Deciphering Obesity: Unraveling the Weighty Truth!

Medically reviewed by Mary Ahern MS, RDN, RYT May 16, 2024| Written by Shahid Bashir

Deciphering Obesity: Unraveling the Weighty Truth!

Obesity is a chronic health condition where there is an excess of fat deposits in the body. Obesity is not a disease by itself, but it increases the risk of developing heart conditions, diabetes, liver failure, and many other severe health conditions in the body.

Major causes of obesity are genetics, metabolic disorders, hormonal changes, environmental factors, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. While you can not control causes like genetic or hormonal changes, you can balance your diet and adopt a healthy lifestyle to lower the risk of obesity.

How do I know I’m obese or not?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a convenient scale to determine if your body weight falls under the obese category. Tocalculate BMI, divide your weight in kilograms by your height in square meters. 

However, the BMI scale is controversial and not always accurate. It cannot tell whether a person's weight is due to high muscle mass or fat accumulation. People with high muscle mass can have a BMI of overweight people. 

So, it is not wise torely only on BMI values alone as an indicator of obesity.

Here is what the values on the BMI scale reflect:

  • BMI is less than 18.5 — you are underweight
  • BMI is between 18.5 to 24.9 — you have a healthy weight
  • BMI is between 25 to 29.9 — you are overweight
  • BMI is above 30 — you are obese
  • BMI is above 35 — you are morbidly obese

According to the statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO),1 in 8 people worldwide were living with obesity in the year 2022. WHO also predicts that the ratio willcontinue to increase, further risking lives towards poor health.

What are the Symptoms of Obesity?

Obesity results from excess fat depositions, especially around the waist. And so, the most visible symptom of obesity is excess body fat and an increase in waist size. ABMI above 30 may also be considered an indicator of obesity.

However, along with the visible changes in the body, obesity causes several other symptoms that include:

  • Difficulty in performing physical activities
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sweating
  • Joint Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleep apnea
  • Snoring

Is Obesity and Being Overweight the Same?

While both obesity and being overweight mean you have a higher body weight, these two terms are quite different from each other. The most well-known difference between obesity and being overweight comes from the BMI scale.

A BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates that you are overweight, while a BMI above 30 means you are obese. An overweight person has a comparatively lower risk ofobesity-associated conditions like cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

However, BMI depends on overall weight relative to height, including the weight of muscles, bones, fat, and every other body component. There is no way to distinguish whether a higher BMI is due to excess fat or increased muscle mass, as in the case of athletes.

The risk of health conditions from being overweight or obese doesn’t depend on the BMI but on the fat deposition levels. This is because fat itself can disrupt our metabolism, among other consequences.Research shows that it is possible to have an obese BMI but with no health risks. In contrast, you can have a healthy BMI but still have an increased risk of health conditions due to several other factors.

Being overweight is a less severe risk factor for health than obesity - depending on the contribution of fat depositions in body weight. This being said, maintaining a healthy weight is the best measure against the health risks associated with being overweight or obese.

What is the Main Cause of Obesity?

The leading cause of obesity is consuming more calories than the requirements of your body over a long period. Lack of physical activity also disrupts the balance between calorie intake and calories utilized.

When you consume a lot of food, your body utilizes a certain portion of energy and converts the remaining portion into fats. This fat accumulates in specific body areas, such as under the skin (known as subcutaneous), around the organs in the midsection (visceral), and to a lesser extent in the organs like the liver (ectopic). If fats continue to accumulate in the body for an extended period due to overconsumption of calories, it leads to an increase in BMI and other symptoms of obesity.

Apart from overeating, several other factors can contribute to the overconsumption of calories. For instance, even small portions ofoverly processed foods are high in calories. Also, such food items are convenient to consume, making it easy to exceed the recommended calorie count.

Processed sugar from sweets and carbonated drinks is another factor responsible for causing overconsumption of calories. 

Alow-fiber diet can also cause overconsumption of calories. After all, fiber is a low-calorie substance that tends to fill up your stomach, making you less likely to overconsume calories.

Some other causes can also lead to obesity, which include:

  • Genetics: Some people can eat plenty without having any influence of food on body weight, while others will experience weight gain with just a minor diet change. This depends on a person’sgenetics, where bodies with a high metabolic rate tend to burn more fat. However, bodies with low metabolic rates tend to store more fat.
  • Stress: Studies show chronic stress can cause weight gain by influencing eating behaviors. Stress causes high cortisol levels - a hormone that increases appetite and makes a person turn to food for comfort.Research also states that stressed people tend to consume more foods high in refined sugars and fats. 
  • Medications:Studies show that certain medicines can cause weight gain including antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihyperglycemics, antihypertensives, and corticosteroids. Some drugs increase appetite while others slow the metabolic rate, thuscontributing to weight gain and the risk of obesity.


The diagnosis of obesity includes several procedures depending on your condition and the preference of your health care professional. The professional will initiate the diagnosis by asking questions like your past health conditions, medications, diet, physical activity, and family history. It gives a clear picture of the risk factors that can be involved in causing weight gain and obesity. 

BMI and waist circumference measurements are the two standard and valid procedures for diagnosing obesity.

Your physician willmeasure your BMI and if you have a BMI of 30 or above, the diagnosis confirms that you are obese. If your BMI is somewhere between 25 and 29.9, it shows that you are overweight and can get obese in the future.

Measuring waist circumference can also tell about the excess fat accumulation in the body, especially in the abdominal area. According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, a waist circumference of more than 40 inches in men and more than 35 inches in women indicates a high risk of obesity-related conditions.

How to Get Rid of Obesity?

The treatment goal for obesity is to reduce body weight to a healthy BMI and eliminate factors causing obesity. It is often a gradual process involving dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, and medical management. 

1. Dietary Changes For Obesity

Poor dietary choices are a major reason behind consuming more calories than your daily requirements. Eatingoverly processed foods,refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats gives your body an abrupt supply of calories and contributes to obesity. 

Dietary changes involve a shift from high-calorie food sources to low-calorie sources while making no compromise on overall nutritional value. Dieticians help you create aweight-loss diet plan and monitor your progress. 

A healthy weight-loss diet consists of plenty of plant-based fiber-rich foods. Fiber is a vital component of every balanced diet plan as it helps regulate calorie intake by several mechanisms. Fiber is low in calories but high in volume, making it move slowly in the digestive tract. This means that consuming fiber makes youfeel full for extended periods, and you are less likely to overconsume calories. 

See Also:21 Easy Ways to Get More Fiber Through Your Diet

Studies show that consuming 30 grams of fiber daily is good for weight loss, lowering blood pressure, and increasing insulin sensitivity. And so, even if you consume a low-fiber diet, try adding afiber powder to fulfill your daily fiber needs. 

If you still feel hungry after adding plant-based foods to your diet, you can includelean proteins to satisfy your cravings.Medical research shows that Lean proteins help with significant weight loss.

2. Lifestyle Modifications for Obesity

Lifestyle modifications can contribute significantly to regulating the calorie count. These include physical activities, healthy eating habits, behavior control, and stress management.

Physical activities, especially exercise, help in weight loss and obesity by burning calories. Exercise helpsburn stored fat in the body and increases metabolic rate. These mechanisms reduce fat accumulation and lower the already stored fat contents in the body. 

Research shows that a consistent moderate-intensity exercise routine for over 150 minutes per week contributes to weight loss and weight management in the long term.

Start with a walk and work your way up to increasing your difficulty, like walking at a faster speed or on an incline. Physical activity isn't limited to lifting weights at the gym, especially if that's not your thing. Aim to be more active than you are now, and choose activities you love.

Healthy eating behaviors can also help you lower your calorie intake. This includes sticking to a meal schedule and avoiding frequent snacking, especially at midnight, or when watching the TV. 

3. Medication for Obesity

Depending on the individual's condition, doctors can also prescribe medications alongside dietary and lifestyle modifications. These include: 

  • Orlistat (Alli) — reduces fat absorption
  • Liraglutide (Victoza)— reduces appetite
  • Semaglutide (Wegovy, Ozempic) — reduces appetite
  • Phentermine (Adipex P, Lomaira)— reduces appetite
  • Bupropion-naltrexone (Contrave) — reduces appetite

Most of the medications for obesity work by suppressing the appetite and making you feel full. The prescription depends on your condition, medical history, and possible side effects.

4. Surgery for Obesity

Surgery for weight loss, also calledbariatric surgery, is the final treatment option for severely obese persons, typically with multiple comorbidities or chronic health-related conditions. This involves a change in the anatomy of internal structures in the digestive tract such that low calories enter the body. 

Here are the three mostcommon surgeries for weight loss:

  • Gastric Sleeve is the surgical removal of some portion of the stomach, resulting in reduced stomach capacity. After this surgery, you will feel full sooner and thus will consume less calories.
  • Gastric Bypassis a complex procedure where the surgeon staples the upper portion of the stomach, making a small pouch. The surgeon then connects the small pouch with a middle section of the small intestine. This passage serves as a bypass for the food, skipping a major portion of the stomach and upper segment of the small intestine. The result is less efficient digestion and absorption of energy.
  • Adjustable Gastric Bandinvolves a surgeon placing an inflatable band around the upper section of the stomach. When the band inflates from the insertion of a saline solution, it narrows the opening to the lower portion of the stomach. And so, like gastric sleeve surgery, adjustable gastric bands also work by making you feel full sooner.

What Should I Eat To Get Rid of Obesity?

What you eat and how much you eat is directly related to body weight. If you want to lose weight and get rid of obesity, you must include the following foods in your diet:

1. Vegetables 

Green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, green beans, zucchini, and spinach are rich in fiber and low in calories - making them excellent choices for weight loss. Vegetables can also make you feel satiated faster for their high water and fiber content. 

Studies show that daily consumption of more than four servings of vegetables reduces the risk of weight gain and helps in weight management. It also helps reduce waist circumference, indicating weight loss.

2. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help in weight loss by boosting the metabolism.Studies show that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can cause abdominal fat loss, reducing waist circumference and BMI.

3. Beans

Beans are low in calories and high in nutritional value, containing adequate amounts ofplant proteins and fiber. Beans have a slower digestion rate and thus contribute significantly to satiety. 

Astudy shows that people who eat beans regularly have a 22% lower risk of getting obese.

4. Green Tea

Green tea has caffeine and an adequate quantity of an antioxidant called catechin. Both these ingredients of green tea may contribute to weight loss by boosting the metabolism. 

Research shows that catechins may be able to break down fat in the body and reduce body weight and waist circumference. 

5. Nuts

Nuts are rich in healthy unsaturated fats and fiber. Unsaturated fats in nuts can be an excellent choice to get your daily recommended fats — 30% of your daily energy intake.

Fats and fiber have a slow digestion rate, making you feel full for longer. Consuming nuts regularly makes you less likely to depend on refined carbs and unhealthy snacks to fulfill your cravings. However, they are also very calories dense, so make sure you do not consume in excess. A ¼ cup of nuts is an appropriate serving size for most people. 

Why is Fiber Considered the Ultimate Ingredient for Weight Loss?

Fiber is among very few ingredients that you will find in almost every balanced diet plan for weight loss. There are several factors behind making fiber an ultimate ingredient for weight loss.

Fiber is a carbohydrate that yourbody can't digest. This fiber property allows you to eat more and fulfill your satiety while adding much less to your calorie intake. As the body cannot digest and absorb energy from fiber, consuming fiber doesn’t causeblood sugar spikes.

Fiber also has aslower digestion rate, so it stays in the digestive tract longer, making you feel full. Feeling satisfied for longer prevents you from eating frequently and overconsuming calories. Being low in calories but high in volume to fulfill your satiety makes fiber an excellent choice for weight loss diet plans. 

Fiber is easily accessible and cheap to get from sources like leafy green vegetables, fruits, and beans. You can also getfiber powder from a trusted vendor. This easy accessibility and its effectiveness make fiber an ultimate ingredient for weight loss diets. 


Obesity is a chronic health condition that makes your body susceptible to several health problems. The most common cause of obesity is poor diet, such as unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates. This poor diet and lack of physical activity cause a buildup of energy in the form of fats in the body.

Fortunately, it is possible to treat obesity and manage a healthy weight by adopting some dietary and lifestyle changes. Scientific evidence shows that shifting from processed foods to plant-based diets high in fiber can cause significant weight loss. Fiber makes you eat fewer calories while also fulfilling your satiety and thus is a key ingredient in weight loss.

Lifestyle modifications like regular exercise help burn excess body fat and reduce the risk of obesity-related conditions.