Obesity: Definitions, Trends & Solutions

Obesity is a common and serious disease in the United States. Its prevalence has increased over the past 20 years, and today over 17 million people in the United States are obese. We define obesity by the body mass index (BMI). The BMI is obtained by dividing a person’s weight by the square of the person’s height. A range of 25-30 is considered overweight, a range of 30-40 obese, a range of 40-50 morbidly obese, and a range greater than 50 is super morbid obesity. Seek the recommended range for a BMI of under 25 to guard against comorbidities. 

The risk factors associated with obesity are cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Specific clusters of risk factors constitute the metabolic syndrome of obesity, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. All of these increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. 

Obesity has many causes; some of these individual socioeconomic and environmental causes include poor diet, lack of physical activity, genetics, medications, and mental disorders like depression. Depression can lead to obesity and obesity can lead to depression. Thankfully, we have learned that certain foods can boost our mental health. Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids have a positive impact on brain health. These include canned tuna, salmon, or sardines. And antioxidants improve overall health. Generally, the more color your food has, the more antioxidants it contains. 

And the good news is that even the slightest weight loss can improve health problems associated with obesity. Several strategies for weight loss have been used over time. The most important obesity prevention measures people can take are starting a good healthy diet and exercise plan. 

Fiber is a carbohydrate the body cannot digest. Most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules; fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, instead passing through the body undigested. Because of this, fiber can help food move through your digestive system, promote regularity and help prevent constipation. Great sources of fiber are whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans. To increase fiber intake, substitute whole fruits for fruit juices, replace white bread and white rice with brown rice and whole grain products, and choose beans instead of meat two to three times per week. 

Despite eating healthy and exercising, some people can still be at risk of developing obesity. After all conservative measures have been taken, surgery can be a long-term solution for helping keep weight under control. Weight loss surgery in conjunction with dietary intervention and physical activity tends to give the greatest results for improved health and sustained weight loss. Although surgery is not an option for everyone, for those who are candidates, it can be a very powerful tool in the fight against obesity. 

Studies have considered the social stigma of carrying extra weight, and its consequences. The obese person could experience the loss of a job or promotion opportunity, or even being wrongfully perceived by others as unintelligent or lazy. The obese person can become isolated and withdrawn, especially in our modern society in which food can be delivered and bills paid online. 

There is not single solution to the obesity epidemic. The solution is not always to eat less and walk more. Obesity is a complex problem that demands multiple strategies. Although the main key to successfully treating obesity is adopting healthy lifestyles including dietary modification and physical activity, a multiple modality approach, which includes surgical intervention, is perhaps the best approach for many morbidly/super morbidly obese individuals. Surgical intervention need not be considered the last resort. 

Preventing known comorbidities directly related to obesity from occurring is a pathway many people are pursuing. Individuals and professional weight loss teams should have long-term goals and pathways in place. ν