By: Dr. Scott Perryman
One of the greatest health issues facing our society is the trend towards obesity. Adults and now an increasing percentage of children are diagnosed with obesity every year. With this development comes an increase of health problems.
Obesity is the medical term that describes those whose body mass index (BMI) measures 30 or above. If your healthcare provider tells you that you are obese, it means that you have an increased risk of developing a variety of dangerous conditions.
More and more research reveals that obesity is tied to a large number of health risks and diseases. Fortunately, for those diagnosed with obesity, there are also proven, safe and effective treatments.
What is Obesity? Am I Obese?
When your healthcare provider says you are obese, it is not meant to hurt your feelings.
Obesity is the medical term for those whose bodies have too much fat tissue relative to their size. If your body mass index measures at 30 or above, you are likely obese. Recent surveys have shown that as many as 34 % of adults over the age of 20 are obese and nearly 70 % of adults are overweight. In the last two decades, the rates of obesity have only increased and show signs of getting worse.
You can easily determine if you fall into this category through our BMI calculator.
Obesity and weight gain is a “progressive” condition, meaning those who gain weight are more and more likely to continue gaining weight. This presents greater challenges to those who are looking to change their bodies and reclaim their health.
Being overweight or obese also results in changes in waist size.
Excess fat around the midsection of the body increases waist size, which is an indication of fat accumulating in the abdomen. Women with waists measuring over 35 inches and men whose waists measure over 40 inches are at greater risk of developing health problems linked to obesity.
When it comes to weight gain and obesity, there are many misconceptions and myths that continue to circulate, especially on the Internet. Many individuals fall into a rut of self-blame and defeat, assuming that their health problems are attributed incorrectly to factors such as personal failing or a lack of willpower. Although it is undeniably important to be an active participant in your health, obesity is a complicated issue with a wide range of possible contributing factors.
Gaining weight is affected by more than the number of daily calories consumed.
Weight gain triggers changes in the body’s normal hormonal, metabolic and molecular processes. These changes lead to fat accumulation. The body’s ability to oxidize (break down) fat tissue for energy decreases and the rate of conversion of carbohydrates to fat increases.
Health Risks and Dangers of Obesity
Obesity poses a significant risk to your overall health. Not only are obese individuals at risk of gaining more weight, but there is also an increased risk of developing a number of dangerous diseases such as:
- Heart Disease
- Kidney Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Respiratory Illness
- Sleep Apnea
Obese individuals certainly may only have a few or none of these conditions. Those who have a family history of any of the conditions have an even greater chance of developing these illnesses. Additionally, where fat is stored on the body will also make a difference in your overall health. Due to genetics, hormones and other factors, some individuals’ bodies have a tendency to store fat around the stomach. Known as having an “apple” shaped body, these individuals are different than those who have a “pear shaped body” where fat is mostly stored around the hips and buttocks.
Those with an “apple shape” figure or whose bodies appear to develop more belly fat are also at higher risk for health risks associated with obesity. Obese or overweight individuals tend to struggle with impaired sleep, which contributes to increases in hormones that stimulate appetite and increase fat storage.
Obesity and weight gain can quickly snowball into a vicious cycle of continuous weight gain.
Causes of Obesity
There is a wide range of causes that increase an individual’s chance of developing obesity. Many factors may trigger other causes or may be completely unrelated to each other.
The main known factors include:
American diets have become increasingly reliant on fast foods as longer work hours and commutes lead families to eat on-the-go.
Modern work environments offer few chances for physical activity and are typically characterized by long hours in front of computer screens.
People under a lot of stress are more likely to become obese due to poor eating choices. Additionally, chronic stress results in increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which releases fatty acids and transfers them to storage in the abdomen.
Individuals with a family history of obesity are more likely to develop obesity themselves. Genetic disorders such as Prader-Willi, Alstrom Frohlich can also lead to obesity but are extremely rare.
Some specific medical conditions such as eating disorders, Cushing’s syndrome, hypogonadism, hypothyroidism, and insulinoma are more directly related to weight gain and obesity.
Prescription drugs such as diabetes medication, antihistamines, steroids, psychotherapeutics, and anticonvulsant medication can increase appetite and lead to weight gain.
The most commonly recommended treatment for obesity is a low-calorie diet. Unfortunately, if you are not careful about your diet strategy, your diet can actually contribute to weight gain. Losing weight can cause the body to react and trigger a number of biological responses to conserve calories and energy.
This biological response is the reason why long-term weight loss is extremely difficult to achieve through diet alone. An individual trying to continuously lose significant amounts of weight will have to regularly reduce their calorie intake compared to an individual of the same body size who is able to maintain a healthy BMI.
Benefits of Weight Loss
The benefits of weight loss cannot be overstated. Losing even just five to ten percent of your body weight can have a significant positive impact on your health. A common perception is that one must achieve their “ideal” body weight in order to be healthy. Although it is ideal to be at a healthy BMI relative to your body size, you can start making positive steps by losing weight and improving your health.
Losing 5 to 10 % of your body weight has been shown to provide many immediate benefits such as:
- 5 point improvement in HDL “good” cholesterol
- Decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure
- Reduction of half a point per 10% of weight loss for hemoglobin A1C, a laboratory marker for diabetes.
- Reduction of inflammatory substances in blood vessels, which reduces the risk of vascular damage, stroke and heart attack.
- Improved energy levels
- Reduction of sleep apnea symptoms and improved sleep
For those who fall into the category of severe or extreme obesity (with a BMI greater than 40), losing weight and regaining your health can be a frustrating challenge.
Bariatric Surgery and Obesity
If you’re feeling stuck in a cycle of weight gain and have been diagnosed with obesity or extreme obesity, you are not alone. In the U.S. alone, more than 90 million adults are known to be obese. In many cases of obesity and in most cases of severe obesity, conventional treatments such as calorie reduction, and exercise produce limited, short-term results.
The National Institute of Health recognizes bariatric surgery as one of the only effective methods for achieving long-term weight loss in individuals with extreme obesity.
Will Bariatric Surgery Solve my Obesity?
Bariatric surgery includes treatments such as gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and laparoscopic adjustable gastric band. These treatments are effective because they change how your stomach and digestive system operate. Bariatric surgery is known to profoundly help patients overcome their obesity and achieve massive weight loss.
However, bariatric surgery is a serious surgical procedure that will require a comprehensive and holistic approach, including careful lifestyle and dietary changes. The surgery is not meant to be a convenient cure-all to obesity.
Whole Health Weight Loss Institute
At the Whole Health Weight Loss Institute led by Dr. Scott Perryman and Dr. Crystine Lee, conscious choice and intention lie at the heart of our holistic approach to bariatric surgery. Every patient who chooses treatment with the Whole Health Weight Loss Institute receives a comprehensive package of state-of-the-art surgical, endoscopic and medical weight loss options in combination with proven mindfulness health practices.
If you are serious about taking control of your health and achieving lasting change that matters, schedule a consultation with Dr. Perryman or Dr. Lee. During your consultation, you will receive a personalized treatment plan that is appropriate to your body and goals.