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Obesity


Definition:

Obesity means having too much body fat. It is not the same as being overweight, which means weighing too much. A person may be overweight from extra muscle or water, as well as from having too much fat.

Both terms mean that a person's weight is higher than what is thought to be healthy for his or her height.

Alternative Names:

Morbid obesity; Fat - obese

Treatment:

CHANGING YOUR LIFESTYLE

An active lifestyle and plenty of exercise, along with healthy eating, is the safest way to lose weight. Even modest weight loss can improve your health. You may need a lot of support from family and friends.

When dieting, your main goal should be to learn new, healthy ways of eating and make them a part of your daily routine.

Many people find it hard to change their eating habits and behaviors. You may have practiced some habits for so long that you may not even know they are unhealthy, or you do them without thinking. You need to be motivated to make lifestyle changes. Make the behavior change part of your life over the long term. Know that it takes time to make and keep a change in your lifestyle.

Work with your health care provider and dietitian to set realistic, safe daily calorie counts that help you lose weight while staying healthy. Remember that if you drop pounds slowly and steadily, you are more likely to keep them off. Your dietitian can teach you about:

  • Healthy food choices
  • Healthy snacks
  • Reading nutrition labels
  • New ways to prepare food
  • Portion sizes
  • Sweetened drinks

Extreme diets (fewer than 1,100 calories per day) are not thought to be safe or to work very well. These types of diets often do not contain enough vitamins and minerals. Most people who lose weight this way return to overeating and become obese again.

Learn ways to manage stress, rather than snacking. Examples may be meditation, yoga, or exercise. If you are depressed or stressed a lot, talk to your health care provider.

MEDICATIONS AND HERBAL REMEDIES

You may see ads for supplements and herbal remedies that claim they will help you lose weight. Some of these claims may not be true. And some of these supplements can have serious side effects. Talk to your health care provider before using them.

You can discuss weight loss medicines with your doctor. Many people lose at least 5 pounds by taking these drugs, but they may regain the weight when they stop taking the medicine unless they have made lifestyle changes.

SURGERY

Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery can reduce the risk of certain diseases in people with severe obesity. These risks include:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea
  • Some cancers
  • Stroke

Surgery may help people who have been very obese for 5 years or more and have not lost weight from other treatments, such as diet, exercise, or medicine.

Surgery alone is not the answer for weight loss. It can train you to eat less, but you still have to do much of the work. You must be committed to diet and exercise after surgery. Talk to your doctor to learn if surgery is a good option for you.

Weight-loss surgeries include:

Support Groups:

Many people find it easier to follow a diet and exercise program if they join a group of people with similar problems.

 
Possible Complications:

Obesity is a major health threat. The extra weight creates many risks to your health.

References:

Fitch A, Everling L, Fox C, et al. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. Prevention and management of obesity for adults. Updated May 2013. Available at: https://www.icsi.org/_asset/s935hy/ObesityAdults.pdf. Accessed August 17, 2014.

Jensen MD. Obesity. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 227.

Pories WJ, Mehaffey JH, Staton KM. The surgical treatment of type two diabetes mellitus. Surg Clin N Am. 2011;91:821-836.

Seagle HM, Strain GW, Makris A, Reeves RS; American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: weight management. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:330-346.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for and Management of Obesity in Adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Ann Intern Med. 2012;157:373-378.


Review Date: 8/17/2014
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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