Health Care

Understanding Obesity: Causes, Risks and Strategies for Healthy Weight Management

A Physician Speaks with a Concerned Patient about His Health

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Obesity affects millions of people worldwide. It’s characterized by an excessive accumulation of body fat, which can have significant implications for overall health and well-being. If you are experiencing obesity, it’s important to understand the causes, risks and effective strategies for healthy weight management.

Causes and Contributing Factors

Obesity can be due to a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors including poor diet, living a sedentary lifestyle, as well as your genetics and family history.

Calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods, including sugary beverages, fast food and processed snacks like chips and cookies can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Overeating and late-night snacks or meals can also lead to weight gain, especially if it’s a regular part of your lifestyle.

Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting can also lead to obesity. Sometimes you might not even realize how sedentary of a lifestyle you may be living — office jobs are a common cause of lack of daily physical activity.

A high-stress lifestyle also contributes to your weight. An abundance of stress, mixed with sub-par, insufficient sleep — as the two often go hand-in-hand — can lead to irregular digestion and emotional eating.

Your family history can also play a part in how susceptible you are to obesity. The genetic factors you inherit can influence your body more than you might think. Having a family history of obesity increases the likelihood of you developing the condition as well.

Potential Health Risks

Obesity is associated with a range of health risks and chronic conditions. The extra weight literally weighing on your joints and muscles can lead to osteoarthritis, joint pain and other musculoskeletal conditions. The added weight can particularly affect your knees, hips and ankles, which can lead to body pain and even joint transplants, if not taken care of.

Other serious health risks include:

  • Cancer — many types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, pancreatic, liver and gallbladder are more common in people with obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease — the risk of stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels are all common risks
  • Pulmonary issues — sleep apnea and other problems with breathing can be a serious concern
  • Mental health issues — including anxiety, clinical depression and other mental disorders
  • Type 2 diabetes — excess body weight can impair insulin function and lead to insulin resistance

Overall, people with obesity are more likely to experience challenges when it comes to their quality of life.

Strategies for Healthy Weight Management

If you want lasting change, effective weight management will require lifestyle modifications.

A balanced diet is a must — embrace a diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats, like avocados, nuts and seeds. Limit your intake of sugary foods, saturated fats and processed snacks. Try finding healthier alternatives for some of your favorite foods. For example, if you love eating chips and queso, try finding a similar replacement you can still enjoy — perhaps, high protein chips or raw veggies with hummus. Over time, your taste buds will begin to change and you’ll find the healthier options more appetizing than you did before.

Along similar lines, practicing portion control plays a big part in weight management as well. Be mindful of your eating and portion sizes and strive to pay attention to hunger and fullness cues to prevent overeating. With practice, you’ll become more in-tune with when your body is telling you it’s hungry or full. Even when you’re eating something healthful, you still should practice moderation, as an over-abundance of food is more work on your body, and results in excess caloric intake.

Start incorporating physical activity into your daily schedule. Regular exercise promotes weight loss, improves cardiovascular health and increases overall fitness. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week — spread this time out throughout the week for the most benefit. If needed, start slow and work your way up to longer, more intensive exercise. Creating a habit of exercising will promote long-term, lasting weight loss.

Additionally, finding effective ways to manage your stress and get better sleep will prove helpful. Try practicing different coping mechanisms when your stress levels are especially high. You may find that these tactics help replace any issues you may have with emotional eating. Seek help from health care professionals, counselors or even support groups.

Expert Guidance and Care at AdventHealth

If you have concerns about obesity or need guidance regarding healthy weight management, know you’re not alone. Our expert health care professionals offer comprehensive care and support for obesity-related concerns.

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