Why Are People Obese?

Understanding Why We Are Overweight Or Obese & How To Overcome It

Why are people obese? Is it really because they eat too much and exercise too little? Could it be that obesity is in our genes or is it from what we are exposed to from an early age and more? Understanding obesity, the causes and the best treatment options available requires us to find the answer to the question: why are we overweight or obese in the first place?

The answer is simple. We are obese because we eat more calories than we require, and are increasingly leading sedentary lifestyles. That is mainly it. Mainly, I said.

Our energy intake is more than our energy expenditure. So the excess calorie is stored under our skin and other organs as fat. That is why people are obese. But it goes beyond that. This is why:

Not so long ago, people went to their farms, grew vegetables, grains, and cooked and ate whole fresh food with less refinement and additives and salt and sugar and fat. And...

Meals were served in modest portions to allow the not so available food go round and further. There were no processed prepackaged foods, takeaways, large fries, endless refills, "eat as much as you like buffet", "diet" this and "diet" that, with tons of sweeteners and sugar. They walked to school, or chased and caught the bus,  or train, or indeed, cycled to work, and played with the kids in the garden. They burnt calories almost without knowing. Then people were hardly obese. Yes. Obesity was alien, at least to the majority.

Then came the industrial revolution. Farming became mechanized. Industries mushroomed by the day, spawning out refined foods that must be sold. Walking long distances became a taboo. Cars replaced the energetic horse ridding or cycling, as it fell within the reach of many. Lifts saw to it that stairs were sidestepped. Computer games and televisions tamed appetite for outdoor pursuits.

We all just stopped burning enough fat. We became overweight. Then we became obese.

Why Are People Obese: Myths & Facts

If you were to speak with a 100 people as to why are people obese, you are likely to get more than 50 different reasons for obesity and weight problems. The following are the common "usual suspects" obesity is blamed on.  True, many of these reasons, to some extent, do contribute to obesity directly or indirectly. Others are mere myths. Plainly urban myths. We have asterisked (*) those that actually contribute to obesity. They include:

  • Obesity is in our genes*
  • It runs in my family*
  • It's my hormones*
  • I am overweight because of my birth control pills*
  • I am jinxed
  • I am obese because of my medicines*
  • Blame it on my PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome)*
  • Slow metabolism*
  • Skipping breakfast
  • Poor sleep*
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • I pile on weight when I am stressed*
  • It is due to my periods (menstruation)
  • I have added weight since I stopped smoking*
  • It is due to depression*
  • Obesity is due to air, water and food pollution
  • Blame it on video and computer games*
  • Television*
  • Eating too much fast foods*
  • Drinking soda*

So what do you think might be causing your being overweight or obese? Or have you been trying to lose weight despite eating healthily and doing exercise? Let's explain how some of the above asterisked points could lead to obesity and make it difficult for you to lose weight despite eating healthily and exercising.

Why Can't I Lose Weight

While obesity is fundamentally a problem of eating too much and burning less calories, there are other reasons why people are obese. Such reasons include:

  • Inherited genetic tendencies. If dad and mom are obese, you have more chances of being obese. This would be because of many inherited (what doctors call poly-genetic) reasons. These include the fact that your body may not inherit the right regulatory mechanism for your fat burning hormone, or an inherited defect in fat storage or rate of metabolism and more.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption. We often forget that alcohol contains calories. The more you drink, the more calories you take in and this could add up in time to causing fat storage in your liver, skin and other organs.
  • Sleep deprivation. The Annals of Internal Medicine, 16th October 2012, Vol. 157. No. 8 titled “Impaired Insulin Signalling in Human Adipocytes After Experimental Sleep Restriction: A Randomized, Crossover Study” is the strongest scientific research yet, to support the fact that your obesity could also be due to poor sleep on your part!
  • Sweetened drinks and soft drinks ( a soft drink a day can add 15 pounds to your weight in the course of one year!)
  • Certain medications and conditions. Certain antibiotics use before the age of two years has been shown to increase the likelihood of leading to childhood obesity and of course obesity in later years. So too are some other medications like progesterone containing contraceptive pills, steroids (prednisolone), and many other medications. Medical conditions like low functioning thyroid gland, polycystic ovarian syndrome, etc would cause obesity.  
  • Lifestyles, habits and customs. If you grew up in a family where cooking is not popular (eating out instead), or where cooking is badly done - poor meal choices like fries and oily and fatty meals, instead of fruits and vegetables and lean meat, that influence could also affect why we are obese, rather than a true genetic inheritance. This is a common but often ignored answer to the question, why are people obese.
  • Knowledge and Awareness of what is healthy diet and adequate exercise
  • Stress and comfort eating. If you ask many people who struggle with losing weight, they would tell you that the thought of their being too overweight or obese stresses them out and they then resort to eating more in anger and frustration. Then this makes them put on more weight. And it spirals into a vicious cycle. External stress from work, relationship or life in general too can trigger comfort eating and obesity. Is this you? You can overcome this. Never allow any one put pressure on you to lose weight. no. Not your spouse, friends or doctor. Do it because you see the health benefit. Even at that, never do it under pressure.

Whatever is causing or contributing to your weight issue can be overcome. The key lies in committing to regular exercise, coupled with a well chosen diet program with a long term plan in view. 

If you are truly ready for the challenge to lose weight and put it off permanently, many people have found signing unto programs like the Beachbody 21 Day Fix Weigth Loss Program to be the first step towards succeeding in this regard.

And if you are still struggling to lose weight despite doing "everything in the books" to lose weight, you may need to discuss with your doctor to find out what may be causing this.

Do Something Now

The truth is, we may never find the full answer to why some people obese and other are not. If you are obese or overweight though, you can do something about that. Start today.

Someone is medically said to be obese when he or she becomes 20% heavier than his or her ideal weight. Carrying more weight than is ideal for anyone overwhelms the body and causes a lot of medical problems .

Determine your obesity status now and act if you are overweight or obese. Use our resources to conquer obesity.

For more reasons why are people obese, see our page on causes of obesity. But. What do you think might be causing your obesity? Please join the discussion below and contribute your thoughts.

Why Are People Obese? Have Your Say:

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