It is the lack of energy balance which most often causes obesity or weight gain in people. Energy balance generally means that the amount of energy taken in should equal the amount of energy spent. Energy taken in is the amount of calories one gets from drinks & food. Energy out basically is the amount of energy the body utilizes for activities like digesting, breathing & physical exertion. Energy-in & energy-out, will eventually have to balance every day in order to maintain healthy weight. Equal amount of energy-in & energy-out over a period of time will help the patient maintain ideal body weight. More energy in & less energy out over a period of time will result in weight gain. Likewise, more energy out than energy in over a period time will result in weight loss. Overweight & obesity therefore happen over time whenever people are taking in more calories that they are able to spend.
Other Causes of Obesity
Many Americans nowadays are not very active physically. One main reason for this is many people spend hours in front of computers & television sets for work & leisure activities. Factually, more than a couple of hours of regular TV viewing every day are linked to obesity & weight gain. Other reasons for being inactive include fewer physical demands at work or at home due to conveniences & modern technology, relying on cars for transportation instead of walking & lack of physical education classes at schools. Such people who lead inactive lives are most likely to gain weight as they do not burn enough calories than they are taking in from drinks & food. Moreover, this inactive lifestyle also raises risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, colon cancer & other obesity associated health problems.
Environment around us does not support a healthy lifestyle; on the contrary it encourages obesity. Some reasons for this include lack of sidewalks in neighborhood & of safe places for recreational activities. Absence of sidewalks, trails, parks & affordable gyms make it difficult for people to live a physically active lifestyle.
- Working Schedules – Many people often find that they do not have enough time to be physically active due to long working hours, meeting deadlines & time spent for commuting.
- Oversized Meal Portions – Cutting across borders, people nowadays are exposed to huge amount of food portions in fast food joints, restaurants, supermarkets, movie theaters, gas stations & at home as well. Quite a few of these meals & snacks can be food enough to feed two or even more persons. Consuming such large portions means that too much energy is coming in. Over a stretch of time, this can cause to gain excessive weight if is not properly balanced with physical activity.
- Lack of Access to Healthy Food – There are many obese people who do not live in neighborhoods having supermarkets which sell healthy foods, like vegetables & fresh fruits. These healthy foods may also be too costly for some people.
- Food Advertising – People all around the world are nowadays surrounded by ads put up by food companies. Most, among these ads target children in their ad campaigns. It is quite often that children are the target of ads selling high-fat snacks, sugary drinks & high calorie snacks. Goal of these advertisements is to allure people to buy high calorie foods, which are highly available.
Studies conducted on identical twins that were raised apart reveal that genes have strong influence upon the weight of a patient. Obesity & overweight problems tend to run in families. Chances of a person being overweight are greater when one or both parents of a patient are obese or overweight. Genes may also affect amount of fat which a person can store within his/her body. This will eventually amount to the extra fat which obese patients carry. Moreover, since the family shares food & physical activity habits, there exists a link between genes & environmental influences. Children adopting these habits of their parents eating high-calorie foods & remain inactive are most likely to become overweight too. However, when families adopt healthy food habits alongside physical activity, chances of the child becoming obese or overweight is greatly reduced.
There are some problems associated with the hormones, which may also cause a person to become obese & overweight. For example hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) & Cushing’s syndrome. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Lack of thyroid hormone in the body will slow down the patient’s metabolism & enable the patient to gain weight. The person will also feel week & tired. In Cushing’s syndrome the body’s adrenal gland start making too much of the hormone called cortisol. Cushing’s syndrome is also found to develop when a person is taking high doses of certain medications like prednisone for long periods of time. Therefore when people have Cushing’s syndrome will gain weight, have a round face & upper body obesity, development of fat around the neck alongside thin arms & legs as well. PCOS is a medical condition which affects about 5 – 10 percent of the women of childbearing age. Quite often women having PCOS are obese, carry excessive hair growth & have reproductive problems alongside other health issues. PCO’s problems are generally caused by high levels of hormones spreading into high levels of hormones known as androgens.
Certain medicines are found to cause weight gain in patients. Some of these medicines include antidepressants, corticosteroids & seizure medicines. These medications can also slower rate at which the body is able to burn calories, increase appetite or cause body to hold on extra water. However, all these factors can eventually lead to weight gain.
Some people are found to eat more food than usual whey they are angry, bored or even stressed. Overeating will eventually lead to weight gain over time & may cause obesity or overweight.
Quite a few people are found to gain weight when they quit smoking. One reason is that they start eating more as food often tastes & smells better after quitting smoking. Another reason for gaining weight after people stop smoking is because nicotine usually raises the rate at which body burns calories. Therefore people are able to burn fewer calories when they quit smoking. Nevertheless, smoking is a serious issue & health risk & therefore quitting is more important than gaining weight.
People tend to lose muscle as they get older, especially people who are less active. Muscle loss can also slow down the rate at which the body burns calories. Therefore when people cannot restrict calorie intake as they get older may eventually gain weight. Weight gain in midlife among women is mainly dependent on aging & lifestyle, but menopause is also found to play a major role. Several women gain about 5 pounds during menopause & collect more fat around waist than they did prior to menopause.
Women usually gain weight during pregnancy so as to support the growth & development of babies. Following giving birth, quite a few women find it hard to lose weight. This can lead to obesity or overweight, especially after a woman has undergone few pregnancies.
Studies reveal that lack of sleep can increase risk of obesity. People sleeping fewer hours seem to prefer eating foods which are high in carbohydrates & calories & which can also lead to overeating, obesity & weight gain. Sleep helps the body maintain balance of hormones which help in feeling hungry or full. Lack of sleep will increase level of ghrelin (hunger hormone) while leptin (homone promoting fullness) is found to go down. This make a person feel hungrier than they are when they are well-rested. Sleep also affects how bodies react to insulin hormone which controls blood glucose levels. Therefore, lack of sleep can also increase the person’s risk for diabetes.
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