Controlling and weight management is a large part of your overall physical health. Being overweight or obese can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure). Attempting to lose weight isn’t just for appearance’s sake—obesity is a medical disease that often requires obesity treatment to eradicate the problem. The good news is, plenty of treatment options for people with obesity are available. Read on to learn more about what obesity is, how your body mass index (BMI) is determined, and options to treat obesity.
What Is Obesity?
Put simply, obesity can develop over time when your caloric intake is higher than the amount of energy you “burn off” each day. Instead of being burned off, the excess calories over time turn into weight gain. It is important to notice the distinction between being overweight and being obese. Both of these conditions mean you have extra body fat. When your BMI is at a certain level (which will be discussed below), it is considered either underweight, normal, overweight, or obese. Those with the highest levels of body weight are considered to be obese.
How Is Obesity Determined?
The term “weight control” is used when it comes to maintaining and managing your body weight. However, a healthy body weight may look different in different people. For example, being very muscular with strong muscles would add to weight when the BMI is calculated, but a higher BMI doesn’t necessarily mean this person is overweight or obese. It’s always best to talk to your physician about obesity treatment, so nothing is misconstrued.
Obesity is determined mainly by BMI but also by weight circumference. For women, a healthy weight circumference is 35 inches or under, and for men, a healthy circumference is 40 inches. Being over these parameters could be a sign of obesity.
How Do You Calculate BMI?
Calculating body mass index is the gold standard for determining excess weight and obesity, but it’s always best to speak with your physician if you calculate your body weight as overweight or obese.
You can calculate your BMI by multiplying your body weight by the number 703. Then, divide that number by your height (in inches). For example, if you are 5 feet 7 inches tall, then you would divide by 67. Once you have divided the first calculation by your height in inches, divide it again. This is your final calculation.
For example, here is how to calculate BMI for a person who is 5 feet 7 inches. Let’s say their weight is 170.
703 x 170 = 119,510
119,410 / 67 = 1,784
1,784 / 67 = 26.6
Using this example, you would use the last number (26.6) to calculate your BMI. The ranges for underweight, normal, overweight, and obese are as follows:
- Underweight: A BMI lower than 18.5
- Normal: A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9
- Overweight: A BMI between 25 and 29.9
- Obesity: A BMI of 30 or higher
As you can see, the person in the example is considered “overweight,” but could likely be managed with lifestyle and diet modifications.
What Are the Symptoms of Obesity?
The symptoms of obesity include:
- A BMI calculation that indicates obesity
- Having a weight circumference higher than the “normal” range
There are myriad reasons why weight gain happens and many factors that can contribute to it. Knowing some of these factors can help when you have a consultation with your gastroenterologist.
Common Causes of Obesity
There are many reasons obesity occurs. Some of those include:
- Psychological factors. Many emotions can lead to eating as a temporary solution—for instance, being sad, anxious, or even celebratory. There is a very emotional side to food, and sometimes behavior therapy is a wise choice for obesity treatment.
- Environmental factors. This is one of the more important factors and it refers to how much you eat and how active you are each day.
- Medical conditions. Sometimes certain medical conditions are linked to obesity, such as:
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Neurological problems
- Genetic/environmental factors. It is thought that genetic factors do play a role in obesity. If you have first-degree family members who are overweight or obese, then you are predisposed to the condition. However, researchers cannot determine whether the issue is solely genetic or is mixed with environmental factors (diet, exercise) as well
When to Seek Medical Help for Obesity
You should seek medical help or consult a gastroenterologist if you’re concerned about your weight. The more obese you are, the more likely you are to develop other health conditions. Even weight loss of 10 to 20 pounds can improve your physical health overall. Doctors especially encourage patients to seek help for obesity if they have any of the following health risks:
- Family history of chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease
- An apple-shaped body where the weight resides primarily in the stomach (higher risk of heart disease than those who are pear-shaped)
- A pre-existing condition, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or high cholesterol
The good news is, that there are many types of obesity treatment, no matter where you fall on the BMI scale.
Treatment Options for Obesity
Depending upon how obese or overweight you are, your physician may recommend certain types of obesity treatment. If you are only mildly overweight, your gastroenterologist may prescribe anti-obesity medications or weight loss medications. However, these don’t work well for those who are seriously obese, but there are other options. Weight loss surgery may be an option. There are two common types of surgery for obesity:
- Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (bariatric surgery): The size of the stomach is greatly decreased and the small intestine connects to a pouch at the top of the stomach. This makes you feel fuller faster because there is less room in the stomach.
- Sleeve gastrectomy: This procedure turns the stomach into a sleeve shape, which limits how much a person can eat in a sitting.
There can be side effects with weight loss surgery, and it’s typically only an option for those with a BMI higher than 35. It’s also important for the patient to understand that lifestyle changes (diet, exercise) must be made post-surgery to ensure the weight does not return.