Although there are genetic, behavioral, metabolic and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when you take in more calories than you burn through typical daily activities and exercise. Your body stores these excess calories as fat.
In the United States, most people’s diets are too high in calories — often from fast food and high-calorie beverages. People with obesity might eat more calories before feeling full, feel hungry sooner, or eat more due to stress or anxiety.
Many people who live in Western countries now have jobs that are much less physically demanding, so they don’t tend to burn as many calories at work. Even daily activities use fewer calories, courtesy of conveniences such as remote controls, escalators, online shopping, and drive-through restaurants and banks.
Obesity often results from a combination of causes and contributing factors:
Even if you have one or more of these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that you’re destined to develop obesity. You can counteract most risk factors through diet, physical activity and exercise. Behavior changes, medicines and procedures for obesity also can help.
People with obesity are more likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems, including:
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To diagnose obesity, your health care professional may perform a physical exam and recommend some tests.
These exams and tests often include:
Gathering this information will help you and your health care team choose the type of treatment that will work best for you.
The goal of obesity treatment is to reach and stay at a healthy weight. This improves overall health and lowers the risk of developing complications related to obesity.
You may need to work with a team of health professionals — including a dietitian, behavioral counselor, or an obesity specialist — to help you understand and make changes in your eating and activity habits.
The first treatment goal is usually a modest weight loss — 5% to 10% of your total weight. That means that if you weigh 200 pounds (91 kilograms), you’d need to lose only about 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9 kilograms) for your health to begin to improve. But the more weight you lose, the greater the benefits.
All weight-loss programs require that you change your eating habits and get more active. The treatment methods that are right for you depend on your weight, your overall health, and your willingness to participate in a weight-loss plan.
Reducing calories and practicing healthier eating habits are key to overcoming obesity. Although you may lose weight quickly at first, steady weight loss over the long term is considered the safest way to lose weight. It’s also the best way to keep weight off permanently.
There is no best weight-loss diet. Choose one that includes healthy foods that you feel will work for you. Dietary changes to treat obesity include: