At Structure House, we’ll help you to identify the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your health goals. You’ll work with compassionate professionals to understand the signs and symptoms of obesity that may be holding you back.
Learn about obesity
In the simplest clinical terms, obesity is defined as having an abnormal or excessive amount of body fat. Some definitions stipulate that obesity occurs when the amount of body fat impairs the individual’s health or threatens to shorten his or her life expectancy. Many physicians and other healthcare experts in the United States use the body mass index (BMI) scale to determine obesity. According to this system, a person is considered to be obese if his or her BMI is 30 or above. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and some BMI scales have the additional category of “morbid obesity” for individuals who score 40 or above.
Obesity has been associated with a wide range of diseases, disorders, and other health concerns. For example, obese individuals are at an increased risk for developing hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and certain types of cancer. Also, several studies have found a link between obesity and depression, though no definitive cause/effect determination has been made. In other words, it is unclear whether obesity is a precursor to depression, depression leads to obesity, or the two conditions share certain risk factors.
Certain eating disorders – including binge eating disorder, compulsive eating, and emotional eating – are also associated with obesity.
In addition to the physical and mental health risks associated with obesity and being overweight, individuals who struggle with these conditions often face a host of socioeconomic consequences. Several studies have suggested the that obese and overweight people are less likely to be promoted and more likely to be subject to bias from teachers and supervisors than are individuals whose BMI falls within the normal range. Also, overweight individuals remain at an increased risk for being bullied, rejected, ridiculed, and otherwise stigmatized or harassed.
The good news is that being overweight or obese are treatable conditions. With the assistance of qualified medical doctors, mental health providers, and nutritional experts, thousands of formerly obese and overweight individuals have been able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
It is no exaggeration to state that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. More than 78 million American adults, or more than 35% of the U.S. adult population, are obese. Another 34% of adults in the United States are overweight, meaning that 69% of the U.S. adult population is either overweight or obese.
Only seven states have an adult obesity rate below 25%, and no states fall below 20%. Twenty states exceed a 30% adult obesity rate, with two (Mississippi and West Virginia) surpassing 35 percent.
Experts estimate that the overall cost of obesity on the U.S. economy could be as high as $150 billion. This total includes money spent on obesity-related health conditions, lost days of work, higher insurance premiums, and related costs. Research suggests that obesity is a cause in at least 300,000 premature deaths in the United States each year.
Causes and risk factors for obesity
There is no single cause for obesity, and the problem is much more complex than merely eating too much and/or exercising too little. Experts have identified several biological/genetic and environmental contributors to an increased risk of developing obesity. Also, several risk factors seem to correlate with an increased likelihood of becoming obese.
Genetic: People who have a family history of obesity are at increased risk for becoming overweight or obese themselves. Among the scientific evidence supporting a genetic predisposition to obesity are studies of identical twins who were raised separately. Children who have one or more obese parents are more likely to struggle with their weight than are children whose parents are both within normal weight parameters. One of the ways in which genetics can influence overweight and obesity is in the way that a person’s body stores and processes fat.
Environmental: Family history of obesity can also be an environmental issue. For example, children who are raised by parents who do not follow a healthy diet or get proper amounts of exercise are likely to adopt these behaviors themselves. Studies have also shown a geographic influence on obesity. For example, in neighborhoods where access to junk food or fast food is much easier to purchase than healthy food, obesity rates have a tendency to be elevated. This is often the case in low-income neighborhoods where convenience stores, which typically stock more high-calorie, prepackaged foods, are far more prevalent than grocery stores, where fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthier options are more readily available. Advertisements and other marketing efforts can also be to blame, especially those that present fast food and junk food as more enticing options to children.
- Unhealthy diet
- Parental obesity
- Insufficient physical activity
- Tobacco cessation
- Poor sleep habits
- Unhealthy eating habits during pregnancy
- Socioeconomic status
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Effects of obesity
As previously mentioned, obesity is associated with a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional issues. Though clear cause/effect relationships have not been established in all cases, a preponderance of evidence suggests that obese individuals are at increased risk for some or all of the following:
- Chronic pain (especially in the joints and back)
- Digestive problems
- Diseases of the liver and gallbladder
- Some forms of cancer (especially breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer)
- Gynecological problems
- Heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Sleep apnea
- Type 2 diabetes
Why consider treatment for obesity at Structure House
There are a myriad of mental health concerns that can emerge when a person carries excess body fat. And while these mental illnesses are not caused by weight gain, the emotional turmoil that can ensue should an individual develop low self-esteem or self-worth can contribute to their onset especially if a person possesses a genetic predisposition to the following mental health conditions:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge-eating disorder
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Substance use disorders