The term “obese” is used to describe a person who is carrying a large amount of excess weight, with a high percentage of body fat. A body mass index (BMI) between 30-39.9 would classify you as obese, and a BMI over 40 would class you as severely obese.
It is a very common problem in the UK, that’s estimated to affect around one in every four adults and around one in every five children aged 10 to 11.
Selfcare and more information
If you are overweight, the best thing you can do to tackle this is it to eat a healthy, reduced-calorie diet and to exercise regularly. To do this, you could:
- Eat a balanced, calorie-controlled diet. You can read more about how to start this here.
- Join a local weight loss group
- Take up a new activity, such as jogging, swimming or tennis. If you are new to exercise, you should build up activity levels slowly. Currently, it is recommended that adults should be active for between 150 to 300 minutes a week. Many people find it easier to split this up into 10 minute bursts, and this is fine; all activity counts.
- Try and eat your meals slowly, and avoid situations which you could be tempted to overeat, or make a plan of what you’re having before you go.
Some people find they benefit from receiving psychological support from a trained healthcare professional, to help them change the way they think about food and eating.
Causes of obesity
Obesity is generally caused when we consume more calories than our body needs – or that we can burn off through activity. The excess energy is then stored by the body as fat. When this behaviour is repeated on a regular basis, it can lead to weight gain, which can then lead on to obesity.
It is becoming more common for people in society to struggle with weight gain. Modern life can be hectic, and for some this leads to eating large amounts of cheap, convenient, high calorie foods. Alongside this, people may spend a lot of time sitting down; at work, on the sofa at home, in cars or on public transport. Spending our time sitting down (sedentary) is bad for us. You can find more information about this from the NHS website - formerly known as NHS choices by clicking here.
Sometimes, there are underlying health conditions which can occasionally contribute to weight gain, although these conditions don’t normally cause weight gain if they are controlled with medication.
The NHS website has provided a more detailed account of the causes of obesity. You can read more by clicking here.
The risks of carrying excess weight
It is important that steps are taken to tackle obesity, as it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
There are many other health conditions that you may be at risk of developing if you are obese. These have the potential to become serious in the future, and affect the quality of your life. Conditions that you may be at risk of developing are:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Reduced fertility
- Osteoarthritis (OA) in your joints – especially your knees and hips
- Sleep apnoea
- Liver and kidney problems
- Pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia
Obesity can reduce life expectancy by an average of 3-10 years, depending on how severe it is. It is estimated that obesity and being overweight contributes to at least 1 in every 13 deaths across Europe.
Alongside the physical affects of carrying excess weight, it can start to affect your quality of life. It can lead to psychological problems, such as depression and feelings of isolation or low self-esteem. The psychological problems associated with being obese can start to affect your relationships with family, friends, and people around you, and this may lead to depression. We have many resources available to you if you feel that you are experiencing feelings such as these. Click here for more information.
You may experience other problems if you are carrying excess weight, such as:
- Excess sweating
- Difficulty doing physical activities
- Feeling tired more often
- Joint and back pain
There are lots of different ways people’s health in relation to weight can be classified, but the most commonly used both nationally and within the NHS is called body mass index (BMI).
BMI is used to measure whether you’re a healthy weight for your height. You can find out your BMI by clicking here to use the healthy weight calculator.
BMI cannot always diagnose obesity, because some people who are very muscular sometimes have a high BMI without having excess fat. For most people, however, BMI is a useful indication of whether they’re a healthy weight, overweight or obese.
Another commonly used method to measure excess fat on the body is by looking at the measurement of a person’s waist circumference. Generally speaking, men with a waist circumference of 94cm (37in) and above, and women with a circumference of 80cm (about 31.5in) are more likely to develop obesity-related health issues.
When to consider seeing your GP
If lifestyle changes, after a 6-12 month trial period, don’t help you lose weight, you might wish to have further discussion with your GP, or if you are under your local weight management programme, you can get advice from your specialist.
In rare cases, weight loss surgery may be recommended, but not everyone will be suitable for this. You can find out more about this and the risks involved by reading the NHS websites’s guide to weight loss surgery, by clicking here
More information about obesity
There is no “quick fix” for obesity. It takes time and commitment to your weight loss programme to see results, and work best when you complete the programme fully. Healthcare professionals that are involved in your care should provide you with encouragement and advice on keeping the weight off once your goals have been achieved.
Monitoring your weigh regularly and setting yourself realistic goals for the future can help with this. Some people find that involving friends and family in activity and healthy living can help to keep you motivated.
Remember, even a small amount of weight loss (as little as 3% or more of your original body weight) and maintaining this for life can reduce your risks of developing obesity related conditions.
Videos about obesity
Common health questions about BMI
Common health questions about BMI
NHS | Published 20 July 2017
Change4Life | Published October 2014
- Click here to visit our video library for more resources
Waiting for a specialist opinion
If you have been referred for a specialist opinion your details will be reviewed and it may be recommended that you are seen by a hospital clinician. Information to support you in choosing your preferred hospital, including waiting times can be found using the links below.
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