Being overweight or obese means your weight is above an ideal weight range. Excess weight creates an increase in the risk of serious diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.
One tool used to estimate weight range is called the body mass index (BMI). This scale determines weight ranges based on height. BMI levels in adults include:
Being overweight is caused by taking in more calories than we use. Calories are taken in through food. All activity in our bodies is fueled by calories. This includes physical activity and basic bodily functions. Excess weight gain occurs when this relationship is not kept in balance. If this imbalance happens regularly it will lead to obesity.
Factors that can influence the development of obesity include:
This condition is more common in older adults.
Factors that may increase your chance of becoming overweight include:
Symptoms may include:
Excessive weight gain has been linked to:
An increased risk of:
Decrease in quality of life associated with:
Being overweight can also affect pregnancy. Some complications include:
You may also experience problems during labor and deliver, have a baby with a high birth weight, or have a baby with birth defects.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Obesity is diagnosed by visual exam and body measurements using:
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Obesity is difficult to treat. Things that affect treatment are:
There are many different approaches to treating obesity based on lifestyle changes. You are more likely to successfully lose weight and keep it off by using a combination of strategies. These include changes in diet and exercise, or counseling or medications.
You may have to try different diets before you see results. Diets can be designed by:
You may need to spread your calorie intake throughout the day rather than getting it all in a few large meals. You may also need a special diet that will eliminate specific types of food. In general, the focus will be on increasing proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while reducing saturated fats, carbohydrates, and processed foods.
Your and your doctor will find a plan that works best for you to help you lose weight safely.
The key to weight loss is reducing the total number of calories that you eat. Following a specific kind of diet, like a low-carbohydrate diet, is not necessary. It is much more important to choose a low calorie diet that you can stick with long-term.
Portion, or serving size, also plays an important role. Using special portion control plates and learning how to read nutrition labels may help you succeed.
Keep track of everything you eat and drink. There are several apps that can be downloaded to your phone or tablet that make tracking easier.
Ask your doctor about an exercise program. Even moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, can help you lose weight.
There are many easy ways to add extra activity into your daily routine. Take stairs instead of elevators. Park your car a little further away. Limit the amount of time you spend watching television and using the computer and substitute it with activity.
The food and drink tracking apps can also be used to log several types of exercises, including the number of steps taken daily.
Making small adjustments to your routine will help improve sleep:
Sleep apnea interferes with sleep and can create serious health complications. If you snore loudly or stop breathing during the night (noticed by a bed partner), talk to your doctor about getting a sleep test. Sleep apnea is treatable and it will improve your overall health.
Behavior therapy may help you understand:
When combined with diet and exercise, therapy can help you with your weight reduction.
Weight loss programs may work for some people. Some studies also suggest that a partner or group may help you improve your eating habits and fitness.
Weight loss medications may be prescribed. Medication alone is not enough to lose weight and keep it off. Some medications have serious side effects. There are also risks associated with over-the-counter and herbal products. Talk to your doctor before taking any of these.
Bariatric surgery makes the stomach smaller. In some cases, it will also rearrange the digestive tract. The smaller stomach can only hold a tiny portion of food at a time. Examples of procedures include:
These procedures may be a good option for people who are severely obese who are having trouble losing weight by other means.
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A non-surgical temporary balloon device has been approved to promote weight loss. The device is inserted into the stomach through the mouth. It occupies space in the stomach and triggers a feeling of fullness. The device is removed 6 months after insertion. Talk to your doctor for more information about this procedure.
Controlling your weight can be difficult. To reduce your chances of getting overweight:
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Body mass index (BMI calculator). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/WeightManagement/BodyMassIndex/Body-Mass-Index-BMI-Calculator_UCM_307849_Article.jsp#.WrUYzS7wZQJ. Updated July 12, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Complications of obesity. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T576498/Complications-of-obesity. Updated January 19, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Diets for weight loss. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T316887/Diets-for-weight-loss. Updated January 22, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Obesity. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/obesity-and-the-metabolic-syndrome/obesity. Updated December 2016. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Obesity, bias, and stigmatization. Obesity Society website. Available at: http://www.obesity.org/obesity/resources/facts-about-obesity/bias-stigmatization. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Obesity in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115009/Obesity-in-adults. Updated January 19, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Physical activity for weight loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T316888/Physical-activity-for-weight-loss. Updated January 18, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Understanding adult overweight & obesity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/adult-overweight-obesity. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 3/23/2018