What is obesity?

Obesity is a condition which involves the body carrying too much weight; it is increasingly common in the Western world today.

Causes of obesity

While some cases are directly related to a medical abnormality or dysfunction such as a hormone deficiency or underactive thyroid, the vast majority of cases are caused by a poor diet and a lack of physical exercise.

The body puts weight on when it consumes more calories than it uses or burns.

Somebody is said to be obese when they have a body mass index (BMI) of over 30; this is a calculation which involves comparing your height and relative weight; a healthy BMI should be between 18.5 and 25.

The BMI is accurate in most cases but it does not account for muscle mass so may be inaccurate when relating to professional sports players or body builders, for example.

Symptoms of obesity

The most common symptom associated with obesity is weight gain; most people are aware when they have gained weight as their clothes may not fit and they may notice a physical difference in the way they look.

Other symptoms include trouble with mobility, breathlessness and a lack of energy.

Effects of obesity

The short term effects of obesity may be fairly harmless but in the long-term obesity can be extremely dangerous and has been directly linked to a number of very serious illnesses; these include coronary heart disease, diabetes, several forms of cancer and arthritis.

Women who are obese are less likely to be able to conceive a baby and are also more likely to develop breast cancer and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Obesity may also contribute to psychological issues such as depression and anxiety and may lead to people becoming introverted and uncomfortable in social situations.

Preventing obesity


Diet is one of the most influential components of a long and healthy life so it is important to watch what you eat.

Having a healthy diet does not necessarily mean eating vegetables all the time and cutting out treats; in fact, research has consistently shown that those who have a balanced diet and allow themselves less healthy foods in moderation are more healthy than those who cut out food groups altogether.

Your diet should contain foods from all the major food groups; these are carbohydrates, fats, proteins and fruit and vegetables.

Your diet should consist primarily of complex carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables; together these foods should make up roughly 70% of your daily calorie intake.


Complex carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice and cereals, release energy slowly and provide the energy your body needs to function effectively.

It is better to try and eat wholegrain versions of these foods as these are beneficial for the heart.

Simple carbohydrates, which are usually sugary foods, provide a quick boost of energy but should be eaten in moderation as they can lead to weight gain, dental health issues and a change in blood sugar levels; example of these foods include sweets, biscuits and cakes.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables contain a huge range of minerals, vitamins and nutrients which help the body to function to its full potential and boost the immune system; this will help you to fight off illness and infection and make you feel fit and healthy.

Try to eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables as they all contain different nutrients; this will ensure you get everything you need and help you to enjoy your food more.


Proteins are essential for growth and repair and are usually found in foods such as fish, meat and eggs.

Proteins should make up around 10-15% of your daily calorie intake.

Proteins allow the body to grow to its full potential, repair damaged cells and develop muscle tone.


Fats are also an essential part of the diet and should not be completely cut out; however, they should be monitored closely.

You should try to eat unsaturated fats as these are essential for the transportation and absorption of certain vitamins and minerals; examples of these foods include nuts and avocadoes.

Saturated fats contribute to weight gain and build up on the surface of the body’s arteries; this can lead to heart disease and respiratory problems; examples of these foods include fast food, fried food and foods derived from animals, such as cheese.

Saturated fats should be eaten in moderation. A female should not consume more than 70 grams of fat per day, while a male should not exceed 90 grams.