Obesity is a condition of having excess fat in your body. For long, it has been considered a cosmetic problem. Now we know that excess fat, specially in and around the belly is not inert. It secretes many hormones that contribute to insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, hhigh cholesterol, obstructive sleep apnea among many other metabolic issues. Of all the things that we know about obesity- the most important is that- It is a progressive disease. Obesity “begets” obesity. For every pound we gain, the likelihood of us gaining the next pound goes up.
Most commonly, obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI> 30 Kg/m2). BMI is calculated by dividing weight in Kilograms by the square of height in meters. However, it may not always be accurate. People with very high muscle mass may also wegh more and have a high BMI without having any excess fat. Therefore, a more accurate way of measurement is through a body composition analyser that gives a breakup of fat mass and fat-free mass in the body. Obesity is more than 25% fat mass in Men and more than 31% fat mass in women.
Obesity is multifactorial. Genetics, eating habits, food preferences and prevalence, stress, mental disorders, eating disorders, social conditioning, socioeconomic status, and bacteria in the gut, all have an important part to play in obesity.
Genetics accounts for about 70% of variability in weight. People who have parents and siblings with obesity, have a higher chances of developing obesity in their lives.
Stress, depression, anxiety alter our relationship with food and can predispose to a lot of eating disorders like grazing, night eating syndrome, binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia. All of these play a significant role in the weight of a person.
Widespread availability of cheap energy dense, nutritionally poor, and processed food has led to a surge of obesity in developing nations. For the first time in the history of humanity, obesity is higher in middle class and lower middle class compared to their economically well-off counterparts. Additionally, eating healthy is slowly becoming more expensive than eating junk.
Lifestyle that is predominantly sedentary and leaves little time for cooking/home cooked food adds up to all the above factors and contributes to obesity.
Like all other illnesses, it is important to treat the cause rather than the symptoms only.