Obesity is no longer considered a cosmetic issue that is caused by overeating and a lack of self-control... Rather, it is a chronic and progressive disease that is caused by many different factors.
Many of the things we do, or our habits can contribute to a positive energy balance. A positive energy balance -either caused by consuming more calories than the body needs, or by not getting enough physical activity - causes weight gain. However, there are other conditions that affect energy balance and fat accumulation that do not involve excessive eating or sedentary behavior such as:
- Chronic sleep loss
- Consumption of foods that, independent of caloric content, cause metabolic/hormonal changes that may increase body fat. These include foods high in sugar or high fructose corn syrup, processed grains, fat, and processed meats
- Low intake of fat-fighting foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, quality protein
- Stress and psychological distress)
- Many types of medications
- Various pollutants
Studies have found several genes related to obesity and the ability to easily lose or maintain a healthy weight. In addition, these genes can be passed on as a hereditary trait in some individuals. So while genes cannot be changed, it is important to acknowledge this impact as it can allow people to make changes to their environment to help set healthy habits early on in their lives.
Several hormones, such as leptin, insulin, ghrelin etc., influence our appetite, metabolism, and body fat distribution. People who are obese often have levels of these hormones that encourage abnormal metabolism and the accumulation of fat.
Environmental factors can also promote fat storage and impact weight loss efforts. In today’s society there is easy access to “super-sized” fast food, prepackaged food, and an overall abundance of high energy/high fat food. Individuals are often “bombarded with images and offers of high fat, high calorie, highly palatable, convenient, and inexpensive food ”. In addition, the physical demands of our society have changed resulting in an imbalance of energy intake and expenditure – we move less, and eat more!