There are no easy answers when dealing with the health issue of managing your weight. It’s a complex problem, and there are a number of factors to consider. Some of the causes of people being overweight and obese include our behavior, the environment we live in, and genetic factors.
Overweight and obesity result from an energy imbalance. This simply means that we eat too many calories and do not get enough physical activity.
Body weight is the result of genes, metabolism, behavior, environment, culture, and social or economic status.
Our behavior and our surroundings play a big part in causing overweight and obesity. These are the greatest areas for prevention and treatment also.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight for a lifetime, I think it’s all about balance. The tug of war is between the number of calories you consume verses with the number of calories your body uses or burns off.
Calories are defined as units of energy supplied by food. It doesn’t matter where they come from, they still count. If I eat carbohydrates, fats, sugars, or proteins, all of them contain calories.
Look at caloric balance like a scale. To remain in balance and maintain your body weight, the calories consumed (from foods) must be balanced by the calories used (in normal body functions, daily activities, and exercise).
If you are maintaining your weight, you are in balance. You are eating about the same number of calories that your body is using. Your weight will remain stable.
If you are gaining weight your caloric balance status is in excess. You are eating more calories than your body is using. You will store these extra calories as fat and you’ll gain weight.
If you are losing weight the caloric balance status is in deficit. You are eating fewer calories than you are using. Your body is pulling from its fat storage cells for energy, so your weight is decreasing.
Genetics and the environment may increase the risk of weight gain, but our choices in what we eat and our activity level also contribute to overweight.
Science shows that genetics plays a role in obesity. Genes can directly cause obesity in disorders such as Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.
However genes do not always predict future health. Genes and behavior may both be needed for a person to be overweight. In some cases multiple genes may increase one’s susceptibility for obesity and require outside factors; such as abundant food supply or little physical activity.
People may make decisions based on their environment or community. I may not walk to the store or to work because of a lack of sidewalks or traffic. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity 2001noted that it is important to create environments at home, in the school, at work, and in our communities that make it easier to engage in physical activity and to eat a healthy diet.
Some illnesses may lead to obesity or weight gain. These may include Cushing’s disease, and poly-cystic ovary syndrome. Drugs such as steroids and some antidepressants may also cause weight gain.
A doctor is the best source to tell you whether illnesses, medications, or psychological factors are contributing to weight gain or making weight loss hard.