What is obesity?
Obesity is an excess of body fat. If your body mass index (BMI) is more than 30%, you are medically considered to be obese while overweight is considered 25-29.9%. You can find out your BMI here. Although BMI is not accurate in all people, it tends to be pretty accurate for the general population (within a percentage point or two). It tends to be inaccurate for extremely muscular or well-built people (like professional athletes or body builders).
What causes obesity?
Simply put, obesity is caused by eating more calories than you are burning. This is very easy to do with the standard American diet. Did you know that the average American consumes 3,770 calories per day (as of 2013)?* That is nearly double the daily recommended intake of calories. There are, of course, many illness-related reasons why people gain weight. For the vast majority of people, however, obesity is caused by eating too much. Some other reasons people might be obese include:
What can I do to help with my obesity?
There are some things you can do to help you lose weight. Remember that weight loss is a slow process and requires a lifestyle change rather than just a temporary diet.
• Track your food intake and calorie expenditure. If you are not losing weight and you do not have a relevant medical condition, you are simply consuming more calories than you are burning daily. People tend to severely underestimate their daily caloric intake. The only way to be sure that you are consuming less than you are burning is to track your intake. This is easy to do with many food-tracking phone apps or even something as simple as a hand-written food journal.
• Exercise more. Exercise helps you burn calories which can help you to maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, exercise helps to reduce stress levels and elevate moods.
• Avoid sugary drinks. Many people don't realize that you can end up drinking most of your daily calories if you aren't careful. Drinks like non-diet sodas, alcoholic beverages, and sugary blended coffee or teas can have as many calories as a small meal.
• Take weight loss at your own pace. Some people can lose weight very easily. Some people can't. For example, men tend to lose weight more easily than women. Additionally, excess fat that you have had for a while tends to take longer to come off than newly put-on fat. Try not to compare yourself to others; as long as you are working hard every day, changes will come. Note that safe weight loss is considered 1-2 pounds per week, so if you have 15 pounds to lose, that could take 15 weeks!
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* "Infographic Of The Day: America's Strange Attitudes Toward Food." Infographic of the Day. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665769/infographic-of-the-day-americas-strange-attitudes-toward-food>.
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Sohn, Emily, and Diane Bair. Food and Nutrition: Eating to Win. Chicago, IL: Norwood House, 2011