Obesity (definition): an abnormal accumulation of body fat, usually 20%+ over an individual’s ideal body weight. Obesity is associated with increased risk of illness, disability and death.
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Obesity is traditionally defined as a weight of at least 20% above the weight corresponding to the lowest death rate for an individual of a specific height, gender and age (i.e. ideal weight). 20-40% over an individual’s ideal (healthy) body weight is considered mildly obese; 40%-100% over your ideal weight is considered moderately obese; and 100%+over your ideal weight is considered severely or morbidly obese.

Obesity among Americans is increasing at accelerated rates. Some studies have estimated that a full 50% of all Americans are considered medically overweight. The World Health Organization terms Obesity a worldwide epidemic.

The last published CDC results on people at least 30 lbs overweight showed that all but one state in the United States had at least 20% of the state’s population is obese (and the weight’s reported come from the individual – not estimated by a 3rd party).

Excessive weight can result in many serious, potentially life-threatening health problems, including:

Hypertension; Type II Diabetes; Increased Risk of Coronary disease; increased and unexplained heart attacks; hyperlipidemia; infertility; and a higher prevalence of colon, prostate; endometrial and, possibly, breast cancer. Over 300,000 deaths per year are attributed to obesity.

The former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, called obesity “the 2nd leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States”.



Understanding Obesity

The mechanism for excessive weight gain is clear – more calories consumed than the body burns, and excess calories are stored as fat (adipose) tissue. However, the exact cause is not as clear and likely arises from a complex combination of factors. Genetic factors significantly influence how the body regulates the appetite and the rate at which it turns food into energy (metabolic rate). Studies of adoptees confirm this relationship- the majority of adoptees followed a pattern of weight gain that more closely resembled that of their birth parents than that of their adoptive parents. A genetic predisposition to weight gain, however, does not automatically mean that a person will be obese. Eating habits and patterns of physical activity also play a significant role in the amount of weight a person gains.

While still an ongoing area of debate/inquiry within the medical community, some recent studies indicated that the amount of fat in a person’s diet may have a greater impact on weight than the number of calories it contains. Carbohydrates like cereals, breads, fruits, and vegetables and protein (fish, lean meat, turkey breast, skim milk) are converted to fuel almost as soon as they are consumed. Most fat calories are immediately stored in fat cells, which add to the body’s weight and girth as they expand and multiply. A sedentary lifestyle also plays a role in weight gain.

In childhood, excess calories are converted into new fat cells (hyperplastic obesity), while excess calories consumed in adulthood only serve to expand existing fat cells (hypertrophic obesity). Since diet and exercising can only REDUCE the size of fat cells, not eliminate them, persons who were obese as children can have great difficulty in losing weight, since they may have up to 5 times as many fat cells as someone who became overweight as an adult.

Obesity can also be a side effect of certain disorders and conditions including:

  • Cushing’s Syndrome a disorder involving the excessive release of the hormone cortisol
  • hypothyroidism, a condition caused by an underactive thyroid gland
  • neurologic disturbances, such as damage to the hypothalamus, a structure located deep within the brain that helps regulate appetite
  • consumption of such drugs such as steroids, antipsychotic medications, or antidepressants

The major symptoms of obesity are excessive weight gain and the presence of large amounts of fatty tissue. Obesity can also give rise to several secondary conditions including:

  • Arthritis and other orthopedic problems such as lower back pain
  • hernias
  • heartburn
  • adult-onset asthma
  • gum disease
  • high cholesterol levels
  • gallstones
  • high blood pressure
  • menstrual irregularities or cessation of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • decreased fertility, and pregnancy complications
  • shortness of breath hat can be incapacitating
  • sleep apnea and sleeping disorders
  • skin disorders form the bacterial breakdown of sweat and cellular material in the thick folds of skin or from increased friction between folds
  • Type II Diabetes (leading cause of limb loss and blindness)
  • emotional and social problems

Living With Obesity

Obesity Price Tag Per Year – $6454

exerpt from Carmen Wong Ulrich’s book “The Real Cost of LIVING”

Obesity is becoming the norm in this country – a very dangerous and expensive norm. We are being super-sized at such a rate that experts say that, in 20 years or less, more than 1/2 of American adults and the majority of children will be overweight. The first and possibly the most expensive costs of obesity have to do with direct and indirect health-care costs and complications. Being overweight can contribute to many diseases and chronic conditions; including some cancers (breast and colon); diabetes; hypertension; heart disease; high cholesterol and stroke. This list of diseases due to obesity contains 4 of the top 6 causes of death in the United States.

As of 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), found that health care costs in this country were around $147 billion to cover complications from obesity; more than 9% of the nation’s annual health-care budget. If you break down that price tag, obese Americans pay $1429/year MORE in medical costs that someone who has a body mass index (BMI) below 25; that’s 43% higher healthcare costs for an individual.

Your paycheck also pays the price. Wage discrimination exists as well as hiring discrimination. The majority of respondents in one recent study said that they always chose a thinner individual when deciding between two similar job applicants. Employees who are overweight, on average, make $1.25/hour less than a low BMI colleague, adding up to a six-figure loss over a career. Women get hit hardest when it comes to paying the high price at work for being overweight – obese women can make up to 24% less than the average-size woman while even slightly overweight women make about 6% less.

Add together the higher annual costs and medication($1429), wage discrimination ($2500), travel costs (a conservative $25), and other lifestyle costs such as mobility and clothing ($2500), and the cost of being overweight is around $6454/year; or $538/month. Over a lifetime (40 adult years) that is more than $258,000. And the cost $6454 is WITHOUT pricey diseases. If you have diabetes or other medical issues associated with your obesity, the cost of being obese goes from $6454/year on average to $19,454/year in total costs (or $778,160 over 40 year adult lifetime).

  • In perspective – if you took the $538/month spent due to obesity and conservatively invested it at 6% you would HAVE $1,082,675.00.
  • If you took the $19,454 ($1622/month) and invested over 40 years you would HAVE over $3 million in the bank.

Key terms to Know

  • Adipose Tissue – Fat Tissue
  • Ghrelin – a peptide hormone secreted by cells in the lining of the stomach. Ghrelin is important in appetite regulation and maintaining the body’s energy balance
  • Hyperlipidemia – Abnormally high levels of lipids in blood plasma
  • Hyperplastic obesity – Excess weight gain in childhood, characterized by the creation of new fat cells
  • Hypertension – High Blood pressure
  • Hypertrophic Obesity – Excessive weight gain in adulthood, characterized by expansion of already existing fat cells
  • Ideal Weight – Weight corresponding to the lowest death rate for individuals of a specific height, gender, and age
  • Leptin – a protein hormone that affects feeding behavior and hunger in humans. Some think that obesity in humans may result, in part, from insensitivity to leptin.

Reclaim Your Health, Your Body… Renew Your Life