The Nature of Obesity
Obesity is currently defined as anyone who has a body mass index (BMI) that is 30 or greater and is considered a disease by many medical professionals who work with this population.
Some of the causes of obesity are glandular malfunctions, malnutrition, emotional tension, boredom, habit, and love of food. It has also been linked to food sensitivities or food allergies and may be the result of either binge eating disorder or compulsive eating.
Obesity results from a complex interaction between genes and the environment characterized by long-term energy imbalance. Heredity plays a primary role in the development of overweight and obesity, but lifestyle choices can be the most influential. These include lack of physical activity, a diet high in fat, sugar, and low in fiber, smoking, and stress.
Obesity develops in a society characterized by sedentary life style, mechanization, and good access to abundant food. The average American is less physically active. We are attempting to lose weight or control our weight by reducing the amount of food we eat (dieting through restriction) rather than increasing our activity levels. Americans also now consume 15-20 pounds more fat each year than we did 100 years ago. Eating fat can make you fat. So can dieting. As we've heard many times, frequent dieting is related to weight gain. A Finnish study conducted in 1999 reported that dieters were several times more likely than non-dieters to experience major weight gain (considered more than 22 pounds) during follow-up.
Fitness and Metabolic Health
Fitness is not integrally related to weight, nor should it be limited to measures of cardiorespiratory capacity and endurance, which have dominated our ideas of fitness. A person's focus on blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol levels is in response to a different concept of fitness. The above parameters (blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels) are the basics of a new definition of fitness which some call "metabolic fitness." Healthy bodies come in many shapes and sizes and we need to begin to view exercise and diet as more than just a means to an end (weight loss). People can be physically active, eat healthy foods, and not obsess about the numbers on the scale.
Insulin resistance is an extremely important factor when considering the health risks of obesity. It is a precursor to diabetes which is one of largest health problems facing Americans today.
Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone which is used to metabolize glucose, the body's major source of energy. When the problem is not with insulin production but with the ability to use the insulin effectively, it's known as insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a reduced sensitivity in the tissues of the body to the action of insulin which is to bring glucose into the tissues to be used as a major source of energy. When insulin resistance (or reduced insulin sensitivity) exists, the body will attempt to overcome this resistance by secreting even more insulin from the pancreas. When the pancreas is no longer able to sustain the increase in insulin secretion, diabetes develops. Insulin resistance describes a group of symptoms, including obesity, hypertension, lower HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides, which can increase a person's risk for diabetes and heart disease. This group of abnormalities is interrelated. Experts state that 10-25% of the adult population may be insulin resistant.
Insulin resistance in combination with sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress, and genetic susceptibility dramatically increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Treatment for obesity often consists of diet, exercise, medication, cognitive behavioral therapy — or a combination of all of the above!
Despite the well-documented success of behavioral techniques in producing temporary weight loss, treatment is typically followed by weight regain almost 90% of the time. The maintenance of treatment effects may therefore be the greatest challenge in the long-term management of obesity and weight loss and subsequent metabolic health.
To achieve long-term recovery, an intensive weight management program must be followed up with focused continuing care to provide ongoing support after treatment. Focused continuing care includes psychological support and guidance from professional trainers and a dietitians.
The key to overcoming obesity is experiencing a shift in consciousness about the relationship between weight, nutrition, metabolic fitness and body image, and making permanent changes that will and redefine the quality of our lives.