The world's oldest known metabolic disorder, and the only one in which America has the highest percentage of sufferers, at about 25%. Obesity occurs when energy intake outstrips energy release, and is characterized by a grossly overweight body.

There is no single cause for obesity, but it could be due to genetic, psychological, or cultural factors that govern either metabolism or self-image. Obesity is most likely to strike in Americans with below-average education and income. There is evidence for genetic factors as well; orphans of obese parents placed in the care of non-obese fostor homes are more likely to become obese than other orphans.

The best way to test for obesity is not to compare yourself to models in Cosmopolitan, but to take your body mass index, which is equal to your weight in kilos divided by the square of your height in meters, or w/(h^2). If the number is between 22 and 25, you're in the safest group. If it's above 27, you're at risk, and if it's above 30, you're in trouble. But don't jump to conclusions, because atheletes with low body fat can get false high numbers by this measurement. Body fat percentage is measured cheaply and innacurately by skin fold measurement, or more reliably through expensive measures such as weighing the body while submerged in water, or testing for Xenon displacement.

Obesity carries serious health risks, that increase non-linearly with increasing weight. These risks include:

  1. Coronary Artery Disease
  2. An increased chance of a stroke
  3. Gall Bladder Disease
  4. A general increase in the likelihood of death from other causes.
  5. And especially diabetes and hypertension.
Diabetes is such a high risk because the large amounts of fat cause an increased demand for insulin in the body, and sometimes even cause a resistance to insulin to build up.

To avoid obesity, says that it's best to keep active, get some exercise two or three times a week, and to avoid excess alcohol consumption, stress, boredom, depression, frustration, and poor eating habits. In other words, to avoid obesity, don't work with computers. Don't eat foods with a lot of fat or sugar either.

Treatment of obesity comes in many forms, depending on your philosophy. You can take drugs that will aid in weight loss (The kind perscribed by your doctor, not the kind that you see advertised in spam or tabloids. And not caffeine pills either.), or you can joing a support group, or you can even have liposuction and a tummy tuck in extreme cases. And then there are those far-out wackos who actually believe that a good diet and regular exercise has some effect on obesity.

Thanks to and, both of which have a lot more useful information than i wanted to transcribe here.

Aside: I wish that when I'm in my car listening to NPR's Morning Edition that I had a tape recorder with me, so as to better quote the program I am referring to. I would like to create an "I Told You So" time capsule for our country and society. The future should be warned, and it is times like these I wish it could be.

The commentator follows a 41 year old woman on her way to Weight Watchers. She drives the two miles in an effort to stick with the program so that she can keep off the 40 pounds she has loss using Weight Watchers. Sometimes, she walks, but she finds it harder and harder to do so. There are no sidewalks, no other pedestrians on the road, which is located in one of a million suburban sprawls that have been, over the last few decades, filling up the horizon.

For all the convenience and high economic gains brought upon by mega-malls, super Wal-Marts and the like, the health of its nearby residents is at stake. People are getting less and less of even the most rudimentary of exercise, walking. Diseases and disabilities related to obesity, in addition to diet fads and hyper-gyms, have increased dramatically in these areas.

And this is a surprise how?

I remember when I was working in an accounting office of an architectural engineering firm. I was the youngest and slimmest girl in the crew, a good 20 years younger on the average. When they asked about how I came to lose the weight I had I mentioned thermogenic herbs (this was before the popularity of Metabolife, where it had a brand name), and immediately they all wanted to try it. But they didn't exercise, which is what I did in additon to supplements. And, I suppose, I didn't have 40 years of New Orleans cuisine to contend with. Working in suburbia as I do now, I see the proof all around me in the faces of people struggling against the life they've found themselves into, a life of presumptuous ease and convenience. I see people power walking in the damn mall. Women whose asses have spread to fill their desk chairs, women who suck down smoothies and maybe do a half hour at the local gym at lunch (if they are that devoted). I see people trying and I see people who have given up. And then there are those who, for whatever reasons, cannot do much for their weight gain and still complain endlessly about it. I don't see an end in sight.

Obesity is the state of bring morbidly overweight and is becoming a huge problem (excuse the pun) in western societies, mainly America. In England we always talk about how bad we are getting, in terms of when we will "become like America". An ever increasing proportion of the population, in all age groups of both genders, are becoming obese, but why?

The simple answer is that an increasing amount of people are taking in more calories then they expend, the difference between the two is then stored as fat around the body increasing the individuals weight. But then a more complicated answer is why is this situation on the increase?

I believe it is down to two factors.

  1. Reduced activity levels
  2. As western society progresses, everything around us is designed to save us time and effort. For example, we have cars, escalators, elevators, moving walkways. Taking this even further, we have products such as electric whisks, electric screwdrivers, electric everything! I'm simply trying to make the point that putting any physical effort into doing anything in our daily lives is increasingly being looked down upon.

    Western societies economies are also evolving to the point where the majority of us sit at a desk all day, only getting up to visit the coffee machine. Our daily activity levels are rock bottom. So much so that gyms and health clubs have sprung up on most street corners. We spend all this money on products that save us effort, only to then pay a huge monthly membership fee to a health club, so we have somewhere to go to be active. It simply doesn't make sense.

  3. What we eat
  4. When we eat, most of us don't make the most sensible of choices, but how much of this is our fault? If you go into a supermarket, how many products do you think are actually in that store, 100's if not 1000's. Many of these products will not be as good for us as they should be, so the odds of an individual who doesn't know too much about nutrition making the right choice are extremely low. And the chances of an individual having any knowledge of nutrition is also extremely low, Home Economics in school is almost non-existent nowadays, and anyway, how many of us, especially boys were interested in cooking when we were teenagers, I for one was not.

    But why is so much food unhealthy? The simple fact is that sugar and fat make food taste pretty damn nice. This is down to evolution. Fat is a great source of energy providing more then twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate per gram. It is also easily stored around the body due to the shape of the fat molecule. Sugar gives us instant energy as it is already glucose.

    Because we like the taste of fat and sugar so much, manufacturers pump their food products full of it, if we like the taste of it, we'll but it, and they make profits. Everybody's happy.

    Another factor that contributes to unhealthy food choices is time constraints, mainly due to job commitments. This can cause many people to skip breakfast and then work through the morning, until their blood glucose levels drop to rock bottom. At this point our body sends a signal indicating that we are "starving". When we feel like this our body craves sugary and fatty foods. Not the best time to be making a choice about what to eat.

Why do people yo-yo diet?

These are the main factors contributing to today’s problem of obesity. What most overweight people do, when they realize that they want to do something about their weight is go on a diet. Many long term, overweight individuals move from one diet to another losing a certain amount of weight, then putting it back on, in a never ending cycle. These individuals are called yo-yo dieters. Let me try and explain why this occurs:

The person goes onto a diet, which creates a daily calorie deficit. The aim is that this deficit will prompt the body into using it's fat stores to make up this deficit. Unfortunately the body does not care where these extra calories come from and will quite happily take them from muscle tissue if it sees that the muscles are not being used for any form of exercise. Initially there is weight loss, but not solely fat loss, which is the ideal situation.

Over the weeks the weight lost may become less and less and the dieter loses the motivation to continue, eventually changing back to their original eating habits. At this point they have less lean tissue then what they started with. There is therefore less muscle to burn calories and weight is more easily gained.

When the individual decides to start another diet, they have less lean tissue to burn calories so weight loss is slow to begin with. More lean tissue is then lost throughout the diet, motivation is lost, the diet is forgotten and weight is again put back on, but now with even less lean tissue.

This cycle continues, reducing lean tissue each time, and making weight loss harder and harder, hence the yo-yo dieter.

O*bes"i*ty (?), n.[L. obesitas: cf.F. ob'esit'e.]

The state or quality of being obese; incumbrance of flesh.


© Webster 1913.

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