Obesity Resource Center

Obesity Risk Factors

Obesity is a complex issue with a wide range of environmental, societal, mental health related, hormonal, and even genetic factors. Primarily however, it is associated with the overconsumption of calories (especially from unhealthy food choices), in conjunction with an inactive lifestyle. Let’s examine these primary causes of obesity in greater detail:


Poor Diet

A diet high in sugar, carbohydrates, processed foods, and unhealthy fats raises blood sugar levels regularly and increases fat storage over time. Diets high in carbs and unhealthy fats create a metabolic environment where elevated calories and carbs end up causing changes in insulin which further accelerate the effect of fat storage. Additionally, a lack of vegetables, high-fiber foods, and healthy fats negatively impact one’s propensity for healthy weight maintenance. Overall, the right diet is critical to success and should be the main focus of any obesity prevention program.


Lack of Caloric Knowledge

A calorie is essentially a unit of energy. Calories have a bad reputation in the diet industry as something we have to avoid or dramatically reduce in order to lose weight; this is only somewhat true. Calories are needed to produce fuel for the body. Therefore, suddenly dropping down to a very low-calorie diet (less than 500 calories per day) can be harmful. A balance between what we eat and the energy we expend is key to maintaining normal weight.

Calories In, Calories Out

Frequently used as a fat loss tool, calories in, calories out encourages dieters to burn more calories than are consumed. Since a pound of fat measures out to 3,500 calories, the concept is to burn a high number of calories while consuming fewer of them to lose weight. This method doesn’t always factor in the calories burned while engaged in normal activity like sleep for instance, which burns approximately 46 calories per hour for a person who weighs 150 lbs.[1]

Excessive Calorie Intake

It is the combination of a high caloric intake, coupled with the lack of physical activity that makes excessive weight gain a reality. Consuming excess calories regularly is akin to consuming high amounts of energy. When this energy is not burned off through physical activity, it converts to body fat. The USDA recommends a range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men. Obese patients are likely to consume an excessive number of calories, doubling or tripling the amount needed without engaging in calorie-burning activities throughout the day.


Sedentary Lifestyle

Lack of physical activity has become an increasingly significant health issue, particularly in western countries. A sedentary lifestyle revolves around sitting, lying down, or reclining for a majority of the day. Due to the changing nature of work, technology, and convenience, physical activity levels have lessened over the past few decades. As it is no longer a necessity for daily life for many people, routine physical activity requires more of a concerted effort. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines provided by the federal government, adults should be getting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. However, just 21 percent of adults reach this weekly minimum.[2]

A sedentary lifestyle can have devastating consequences on a person’s health over time. It is considered to be a main contributor to obesity due to its negative effects on the metabolism, blood circulation, and heart health. Without routine activity, the body struggles to break down and eliminate fat. A sedentary lifestyle is also linked to premature death. Increasing your activity by simply walking for 30 minutes per day can greatly reduce your risks for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.  However, a major conundrum exists for overweight or obese patients is in their need to lose weight but their ability to do so physically is increasingly challenging. Obese patients suffering from chronic pain or limited mobility due to their weight may not be immediately able to optimally burn calories. Rapid weight loss programs can help to reduce weight-related pain and mobility issues so that physical activity is no longer a major obstacle.


Common Factors

Lack of portion control – Continuing to eat after you feel full, binge eating, and consuming large portions of food.

Drinking your calories – Sweet caffeinated beverages, sports drinks, alcohol, and even fruit juices can add loads of calories to your daily intake.

Fast food and processed food – The majority of these options are loaded with sugar, carbs, sodium, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. This includes snack foods such as chips, popcorn, pastries, etc.

Emotional eating – Using food as a coping mechanism during stressful circumstances or to avoid dealing with underlying issues.

Learned behavior – If you watched your family engage in unhealthy eating habits, you may be following the same pattern in your adult life.

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[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/calories-burned-sleeping#1
[2] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322910.php