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Obesity Causes: What is the real problem? 

All obesity causes basically get down to the fact that there is an imbalance between calories in and calories out. However, the various obesity causes may differ significantly from one person to another.  Genetic, psychological and environmental factors have all been identified as being some of the major causes of obesity. 

Obesity causes related to genetic factors: 

Genetic factors have frequently been identified as a major cause of obesity.  Also, it is frequently noted that families also share lifestyle and diet habits that may contribute to an individual being overweight.  Separating these lifestyle issues from genetic factors is often very difficult.  However, science continues to show that there is frequently some type of hereditary connection. 

One study in which adults were adopted as children were found to have weights closer to their biological parents than to their adoptive parents.  In these cases, an individual’s genetic makeup was considered to have more of an influence as an obesity cause than the environment. 


Obesity causes: Environmental factors 

While it does seem to have some genetic connection, genes do not predestine an individual to being overweight.  It is frequently noted that environment also has a very strong influence on obesity.  Some of the lifestyle factors include the type of diet that an individual eats as well as their level of physical activity.  Americans frequently choose taste and convenience ahead of nutrition, and have a tendency to eat very high fat foods.  Also, most Americans do not get near enough physical exercise. 

Although there is not a lot that you can do to change your genetic makeup, you can change your lifestyle and eating habits.  Some of the following techniques have helped some people lose weight as well as to keep it off: 

  • You should learn to choose nutritious foods that are low in fat.

  • You should also learn to control as well as recognize environmental cues (such as appetizing smells) that make you want to eat even when you’re not hungry.

  • Become more physically active.

  • You should keep records of your food intake as well as your physical activity.

Psychological causes of obesity: 

There are several psychological factors involved in some individuals being overweight.  It has been noted in the popular media, that many people eat in response to negative emotions such as sadness, boredom, and anger. 

Most experts believe that overweight people do not have any more psychological problems than people who are of average weight.  Still, up to about 10% of people who are mildly obese and who try to lose weight through commercial weight-loss programs and other techniques, may have a binge eating disorder.  This disorder may be even more common among people who are severely obese. 

When a person has a binge eating episode, they eat large amounts of food and feel that they cannot control the amount they have eaten.  Individuals with the most severe problems with binge eating are also likely to have symptoms of depression or low self-esteem.  They may have a significantly more difficult time losing weight and keeping it off than people without binge eating problems.  If you think you have a binge eating problem, you should seek help from a health professional such as your doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist or a clinical social worker. 

Other obesity causes: 

Some obesity causes may be related to physical illnesses.  These may include hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, depression, and certain neurological problems that can lead to overeating.  Also there are certain drugs such as steroids and some antidepressants that may lead to a weight gain.  Doctors can usually tell if there are underlying medical conditions related to specific obesity causes.

Information From The Johns Hopkins Medical Guide to Health After 50

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic  MA Licensed Psychologist   Ph.D. Candidate  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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