Obesity is a severe form of overweight considered today as a serious medical disorder, and it results from multiple factors: genetic, behavioral, and social. Obesity is caused by a lack of physical activity. Psychological factors sometimes contribute to obesity. Anxiety, depression, stress, or trauma can cause a compensation mechanism that encourages excessive food intake. However, there is no typical psychological profile for obese people.
How Do I Know If I Have Abdominal Obesity? What To Do About It?
The diagnosis of obesity is made through the calculation of the body mass index, based on the weight and height of the patient. An index greater than 30 defines obesity. It is important to detect excess weight as early as possible to act quickly.
If excess weight persists over time, the risk of obesity will be higher, and the return to normal will be more difficult. Obesity is serious because of its complications: high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and osteoarthritis of the knees.
How to calculate BMI?
The body mass index is calculated by dividing the weight (in kg) by the square of the height (in meters): for example, an adult measuring 1.75 m and weighing 70 kg has a BMI of 70/(1, 75 x 1.75) = 22.9. A BMI greater than 25 defines overweight and a BMI greater than 30 defines obesity.
But the BMI is not only a reflection of excess fat in the body, because its evaluation must be nuanced according to the characteristics of the morphology and musculature. For greater precision, it can be combined with measuring the thickness of skin folds in certain areas of the body using a caliper.
Causes of Abdominal Obesity
Consuming fewer calories than you expend is what causes obesity. In the past, many people believed that obesity was simply due to a lack of willpower and self-control resulting in excessive eating and insufficient physical activity.
Although these are important contributing factors, doctors recognize that obesity is a complex medical problem that involves genetic, environmental, behavioral, and social factors. All these factors play a determining role that affects a person’s weight.
Recent research shows that sometimes certain genetic factors can cause changes in appetite and fat metabolism that lead to obesity. The risk of obesity is high for a person who is genetically predisposed to gain weight (e.g. due to a slower metabolism) and leads a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle.
Although a person’s genetic predisposition can contribute to obesity, it is not the primary cause. Various environmental and behavioral factors exert greater influence; Eating excess calories from high-fat foods and little or no daily physical activity will eventually lead to weight gain.
Additionally, not getting enough sleep and using certain medications can cause weight gain leading to obesity. Childhood obesity that persists beyond early childhood can make weight loss more difficult during adult life.
About 15% of women gain 9 pounds or more permanently during each pregnancy. Certain health conditions – such as binge eating, Cushing’s disease, and polycystic ovarian syndrome – can also lead to weight gain and obesity. Binge eating is an eating disorder where the person has repeated episodes of excessive food consumption.
During these episodes, she quickly eats a large quantity of food and feels like she cannot control this excessive consumption. Various psychological factors can also contribute to obesity. Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, emotional stress, or trauma can cause a defense mechanism, such as overeating, to occur. Adverse events or abuse during childhood can increase the risk of obesity.
Symptoms and Complications
- A condition of the coronary arteries (of the heart)
- A joint condition (e.g. Osteoarthritis)
- Gallbladder or liver disease
- Certain types of cancer (e.g. Prostate and bowel cancer for men, breast and uterine cancer for women)
- Disorders of the reproductive system, including reduced fertility
- The depression
- Increased blood pressure
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- High cholesterol levels
- Breathing disorders (e.g. sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
People who are obese may experience symptoms of the above medical conditions. Among the most common are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breathing problems, and joint pain (in the knees or lower back). The more obese a person is, the more likely they are to have obesity-related medical problems.
In addition to medical complications, obesity is also linked to psychosocial problems such as low self-esteem, discrimination, difficulty finding employment, and reduced quality of life.
Treatment and Prevention
Changes to your lifestyle
The management and treatment of obesity aims to reduce health risks and improve quality of life. An appropriate weight management program usually combines physical activity with a healthy diet and modification of daily habits.
Other programs may also include psychological consultations and, in some cases, drug treatment. Successfully losing weight and keeping it off is an ambitious goal that requires lifestyle and behavioral changes.
What matters is having a healthy and balanced diet. Fad diets and crash diets are rarely successful and can be dangerous. Food must provide the body with a minimum amount of energy to function normally. No diet containing less than 1000 or 1200 calories should be followed without medical supervision. “Crash diets” are never a good long-term solution because weight loss usually returns when they are no longer followed. Weight loss clinics and business plans thrive because of a large number of returning customers.
Regular physical activity is an important part of your weight management program. Not only does exercise help with weight management and improves overall health and may reduce the risk of conditions such as certain forms of cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Regular exercise does not mean you should join the nearest gym.
Medications can be part of a weight management program. Medications are not “miracle cures” that cause permanent weight loss. They are generally used in conjunction with an appropriate diet and exercise program. They are reserved for people declared obese (i.e. those with a BMI greater than 30) or people with a BMI of 27 and additional risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol or diabetes.
- ScienceDirect(2010) Abdominal Obesity Available online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/abdominal-obesity
- National Institutes of Health(2020) Abdominal Obesity, Adipokines, and Non-communicable Diseases Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7431389/