Obesity is when an individual is carrying excessive body weight. Obesity is often considered a cosmetic inconvenience but it isn’t simply that. Obesity is a serious health issue that can inhibit individuals’ lives, in addition, to causing numerous health problems such as chronic diseases, ailments and even cancers. Obesity is a medical condition that impedes individuals’ ability to live a healthy and well-rounded life.
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop certain diseases and health problems. These include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Breathing difficulty
- Skin conditions
- Menstrual abnormalities
- Joint problems
- High cholesterol
- Coronary artery disease
Approximately two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the United States are considered overweight or obese. The rise in obesity coincides with changes in lifestyle. Television, computers and video games have replaced more physically active work and play. In addition, calorie-packed convenience foods often take the place of homegrown, home-cooked healthy meals.
Wellstar offers a variety of treatments, programs and procedures to help overweight and obese Georgians lose weight, keep it off and live well.
Factors that may increase your risk of being overweight or obese include:
- Family history of obesity, which involves both genetics and environmental factors. Genetics play a role in the amount of body fat you store and where you store it and in how efficiently your body converts food into energy and burns calories during exercise. In addition, the environment, including the eating and exercise habits of the family in which you grow up, plays a role.
- Socioeconomic status affects weight in ways you may not consider. Factors like having limited or no access to a safe place to exercise or the inability to afford healthier food can increase the likelihood of obesity.
- While people can be obese at any age, the decrease in metabolism and a less-active lifestyle in older adults can lead to weight gain as you age.
- Quitting smoking often leads to weight gain.
- Risk factors for childhood obesity include maternal gestational diabetes during pregnancy, low birth weight and lack of breastfeeding.
Even with one or more of these risk factors, you are not automatically destined to become obese. You can counteract most risk factors through diet, physical activity and behavior changes.
Obesity is caused by various factors, including, consuming too many calories, eating the wrong foods, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough and genetics. Obesity can be caused by a combination of these factors and causes individuals to gain excess weight.
The best way to prevent obesity is to develop healthy eating habits at an early age. Teach your child healthy eating habits to help them enjoy a lifetime of living well and staying well.
Reduce your risk of obesity
Make the commitment within your family to develop healthy habits to prevent obesity or lose weight. Healthy choices include:
- Turn off the TV, computer or video games and exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes five days a week, as a family.
- Serve and eat smaller portions.
- Learn about calorie and carbohydrate content.
- Eat a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, beans, fish and lean meats.
- Limit high-fat, processed or sugar-sweetened foods such as butter, oils, desserts, whole milk, cheese and sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
- Manage stress.
The most common method for screening for obesity is calculating Body Mass Index (BMI), which is an easy-to-perform correlation of weight to height that applies to adult men and women. BMI is a fairly reliable indicator of body fat for most people. However, it does not measure body fat directly, which means that some people, such as muscular athletes, may have a BMI that indicates they are overweight or obese, even though they have no excess body fat. If your BMI indicates you are overweight or obese, your Wellstar physician will use additional tools to confirm the diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
The formula for calculating your BMI is your weight in pounds multiplied by 703, divided by your height in inches, divided by your height in inches again. This equals your BMI.
For example, with a weight of 150 lb and height of 5′5″ (65″) the calculation is: 150 x 703 ÷ 65 ÷ 65 = 24.96. Once calculated, BMI numbers indicate:
- Underweight = < 18.5
- Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
- Overweight = 25–29.9
- Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
Other tests for estimating body fat include:
- Measuring skinfold thickness with calipers
- Measuring waist circumference—greater than 40″ for men and 35″ for women indicates obesity
- Waist-to-hip circumference ratios
Treating obesity involves making lifestyle changes and begins with a thorough examination by your Wellstar primary care physician. Your doctor will gather information about current medications, medical and family history, weight gain history and other weight loss plans, diets or exercise programs you’ve tried. Once tests have been run and questions answered, a treatment plan will be developed based on your weight-loss goals and history.
The most cost-effective and low-risk treatment for obesity is lifestyle modification. Lifestyle changes that can result in weight loss include:
- Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, beans, fish and lean meats
- Limiting calorie-rich foods such as butter, oils, nuts, desserts, whole milk, cheese and processed foods
- Avoiding sugar-sweetened drinks
- Eating small, frequent meals
- Exercising vigorously for at least 2.5 hours each week
Let a Wellstar registered dietitian help you make the lifestyle changes that result in long-term weight loss. Research shows that obese people who get the help of a registered dietitian to lose weight are more likely to reach their weight-loss goals than those who do not.
If weight loss is not achieved through lifestyle changes, ask your Wellstar physician or a registered dietitian about medication, including over-the-counter diet medications that can be used together with dietary changes and physical activity. Your physician or dietician will advise you of risks or side effects, and also let you know which medications have been scientifically tested and regulated.
Sibutramine and orlistat are prescription medications, and Alli is an over-the-counter medication, that have all been approved by the FDA for use by obese patients to aid with weight loss. It is important to remember that these medications must be combined with diet and exercise in order to be effective. They are not a substitute.
Bariatric surgery is a weight-loss option for people who are morbidly obese (a BMI greater than 40, or greater than 35 combined with other health-risk factors) and unable to sustain lasting weight loss with conventional weight loss methods, such as dietary changes and exercise. Bariatric surgery reduces the size of the stomach and, depending on the procedure, impedes nutrition through malabsorption, a process that keeps the small intestine from absorbing nutrients.
Wellstar’s Bariatric Surgery Program has been named an ASMBS Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence® (BSCOE) for excellent surgical outcomes, ongoing staff education, a complete complement of consultants and a full line of equipment necessary for quality surgical care.
Ongoing Care for Obesity
Taking off weight and keeping it off require a life-long commitment to healthy living. Wellstar physicians can help you with a life plan that includes a continued diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and a regular schedule of exercise. If you have bariatric surgery, you will also need to take vitamins and supplements, and eat five to six smaller meals a day as recommended by your physician.