It is currently estimated that about 33% of adults and children in the United States are obese, and these numbers are climbing at an alarming rate. The wide range of medical problems associated with being severely overweight are taxing the health care system and creating a global health crisis, with huge increases in the rates of serious weight-related conditions such as Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed as being morbidly obese, it is critical to learn about the health implications of this life-threatening condition and understand why treatment is urgently necessary.
Doctors use a formula based on your weight and height to determine your Body Mass Index, or BMI. An individual with a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese, and a person whose BMI is over 40, or 100 lbs or more over their ideal body weight, is considered to be morbidly obese.
The term “morbid” means “posing a risk of serious harm;” in other words, if you are morbidly obese, you are at great risk for developing serious or life-threatening health problems.
Morbid obesity can cause a large number of uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms, including the following:
- Back and joint pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sleep apnea
- Constantly feeling too warm
- Excessive sweating
- Rashes, irritation or infection where folds of skin rub together
- High blood pressure
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type II diabetes
- Cancer of the breasts, colon, uterus, ovaries, cervix, prostate and rectum
- Fatty liver disease
- Irregular menstruation
In addition, you could be prone to depression, decreased mobility, social isolation, shame surrounding appearance, sexual dysfunction, and discrimination; these can severely reduce quality of life and make everyday activities difficult and unpleasant.
If you are overweight and have any of the symptoms listed, it is important that you see your doctor as soon as possible. He or she can advise you about the best options for adopting healthy lifestyle changes and losing weight – keep in mind that losing any weight at all can help you feel better and improve your health.
Causes of Obesity
While being overweight is influenced in part by genetic factors and hormone activity, in the end, obesity occurs when you take in more calories every day than you use up through exercise or normal daily activities.
Morbid obesity is typically caused by a combination of factors, such as:
- Sedentary lifestyle: spending too much time sitting, whether during work or leisure time, makes it difficult to burn more calories than you consume;
- Poor diet: Fast food, supersize portions, high-calorie beverages, and insufficient amounts of nutrients contribute a great deal to excessive weight gain;
- Pregnancy: For many women, it can be difficult to lose the weight gained during pregnancy;
- Medications: Anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and a number of other medications can cause weight gain to spiral out of control;
- Medical conditions: Certain health problems can cause unwanted weight gain;
- Insufficient rest: Not getting enough sleep can interfere with hormone levels, leading to cravings and increased appetite
Losing weight and improving your health can be one of the most difficult challenges you ever face. Treating obesity is not simply a matter of cutting calories and stepping up your physical activity – although these elements are part of the process; instead, it involves changing your attitudes about eating and exercise, setting appropriate weight loss goals, and working with others who can guide you and help you to remain motivated.
Combating morbid obesity is a lifetime commitment, not a temporary adjustment, and you may need help from your doctor, as well as a nutrition expert, a fitness coach, and possibly a therapist to get you started on the right path.
- Dietary changes:
You will need to learn to follow a healthy diet and to limit your caloric intake based on your body’s needs. Avoid fad diets that promise rapid results; these have been proven time and again not to provide lasting results, and drastically cutting your calories can deprive your body of vital nutrients and impair your health.
- Physical activity:
Working with a fitness expert, you can learn to increase your activity level with safe exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level. Swimming, walking, gardening, stair climbing, and a wide range of other exercises can boost your stamina and increase your fitness level.
- Behavioral changes:
Losing weight and improving your health may require a dramatic change in your attitudes about diet and exercise. Working with a therapist and/or a support group, you can learn to overcome eating issues and learn healthy coping skills to help you deal with stress and anxiety.
- Weight loss drugs:
Under certain circumstances, your doctor may recommend that you supplement your weight loss program with prescription medications. Keep in mind that drugs should never be used as a substitute for dietary changes and exercise, and that medications should only be used under medical supervision. Avoid using over-the-counter weight loss drugs, especially if you are taking any other medications.
In certain cases, weight loss surgery may be an option, particularly when all other avenues have failed to produce significant results. However, surgery carries its own set of risks, and it should only be considered under the following circumstances:
- You have been unable to make any changes through diet and behavior modification
- You have a BMI of 30 to 30.9 and have type II diabetes
- You are willing to commit to the changes in order for the surgery to be successful
You and your doctor will need to decide together whether surgery is an option, and which type of weight loss surgery is best for you.
Weight loss surgery works by either restricting the amount of food you can consume, preventing you from absorbing some of the nutrients you eat, or a combination of both.
- Gastric bypass surgery: combines restriction and malabsorption
- Gastric banding: restrictive surgery which consists of placing a band around the middle of the stomach, reducing its capacity
- Biliopancreatic diversion: a malabsorptive procedure which involves removing most of the stomach
If you are dangerously overweight, losing even 5% of your body weight can improve your health and your outlook; however, it requires motivation, commitment, and strength. Take it one day at a time, surround yourself with support, and make healthy living a commitment.