Overweight or obesity is a term used in describing an individual who has excess body fat. Simple methods such as Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations and waist circumference measurement are used in defining it. Individuals aged 18 and above are considered overweight when their BMI is between 25 and 30. They are also considered obese when their BMI is above 30. Depending on how high the BMI is, a person can be moderately or severely obese.
Sometimes, the BMI may over report, especially for a muscular person, because muscle contributes to the overall weight measurement. In situations like that, the waist circumference measurement is used in addition to the BMI. A person can be considered as having excess body fat when his or her waist circumference is above 94cm for men and 80cm for women.
Having a BMI above 25 and or a waist circumference above 30/35in can pose risks to an individual. This is because overweight and obesity are associated with coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
What factors contribute to overweight and obesity?
One or a combination of the factors below can contribute to obesity.
- Eating more than your body requires. This can lead to overweight and obesity because the body stores the excess as body fat.
- Eating a diet with little or no fruits, vegetables, fibre, cereals, grains and other starchy food but more of sugar, fat, and refined carbohydrates. Fat is the highest energy giving food (1g = 9kcal) whereas sugar and refined carbohydrates quickly release energy making a person feel less full and likely to eat more. This leads to accumulation of excess energy stored as body fat.
- Engaging in little or no physical activities and therefore using little energy or burning little body fat.
- If you drink alcohol, consuming more than the recommended amount provides your body with excess energy for storage as body fat. Note that one gram of alcohol gives 7kcal. This comes second after fat, which gives 9kcal per gram.
- Getting less sleep and therefore having a long wake up time makes you eat more. In the end, your body will have excess energy, which it stores as body fat.
- Having a busy schedule and therefore skipping meals especially breakfast, and eating high sugar, high fat meals on the go. Busy people also tend not to engage in physical activity. Consequently, their bodies store excess energy as body fat and use little or none of it.
- Snacking a lot, especially on foods that are high in fat and sugar, ends up giving the body more energy than it needs, so it converts the excess to body fat for storage.
- Eating comfort foods during periods of stress, anxiety, or depression. Comfort foods are foods usually eaten by an individual who hopes the food will make them feel okay to deal with a stressful situation. In such situations, the individual either eats too much or selects foods that have a high fat or sugar content.
- Medications or certain conditions like hypothyroidism can lead to overweight and obesity. Professional help is recommended in this case.
- Finally, water does not contribute to excess body fat or lead to overweight or obesity. This is because water has zero calorie.
As there are health implications for being overweight or obese, we should all aim to maintain a healthy weight.
Related article: Why it is important to maintain a healthy weight
Last page review: 22/03/2016
Next page review: 22/03/2018