Understanding Obesity


Learn more about obesity, a growing epidemic in the United States.

For the 70 million or so Americans considered overweight and obese, the extra weight can also be a contributing factor to many health problems and conditions. Developing a better understanding of obesity may provide an added incentive to commit to making positive lifestyle changes.


Lack of Exercise and Obesity

A lack of consistent exercise or physical activity can make it easier for extra calories to turn into fat. Excess abdominal fat in women may increase the risk of developing breast cancer or needing gallbladder surgery. For men, extra belly fat may contribute to cardiovascular disease and increase resistance to insulin needed to manage type 2 diabetes.

Obesity due to a lack of exercise may also increase the risk of developing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. At least 20-30 minutes of daily activity may reduce these health risks and help manage weight.

Obesity and Unhealthy Eating Habits

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies obesity as a “global epidemic” due to increased obesity rates in many industrialized nations, including the United States. A primary reason for this is eating habits that are generally considered unhealthy, although some sources cite an increase in portion sizes as another contributing factor. Any diet that includes very little fruits and vegetables and foods high in sugar and saturated fats can lead to obesity, especially when coupled with a lack of exercise.


Even foods that are generally considered healthy, such as salad and coffee, can become unhealthy when topped with fattening dressings and extras like cream and sugar. The addictive flavor of fried and processed foods can make it difficult to make wise dietary choices. Since weight gain is slow, gradual process, some people may not realize the true impact of their eating habits until they’ve reached a point where their weight gain is causing noticeable health issues.

How Genetics May Affect Weight

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), genetic factors could be responsible for weight gain in some patients. Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome are the most common conditions linked to obesity. Both of these genetic disorders affect major body systems by altering chromosomes. Being genetically predisposed for obesity doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a problem with weight. Behavior is also a significant contributing factor to how much genetics plays a role in weight gain.

Problems With Obesity

Bone, Joint, and Disc Problems

Since obesity is progressive, it’s often easy to overlook the potential long-term effects of carrying excess weight. Obesity has been linked to several bone, joint, and disc problems, including osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. It’s a condition that results from the gradual wear-and-tear of joints and supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Extra weight can accelerate this degeneration.

Non-specific low back pain is often aggravated by added weight on joints, discs, and bones of the spine. The progressive weakness of spinal discs is referred to as degenerative disc disease (DDD). Obesity can make related symptoms, such as persistent lower back pain and radiating nerve pain, more noticeable and frequent.

Poor Sleep Habits and Obesity

The National Sleep Foundation cites research connecting poor sleep habits, such as not sticking to a regular sleep schedule or not getting enough rest, to obesity. A lack of sleep can also make it more difficult to properly digest and process food, which may further contribute to weight gain.

Breathing Difficulties

Excess body weight can also increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, a serious disorder where an individual’s breathing is disrupted while sleeping. Obesity contributes to respiratory conditions by placing extra weight on the chest and lungs. An accumulation of fat deposits in the neck can also lead to breathing difficulties.

Reproductive Issues

Morbidly obese women may experience irregular menstrual cycles or fertility issues when trying to become pregnant. Overweight women of childbearing age may also be at an increased risk of having a miscarriage or have difficulty with fertility treatments.

When you reach a point where you’re ready to commit to losing weight, achieving that goal can present some unexpected challenges. Start by seeking input from our experienced weight loss doctor before making drastic adjustments to your diet or beginning a regular exercise routine. If you’re not having success with weight loss attempts, you may be a candidate for weight loss surgery.