If you have a body mass index score of greater than 25 you are overweight and if you score higher than 30 you’re obese – and if you’re overweight or obese you’re hardly alone, since an overwhelming majority of Americans fall into at least one of these categories.
But why are so many of us so heavy and why is it so hard to lose that extra fat?
At the most basic level, obesity occurs when, over time, a person consumes more calories than she expends. Simple stuff…
It’s not hard to understand, but if you’ve ever tried to lose that weight that plagues you then you know that while the answer may be simple; achieving lasting weight loss is anything but easy.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the 10 factors that may be sabotaging your good intentions – 10 things that can cause you to inadvertently eat more than you should or that may be causing you to burn less calories per day than you’d ideally want to.
The 10 Subtle Causes of Obesity
1. Lack of Sleep
People who get less than 7 hours of sleep per night may trigger hormonal changes which increase appetite1
Exercise burns calories, but getting regular exercise also builds lean muscle mass, which leads to a quicker resting metabolism. Exercise also helps to decrease hunger and boost mood, which can reduce the odds of eating for pleasure’s sake alone.
Younger people have greater caloric needs than older people. Older people do not metabolize calories as quickly and older people require fewer calories each day per pound of body weight.
4. Sex Differences
On average, women have slower resting metabolisms than men do. A woman’s resting metabolism will slow even further after menopause.
Pregnancy results in very natural and essential weight gain. This weight, much of it from increased fat stores, can be hard for many women to lose afterwards, especially during a period when the energy and time demands of new motherhood can make increasing physical activity difficult.
6. Food and Lifestyle Choices
Obviously, your habits and choices contribute to either eating sensibly or excessive eating. Lifestyle choices associated with weight gain include
- Eating fast foods or highly processed foods (these foods tend to be very high in fat, sugar and salt)
- Frequent high calorie snacking (eating chips in front of the TV)
- Frequently choosing refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta etc.) over whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- Frequently eating out in restaurants (portions tend to be larger than you need, you don’t control the fat or sugar added, you may be tempted to add a starter and dessert etc.)
- Excessive alcohol use – alcohol is very high in calories2
- Consuming high calorie beverages (soft drinks etc.)
- Skipping breakfast
- Eating most of your calories at night
7. Your Genes
Your genetic makeup can increase your likelihood of obesity. If your biological mother is heavy as an adult you have a 75% chance of also being heavy. If your biological mother is at a healthy weight as an adult you have a 75% chance of also having a healthy weight as an adult. Studies show that adopted children are more likely to mimic the weights of their biological parents than their adopted parents; proving that this effect is genetic and not environmental in nature.3
8. Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions are associated with weight gain, such as:
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Cushing's syndrome
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Arthritis (can lead to decreased mobility/activity)
Certain medications can lead to weight gain, such as:
- Some antidepressants
- Some blood pressure medications, such as beta blockers
- Anti-seizure medications
- Medications for heartburn, such as Prevacid and Nexium
- Diabetes medications such as Diabeta and Diabinese4
- Corticosteroids such as prednisone
10. Psychological Problems
Certain psychological conditions, such as binge eating disorder, can lead to obesity. People who use food as a way to manage negative emotions are also at increased risk of obesity.
Page last updated Apr 22, 2012