The Obesity Epidemic: Root Causes

Updated on January 18, 2017
Alphadogg16 profile image

I am a Board-Certified Physical Therapist and National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist.

Obesity can be Prevented

The Obesity Nightmare

There is a major difference between someone being overweight and being obese. When you're overweight, the excess amount of body weight may potentially be due to bones, muscles, fat, or even water. Obesity is defined as body fat that has accumulated to point where it can have detrimental effects on your health and well being.

Your BMI (Body Mass Index), which indicates body fat percentage, is determined by a person's weight divided by the square of height in meters. In America and other Western countries, a BMI over the 30.0 range is considered to be obese.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and NHANES (National and Nutrition Examination Survey) indicate that approximately two thirds of adult men and half of adult women are either overweight or obese. Roughly 33 percent of children ages six to nineteen are overweight, and nearly 20 percent fall into the obese category. It should be noted, though, that it's sometimes difficult to determine if an adolescent is overweight, because they develop at different times and rates.

Unfortunately, there is no one, single cause for being overweight or obese, just as there is no one, single treatment for it. If you are obese, whether it's due to an underlying health condition or due to unhealthy lifestyle choices or habits, the first thing you need to understand is that there is no easy fix—no miracle diet or magic pill that will fix it. Fighting obesity involves a complete lifestyle change. Treatments can range from a mix of exercise, healthier eating habits/diet, behavioral treatments, weight loss drugs—and in some severe cases, surgery. The following are some of the causes of this current epidemic problem, which is now categorized as a disease.

Genetic and Environment Factors

Causes of Obesity; Hereditary & Environmental Factors

Dating back thousands of years, we have always been taught that a family sticks together and has each others back. The operative word being "taught". While these beliefs are actually good ones, there are other family heirlooms that can be passed along for generations that are not so good. We have all heard that famous cliche or seen a commercial of someone eating something and saying "it's just like mom use to make" or "grandma's recipe", well that could also be part of your weight problem. Just like money, jewelry and other heirlooms are passed down the family tree, families also share lifestyles and diet/eating habits. While your Great Grandmothers recipe may be absolutely delicious, it also could be simply unhealthy and not good for you. A perfect example of this would be Paula Dean. While her cakes and desserts have been one of the best for years on end and are to die for, they have so much sugar content in them, you might literally do just that. It's no wonder that she has a company that manufactures diabetic medications.Your environment plays a big role in your health as well. You might have a demanding work schedule and easy access to cheap, high caloric processed foods or the neighborhood gym is a bit to pricey in your opinion. The question you have to ask yourself is, How much is your health worth to you?

The easiest way to combat genes, environment and family history is through education. Kind of like racism, no one is born hating other ethnic groups, it's a learned behavior that can easily be corrected. Just because the food is made a certain way because that's the way your family has always done it, doesn't make it any healthier and does not mean you have to make it in the same manner. Everyone is different and you can make your own choices of what's best for you. You can prep your meals at home so that your not tempted to eat junk food during long work days. Your problem has already been identified, you're overweight or obese, so be honest with yourself, stop making excuses and address the issue head on.

Obesity is out of Control

Medications and Certain Medical Conditions

There is a large percentage of obese people that got that way from simply bad habits and over eating, however there is a small percentage of people that gained the excessive amount of fat involuntarily through some type of underlying medical condition. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Being that the thyroid hormone regulates your metabolism, not enough of the hormone will result in your metabolism slowing down and a lot of disproportionate weight gain. Cushing's Syndrome is another medical condition that will perpetuate extreme weight gain. This affliction results when the adrenal glands produce a surplus of cortisol, the stress hormone which will make you want to eat more. Diabetes affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, in many cases this results in unwanted weight gain. Some people with clinically diagnosed depression will overeat, and can eventually lead to obesity. Other inherited conditions and diseases of the brain have also been linked to obesity. Even birth control has caused unwanted weight gain in some women. There are also several prescribed medications that can bolster the body's fat percentage. Medications, most notably steroids such as some anti-depressants, high blood pressure drugs, and drugs prescribed for seizures have been associated with excessive weight gain.

This is why it's imperative that you get checked by a health care professional so that the root cause of your excessive weight gain can be determined correctly. Some people may have a condition that they are not even aware of. If you are trying to lose weight and have an affliction that opposes what you are trying to do is the equivalent of trying to ice skate uphill. Make it easier on yourself, go see your doctor.

Conditions that Perpetuate Weight Gain

Medical Effects of Obesity

Psychological and Emotional Factors

You might underestimate the effect that some psychological or emotional problems have on your weight, health and well being. I personally have always been confident and content with myself, but there are individuals that allow circumstances in their lives to affect their self esteem. Self esteem is just that, how one feels about/assesses themselves, not what anyone else thinks about you. As you might have noticed through out this article, many of these factors are linked together and/or one can be the cause/preserve the other. Emotional or psychological issues such as stress, low self esteem and depression can not only alter your behavior, but your eating habits as well. More often than not, they will change your eating habits to the point where they become grossly unhealthy and result in major weight gain. Lack of sleep and/or lack of exercise/physical activity will only heighten the severity of the issue. No matter what you are going through in life, even if the circumstances seem never ending, you always have to belief in yourself. Faith is believing what you don't want to believe. Having a negative mind can not lead to positivity. Understand that every problem, regardless of what it is, will not change over night. It's a process that takes time, just as losing weight will. Some problems take a little longer to deal with than others, but always keep your head up.

Effects of Obesity on your Health and Well Being

The effects of obesity on your health and well being are all negative. You would think this fact alone would be motivation enough for people to try fix the problem; however, some people are just naturally hard-headed or reactive and do not respond to things until something tragic occurs, and it's too late. On the other hand, others may perfectly understand the health risks and really want to make changes, but they find it extremely difficult to make any headway in terms of losing weight.

Research has shown that obesity has been linked to lower life expectancy, heart disease and attacks, diabetes, joint and breathing problems, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, cancers, bone problems, hernias, arthritis, and deep vein thrombosis, just to name a few. In addition, obesity affects self esteem, mobility, and the body's sweating response. It can also lead to depression, social discrimination, and even fewer employment opportunities.

This is not something that you can just close your eyes and wish it to go away. It's going to be a lot of work—a lot of hard work at that. It will not be easy. When you come to the point where you want to quit, and believe me you will, probably more than once, ask yourself one question: "Do I want to live?"

Causes of Obesity

What is the root cause of your abnormal weight gain?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        3 years ago

        Good info

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        4 years ago

        Coming from a large family that ate three hearty meals each day. I had to learn proper diet and nutrition to combat the tendency to overeat. Also, we do have family traits towards obesity which leads to diabetes. Thanks for the information.

      • catmalone profile image


        4 years ago

        Great Hub with useful information. I used to hear people always say throughout my life that this disease and that disease run in my family. It runs in their family because they continued to following the same unhealthy eating patterns that their family had therefore the same disease continue. Thats for sharing!

      • florypaula profile image


        4 years ago

        Many parents complain that their children refuse to eat fruits and vegetables and only want unhealthy food, and yet the parents only eat these things in front of the child and rarely has an apple or a cucumber. Of course the child doesn't want to eat something that sees the parent rejecting. My opinion.

        Great hub Kevin. Have a nice day.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Well done. You have a great healthy approach to a serious problem. If we focus on being as healthy as we can then there just ain't much room for fat.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        4 years ago from The Caribbean

        Chock full of good information, as always. Thanks for explaining the differences between overweight and obesity. Your illustrations are very helpful, and the 'Psychological and Emotional Factors" is a great bonus. Thank you.


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