Obesity is a global epidemic, and the number of overweight people proves this. Obesity incidence has doubled during the last 30 years, and some 2.8 million people die as a result each year.

Factors That Contribute to the Epidemic

There are different risk factors such as family lifestyle, hormonal imbalance, inactivity, poor nutrition and eating habits, and age. Certain medical conditions, including polycystic ovary and Prader-Willi syndrome, are also associated with weight gain. Social and economic issues play an important role. For example, low-income families often lack the financial resource to buy healthy foods. Family and friends (the social circle) also influence one’s eating habits and weight. You are more likely to become overweight if your parents are obese. Age is another factor. In fact, studies show that there is a 70 percent chance that children who are overweight will become obese when they grow up. Finally, overeating (including indulging and emotional eating), family history, and peer problems are associated with overweight.

Ethnicity as a Factor

The incidence rate is higher among African Americans than whites. In fact, Hispanics and African Americans have 21 and 51 percent higher rates, respectively. There are different reasons that explain the ethnic and racial differences. One is associated with the cultural norms, values, and attitudes that are related to beauty and weight. Another explanation is that people belonging to ethnic and racial minorities may have a more limited access to healthy food choices, parks, gyms, and other locations that allow them to exercise and be physically active. Finally, culinary and dietary patterns and behaviors may explain ethnic differences. According to policy makers, the best approach is to develop supportive environments, programs, and policies that focus on groups at risk. The measures require the effort of the national authorities, local communities, parents, and schools.

Symptoms of Obesity

There are many symptoms which show that a person is overweight. One indicator is the Body Mass Index. Persons with a BMI of 16 to 18.5 are considered underweight. Those with a BMI of 25 – 30 are overweight. If you have a BMI of 35 to 40, you are severely obese.

Symptoms of obesity include joint and back pain and diabetes. Overweight people are also at risk for breathing disorders such as obstructive pulmonary disease and sleep apnea. They are more likely to develop cancers such as uterine, breast, and bowel cancer. Overweight people are at risk for stroke, cardiovascular problems, and liver disease. In addition to serious and chronic medical problems, they are more likely to experience depression, discrimination, and poor self-esteem and quality of life. They also experience workplace discrimination and difficulties finding employment. Obese individuals suffer from high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, endometrium cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Factors That Contribute to the Obesity Epidemic

Fast and processed foods and products that are high in sugar contribute to weight gain. Oversized food portions are another issue. Supermarkets, gas stations, fast food joints, and restaurants offer oversized portions that are enough to feed two adults. Advertising contributes to the problem. Food manufacturers advertise sugar-laden drinks, high-carb snacks, and calorie-dense foods that are empty of nutritional value. There are also emotional factors. Persons who are stressed, anxious, or angry eat more. Finally, lack of sleep is also associated with obesity. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to choose foods with more calories.

In children, screen time and snacking leads to weigh gain. Missed breakfast is an important factor because it leads to overeating and preference for calorie-dense foods. Poor food choices are also associated with overweight among teenagers. For example, 50 percent of the vegetables consumed are in the form of fried potatoes.

Fighting Obesity

Healthy eating habits and proper nutrition are of vital importance. Overweight individuals should eat a balanced diet and meals that combine protein, healthy fats, and good carbohydrates. Portion size is very important and often leads to energy imbalance. Weight gain occurs when you consume more calories than you use. Poor food choices and inactivity contribute to overweight while regular exercise and healthy choices help fight obesity. In a sit-behind-a-desk society, regular exercise is even more important because inactivity is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. Research shows that in the United Kingdom, 38 and 36 percent of deaths due to cardiovascular problems in women and men, respectively, are the result of inactivity. In comparison, smoking is related to 19 percent of deaths from heart disease.

Dieting and Weight Loss

There are different types of plans that aim at weight loss and control, including low-fat and low-carb diets. Dieters can choose from reduced-carb plans such as the Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Weight Watchers, and others. The goal is to limit the consumption of simple carbohydrates, sugar content, and processed foods. Most plans highlight the importance of regular exercise. The aim is to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Dietary and behavior changes are very important, and counseling and joining a support group is of help. Overweight individuals can check with weight loss programs, local hospitals, and their healthcare professionals for support groups and options for intervention. Counselors and trained professionals help individuals to learn how to cope with anxiety and understand the reasons for emotional eating and overeating.