Patient Resources // Obesity Facts
Obesity and its Causes
The good news is that many, if not all, of obesity's risks can be reduced or even eliminated with sustained weight-loss. In fact, losing just 10% of your current body weight decreases your risk of dying from an obesity related complication by as much as 35%!
Where did this problem come from?
Though there are many theories, there is no question that obesity is a disease that is hugely influenced by our environment, much of which is beyond our control, and even those things deemed within our control (what we eat, and what we do), are often influenced by factors we can't change. In terms of doing, we are certainly the most inactive society in history. Over the course of the past 100 years, we have worked tirelessly at finding new ways for us to do less work. We no longer have to mow lawns, open doors, climb stairs, wash clothes, wash dishes or get up to change a channel. Telephones are within constant reach, mailboxes are everywhere, and our jobs are far less physical. As a consequence, we burn far fewer daily calories. In terms of food, high calorie foods of course, are everywhere - from the gas station, to the corner store. Portion sizes have increased over 30% in the last twenty-years and that is not just at restaurants but at home as well. So in effect not only do we burn far fewer calories, but we consume far more.
What do our bodies do with all of these excess calories?
Well, they store them of course. Our genes, trained for tens of thousands of years to protect us in times of famine, are extremely effective at storing energy, and storage of energy in the body means the storage of fat in our cells. It has only been the past 100 years where famine has not been a North American concern, and 100 years is simply not enough time for our genes to realize that for the foreseeable future, there is no need to worry. Therefore, in the face of all of these extra calories, our very efficient bodies continually store energy. In fact, they store it so well that currently close to 50% of Canadians and 65% of Americans are overweight.
Why then are some people able to eat so much more than others?
The fact of the matter is that obesity is a highly complex disease not a state of mind or a failure of willpower. As a disease, obesity interacts with environment, genes, hormones, medications, behaviour and other medical conditions. Putting all of this complexity together means that some people simply have bodies that are more prone to gaining weight and less prone to losing it.
It is due to this complexity that quick fixes and fad diets do not work.
Obesity is a complicated illness that is best treated by someone who is highly trained and educated in its causes and complications. Ideally that person should be a Registered Dietitian or medical doctor with formal training in the treatment of obesity. Trained professionals have the skills and education to properly assess and determine whether or not you have a separate illness contributing to your weight or whether or not you are on the wrong medications or combinations of medications for your various existing medical conditions.
As well, trained professionals can design a weight-loss program geared specifically to you as well as have the skills and tools necessary to make sure that your weight loss is safe and effective.