What is Obesity? Causes, Types & Prevention

Obesity or Overweight is a complex and chronic condition that affects millions of people around the world.

It is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, which means that your weight is much more than what is considered healthy for your height.

Obesity can increase your risk of developing various health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some cancers.

In this article, we will explain what obesity is, what causes it, what types of obesity exist, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity is the result of an imbalance between the calories you consume and the calories you burn. When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores the excess energy as fat.

Over time, this can lead to weight gain and obesity. However, obesity is not just a matter of eating too much or exercising too little. There are many factors that can influence your weight, such as:

  • Genetics: Some people are more likely to gain weight than others because of their genes. For example, some genes may affect your appetite, metabolism, or fat distribution. You may also inherit certain medical conditions that can cause obesity, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s syndrome.
  • Environment: Your surroundings can also affect your weight. For example, you may live in an area where healthy food options are scarce or expensive, or where physical activity is limited or unsafe. You may also be influenced by the eating and exercise habits of your family, friends, or co-workers.
  • Behaviour: Your lifestyle choices can also contribute to obesity. For example, you may eat large portions, snack frequently, skip breakfast, or consume high-calorie drinks. You may also have a sedentary lifestyle, meaning that you spend a lot of time sitting, watching TV, or using the computer. You may also have difficulty sleeping, which can affect your hormones and appetite.
  • Emotions: Your mood can also affect your weight. For example, you may eat more or less when you are stressed, depressed, bored, or angry. You may also use food as a way of coping with your feelings or rewarding yourself.

Types of Obesity

Obesity is not a one-size-fits-all condition. There are different types of obesity, depending on where the excess fat is stored in your body.

The most common types are:

1. Abdominal obesity:

This is when you have a large amount of fat around your waist. This is also known as central or visceral obesity.

This type of obesity is more dangerous than others, because it can affect your internal organs and increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

A simple way to measure abdominal obesity is to use a tape measure and check your waist circumference.

For men, a waist circumference of more than 40 inches (102 cm) is considered abdominal obesity. For women, a waist circumference of more than 35 inches (88 cm) is considered abdominal obesity.

2. Gluteofemoral obesity:

This is when you have a large amount of fat around your hips and thighs. This is also known as peripheral or subcutaneous obesity.

This type of obesity is more common in women than in men, and it may have some protective effects against diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, it can still cause problems such as joint pain, varicose veins, and cellulite.

Other types of obesity: There are also other types of obesity that are less common, such as:

¡》Cushing’s obesity:

This is when you have a high level of cortisol, a hormone that regulates your stress response, in your blood.

This can be caused by a tumor in your pituitary gland, adrenal gland, or elsewhere in your body, or by taking certain medications, such as steroids.

This type of obesity is characterized by a round face, a fat hump on your upper back, and thin arms and legs.

¡¡》Hypothyroid obesity:

This is when you have a low level of thyroid hormones, which regulate your metabolism, in your blood. This can be caused by a disorder of your thyroid gland, such as Hashimoto’s disease, or by taking certain medications, such as lithium.

This type of obesity is characterized by a slow metabolism, fatigue, cold intolerance, dry skin, and hair loss.

¡¡》Syndromic obesity:

This is when you have a genetic disorder that causes obesity, along with other symptoms. Some examples of syndromic obesity are Prader-Willi syndrome, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and Cohen syndrome.

How to Prevent Obesity

The best way to prevent obesity is to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

Here are some tips to help you prevent obesity:

¡》Eat a balanced diet:

A balanced diet is one that provides you with all the nutrients you need, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water, in the right amounts and proportions.

A balanced diet should include a variety of foods from different food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

You should also limit your intake of foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar, or salt, such as fast food, junk food, sweets, sodas, and alcohol.

¡¡》Control your portions:

Portion control is the practice of eating the right amount of food for your body and your activity level. Portion control can help you avoid overeating and consuming more calories than you need.

A simple way to control your portions is to use smaller plates, bowls, and cups, and to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with grains, and a quarter with protein.

You can also use your hand as a guide to measure your portions. For example, a fist is about the size of a cup, a palm is about the size of a serving of meat, and a thumb is about the size of a serving of cheese.

¡¡¡》Eat mindfully:

Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to your food and your feelings while you eat. Mindful eating can help you enjoy your food more, eat less, and avoid emotional eating.

Some ways to eat mindfully are to eat slowly, chew well, savor the flavors, avoid distractions, and stop when you are full.

¡V》Be physically active:

Physical activity is any movement that makes your muscles work and burns calories. Physical activity can help you prevent obesity by increasing your metabolism, improving your muscle mass, reducing your body fat, and enhancing your mood.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both.

Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity are brisk walking, cycling, dancing, or gardening. Some examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity are running, swimming, playing sports, or lifting weights.

You can also do some simple exercises at home, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, or planks.

V》Get enough sleep:

Sleep is essential for your health and well-being. Sleep can help you prevent obesity by regulating your hormones, appetite, and energy levels.

Lack of sleep can disrupt your hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, which control your hunger and satiety. This can make you crave more food, especially high-calorie and high-carbohydrate foods, and eat more than you need.

Lack of sleep can also lower your energy levels, which can make you less active and burn fewer calories. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and that they follow a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bed, and create a comfortable and dark sleeping environment.

How to Treat Obesity?

If you are already obese, you should consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Your doctor may recommend some of the following options to help you treat obesity:

¡》Lifestyle changes:

The first and most important step to treat obesity is to make some lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet and increasing your physical activity.

Your doctor may refer you to a nutritionist, a dietitian, or a physical therapist, who can help you create a personalized plan that suits your needs and preferences.

You may also benefit from joining a weight-loss program, a support group, or a counselling service, which can provide you with education, motivation, and guidance.


In some cases, your doctor may prescribe you some medication to help you treat obesity. These medications work by suppressing your appetite, increasing your metabolism, or blocking the absorption of fat.

However, these medications are not a magic solution, and they may have some side effects, such as nausea, diarrhoea, headache, or insomnia.

You should only take these medications under your doctor’s supervision, and you should also follow a healthy lifestyle while taking them.


In some cases, your doctor may recommend you to undergo surgery to help you treat obesity.

There are different types of surgery, such as gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, or gastric banding, which work by reducing the size of your stomach, limiting the amount of food you can eat, or altering the way your body digests food.

However, these surgeries are not for everyone, and they may have some risks, such as infection, bleeding, or leakage. You should only consider surgery as a last resort, and you should also follow a strict diet and exercise regimen after the surgery.


Obesity is a serious and prevalent health issue that can affect your quality of life and increase your risk of various diseases.

However, obesity is not inevitable, and you can prevent it or treat it by making some lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, controlling your portions, being physically active, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress.

You may also consult your doctor for other options, such as medication or surgery, if needed. Remember that obesity is not a matter of appearance, but of health, and that you deserve to be healthy and happy.

We hope that this article has helped you understand what obesity is, what causes it, what types of obesity exist, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Thank you for reading.


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