tried losing weight by managing diet and exercise.