Causes of Obesity

What are the causes of obesity? Is it really due to the type of food I eat? Why is it that some folks eat much more than I do, yet they are not as 'big' as I am? Find out the main causes of overweight and obesity here

Could this be in my genes? Or am I jinxed?

Obesity is a condition arising from an interplay of an inherited genetic predisposition to gain weight, and adverse environmental factors leading to a bigger you.

Adverse environmental factors could include a bigger appetite for food than normal, eating the wrong type of food, less exercise, use of certain types of medications like steroids, beta-blockers and the presence of certain types of medical condition beyond your control like poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or Prader–Willi syndrome.

Whatever the underlying reason for being overweight, one thing is certain. If you eat less, and do more exercise up to that required to burn the excess fat you store, obesity will be a thing of the past for you.

In a nutshell:

You are overweight because your calorie intake exceeds the amount of calories you need for daily activities and maintaining good health. Over time, this is piled on as excess fat with potentially disastrous health consequences.

If you must conquer obesity, you must address this imbalance.

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Main Causes of Obesity

It is safe to say that there are three (3) main causes of obesity

These are:

  1. Your lifestyle habits

  2. Your genetic predisposition

  3. Medications you take and some inherited medical conditions

These three main causes of obesity can be further broken down to 10. We shall now list ten (10) top factors that contribute to obesity, and re-arrange them under 3-4 headings to see how they contribute to unhealthy weight gain. They include:

  1. Dietary factors
  2. Environmental factors
  3. Psychological factors
  4. Parental factor
  5. Cultural Factors
  6. Metabolic
  7. Age
  8. Medications you may be taking
  9. Some underlying medical conditions you have (you might not even know you have them!)
  10. Excessive Alcohol intake and smoking cessation

A number of these factors interact in tandem to produce obesity. This is a more realist and indeed holistic view of what causes obesity.

Lifestyle Habits That Contributes To Obesity

Lifestyle factors are perhaps the most important factors contributing to obesity. Understanding how they contribute to being overweight is essential, and it is these factors that can be altered and controlled by any one wishing to lose weight, more easily than the other factors. They include

  • Dietary Intake & Eating Habits
    What types of food do you eat? Have you got appetite for fried foods, food items rich in trans fat and saturated fat, or even very high fat content?

    Get it right: It is very important that your meal contains fat. You need this for the absorption of vitamins from your food, as well as to provide energy and maintain good health. But, according to leading medical authorities worldwide, only a third of your calories should come from fats, and you do well to avoid foods rich in trans fat and saturated fat.

    Fat also is very high in calorie. While one gram (1gm) of carbohydrate generates 4 units of calories,

    1gm (one gram) of fat generates 9 units of calories! It therefore means that eating food rich in fats means you are consuming double the calories per weight of food. Excess calories are stored in your body as fat! Can you see how fatty foods contribute to weight gain? Reduce but don't avoid fats.

    What about eating irregularly and between meals... a little biscuit here and there or extra puddings and sweets? These needs to be controlled. Eat sensibly. Avoiding large servings or portions at meal times, or irregularly and several portions, as well as high calorie foods are important. French fries and Big Macs for example are known to be high in calories. So too is alcohol. Hot dogs, Big Macs, French fries, macaroni and cheese, nachos, potato chips, ice cream -- all these high-fat American favorites are cheap, accessible and delicious. Is it any surprise that fatty foods are contributing to the soaring obesity rates in this country?

  • Sedentary Lifestyles & Habits
    Most office workers lead a sedentary lifestyle: drive to work, use the lift at work, seat all day long with very minimal physical activities. Why some obese individuals are really active, taking their level of activity to a higher degree, coupled with moderation of their eating pattern may be key to overcoming weight problems.

    It is advised that you should be able to engage in moderate physical exercise that brings your heart rate up to a third to double of your normal resting heart rate, at for at least 30 minutes a day for up to 5 days a week.

    I myself, am a veteran participant in the sedentary type of lifestyle; some call us "couch potatoes".

    I can vouch for the fact that without some type of exercise it will be very hard for you to lose weight.

  • Cultural or Family Lifestyles
    Social, cultural or family perceptions, believes and lifestyles can influence people becoming obese. In some parts of the world, you are thought to be wealthy and doing really well if you are obese. Also, some cultures feed their women fat to "prepare" them for marriage.

    There are some families where almost everyone is fat, yet this may not be genetic. It may just be the family influence relating to the type of food they are used to and eating habits. Some communities likewise consume very high calorie rich meals regularly as their staple, and one needs to re-evaluate the type of food and social heritage passed down to them. This is one of the common causes of obesity in certain populations.

  • Psychological Factors
    This cause of obesity has been lumped in here, under lifestyle causes of obesity, as it may relate to our lifestyle and how we handle stress.

    Many people eat in response to negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, anger, low self esteem or depression. This is called comfort eating, or binge eating. Eating is seen as a means of coping with stress and is another major cause of obesity.

    During a binge eating episode, people eat large amounts of food and feel that they cannot control how much they are eating. Those with the most severe binge eating problems are also likely to have symptoms of depression and low self-esteem. These people may have more difficulty losing weight and keeping it off than people without binge eating problems.

    If you are upset by binge eating behavior and think you might have binge eating disorder, seek help from a health professional such as your GP, family doctor, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker.

    Some people finds themselves in a vicious circle here. They get upset that they are obese. Become saddened by their weight, and coil back into "themselves" and eat more, become more obese, and get even more depressed, and eat even more as comfort. You can break that chain. Seek help.

Genetic Factors That Contribute To Obesity

Our inherited genes contribute to a possible propensity to accumulating body fat mass. Many people who are obese might have inherited a defective gene called the "ob gene".

This gene regulates our fat cells to produce a chemical called leptin. Under normal circumstances, high calorie intake activates our fat cells to produce this chemical leptin, and leptin sends a message to our brain triggering satiety, and thus switching off the desire to eat more. When this pathway is defective, we continue to eat even when we do not need to. This is a common finding in obese people.

Other genetically linked causes of obesity arises from defective chromosomes we may inherit that makes fat metabolism less than ideal, like in medical genetic conditions, including:

  • Syndrome X
  • Laurence-Moon-Biedl Syndrome,
  • Prader–Willi syndrome

Medical Conditions That Causes Obesity

The presence of certain medical conditions can contribute to one's being obese. Medical causes of obesity include:

  • Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Bulimia
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Tumour of certain parts of the brain

There causes, but for hypothyroidism and PCOS are relatively rare.

  • Metabolic Factor
    Under medical causes of obesity, is the issue with metabolism. This term refers to the rate at which your body burns and uses food (calories) consumed.

    Some people have slow metabolism while some others have very high metabolism. If your metabolism tends to be slow, you are more likely to store excess calories in the form of fat. A slow metabolism means you probably need to work harder at losing weight.

    However, your efforts may ultimately increase your metabolic rate. Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. So reducing fat and building muscle through weight-bearing exercise can help you burn calories more efficiently. Some slimming agents works by increasing your natural metabolism and thus helps you burn calorie faster and slim down. One of such is the Green Tea drink with EGCG that promotes weight-loss and increase in energy..

Medicines That Causes Obesity

Many people are not aware that many of the regular medicines that they take could lead to their adding and gaining weight. Have you read the disclosure about your prescription given to you by the pharmacist?

Most of the meds I currently take have that caution on the disclosure. This is one of the major causes of obesity. Common medications that are known causes of obesity include:

  • Medications for diabetes — mainly the sulphonylureas, and glitazones

  • Mood medications or antidepressants like amitriptylline, mirtazapine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • Epilepsy medications like valproate, gabapentin, vigabatrin

  • Psychiatric medications, especially the atypical antipsychotics

  • Steroids like prednisolone,

  • Oral contraceptive pills

  • Hormone replacement therapy

  • Beta-blockers like propanolol, sotalol,

  • Pizotifen

What ever is the cause of your weight problem, be sure that you can overcome it. Study the causes of obesity detailed here and try identify what may be important for you. Work with your health care provider and join obesity support groups and see watch as you evolve into a new you.

Have you made a decision to take control of your lifestyle to not be obese? Here are some resources that can help.

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