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Reasons Why People are Obese

Take charge of your health today.

Predictably, people cited overeating and drinking as the main culprits. The reasons behind this, though, were complex and interesting:

  • boredom
  • depression
  • comfort
  • constant availability of food (including convenience foods)
  • bad eating habits
  • eating at the wrong time
  • always finishing all the food on the plate
  • rewarding behaviour with sweet treats, and nurturing through food
  • snacking
  • eating the wrong foods
  • finishing children's leftover food from their plates
  • 'healthy' food is more expensive

Lack of exercise was also cited, with the reasons behind it including:

  • Laziness or too tired after work.
  • Sedentary jobs and leisure activities (eg, watching television, computer games)
  • Use of cars rather than walking unable to exercise because of injury, or just too big prohibitive cost of health clubs/exercise classes
  • Being housebound


They gave broadly similar reasons for the prevalence of overweight as the general public, but also cited other reasons:

  • poverty
  • poor nutrition education
  • poor literacy
  • poor labeling of products by both manufacturers and supermarkets
  • lack of availability of fruit and vegetables in some (particularly urban) areas
  • lack of traditional cooking skills

As we have seen, obesity is responsible for many problems in people's lives. It affects:

  • their physical health
  • their life expectancy
  • their social life
  • their work life
  • the way they are regarded by others


  • Excess weight gain in adults usually starts in the 20-40 year old period, with maximum body weight being reached in middle age.
  • Once weight gain has occurred, spontaneous weight loss (without a medical cause) is uncommon until after 65 years of age.


  • Women gain excess weight more rapidly than men, perhaps for metabolic reasons related to their lower lean body mass.


  • A persistent discrepancy of as little as 2% between daily intake (the amount of calories we consume) and energy output (the number of calories we burn up) can induce progressive and substantial weight gain.
  • Eating 50-200 kcal more than we expend on a daily basis over a four-year period will lead to a slow but progressive weight gain of 2-20kg. It is at this point that the body's natural metabolic rate will finally adjust to the extra intake, and weight will stabilise at the higher level
  • Every extra 10kg of weight represents 70,000 stored kcals


  • When intake is reduced, the metabolic rate reduces, and an unconscious desire to eat increases. This explains why many dieters do not do as well as they hope, even when well-motivated - their ambitions are hindered by their body's physiological processes.

These body 'defences' against weight loss pose considerable problems to obese people trying to lose weight. To maintain a 10kg loss, the person would have to eat 300kcal/day less than his/her energy output (or, of course, increase his/her energy output to 300kcal more than the food intake) on a permanent basis.


The high-risk groups also include those who were previously obese and have lost weight, smokers who have stopped smoking, those who change from an active to an inactive lifestyle and those with poor educational achievement.

Alison Worwood is the Healthy Eating Strategy Development Manager for Camden & Islington and is based in Islington PCT. A focus for the strategy is to co-ordinate and target activity around food and nutrition. Before this Alison was the Public Health Dietitian for Croydon.

The objectives of weight loss are to firstly prevent any further increase in obesity; and secondly to bring about a reduction in obese adults and children thus creating a much needed downward trend. It is unlikely and unrealistic to expect a reduction in body weight to within normal ranges for most overweight/obese individuals. Instead, a 10% weight loss is significant enough to bring with it the following health gains:

  • Substantial fall in systolic and diastolic blood pressure;
  • A fall of 10% in total cholesterol
  • More than 50% reduction in risk of developing diabetes;
  • 20-25% falls in total mortality.

There are three core features to successful interventions for weight management:

  • Low calorie diets - through a reduction of both fat and carbohydrate intake achieves increased weight loss compared with reducing fat calories alone. An individually planned diet, creating a deficit of 500-1000 kcal/day will result in a healthy weight loss of 1-2 lb. per week.
  • Physical activity - is strongly recommended as part of a weight management programme. Moderate levels of activity (30-45 minutes) should increase from 3-5 / week to preferably every day.
  • Psychological interventions - such as cognitive behavioral therapy are effective on their own, but more so when combined with diet and /or physical activity dimensions.

Health Risks Associated with Obesity

  1. Heart Disease and Stroke
    Heart Disease and Stroke are the leading causes of death and disability for both men and women in the United States. Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, than people who are not overweight. Very high blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) can also lead to heart disease and often are linked to being overweight. Being overweight also contributes to angina (chest pain caused by decreased oxygen to the heart) and sudden death from heart disease or stroke without any signs or symptoms.
  2. Diabetes
    Noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes) is the most common type of diabetes in the United States. Type 2 diabetes reduces your body's ability to control your blood sugar. It is a major cause of early death, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and blindness. Overweight people are twice as likely to develop type-2 diabetes as people who are not overweight. You can reduce your risk of developing this type of diabetes by losing weight and by increasing your physical activity.
  3. Cancer
    Several types of cancer are associated with being overweight. In women, these include cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, breast, and colon. Overweight men are at greater risk for developing cancer of the colon, rectum, and prostate.
  4. Sleep Apnea
    Sleep apnea is a serious condition that is closely associated with being overweight. Sleep apnea can cause a person to stop breathing for short periods during sleep and to snore heavily. Sleep apnea may cause daytime sleepiness and even heart failure. The risk for sleep apnea increases with higher body weights. Weight loss usually improves sleep apnea.
  5. Osteoarthritis
    Osteoarthritis is a common joint disorder that most often affects the joints in your knees, hips, and lowers back. Extra weight appears to increase the risk of osteoarthritis by placing extra pressure on these joints and wearing away the cartilage (tissue that cushions the joints) that normally protects them. Weight loss can decrease stress on the knees, hips, and lower back and may improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
  6. Gout
    Gout is a joint disease caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid sometimes forms into solid stone or crystal masses that become deposited in the joints. Gout is more common in overweight people and the risk of developing the disorder increases with higher body weights.

Key points:

  • Main objectives of weight loss are to firstly prevent any further increase in obesity and secondly to reduce obesity.
  • A 10% weight loss is enough to bring about significant health gains
  • The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have health problems. Studies show that you can improve your health by losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds (5-9kg). The longer you delay taking action, the more damage you may inflict upon your health.