What is the Clinical Definition of Obesity?

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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Obesity is one of the major medical problems in the western world. The clinical definition of obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. The BMI is the body’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of the body’s height in meters.

Obesity results when a person ingests more calories than he or she can burn off. If this happens regularly over a period of time, the body will store the extra calories as fat. The body is able to burn off calories as energy needed throughout the day, but if the energy is not burned away, it will be stored as fat.

Every person has his or her own metabolic rate. This is the rate at which calories are used or burned off within the body. People who take a lot of exercise or are employed in strenuous jobs usually have a very high metabolic rate. They require a lot of calories, but burn them off easily. People who do not take a lot of exercise or are involved in jobs such as office work do not need as many calories.

The body stores extra calories as fat as a precaution against times of starvation. In the western world, starvation rarely affects people who eat regularly. If a person continually eats calories that he or she cannot burn off, obesity may occur.


Obesity is very serious health problem. Research has shown that it can shorten life expectancy by at least nine years. In the last two decades, the obesity rate in adults has quadrupled. Obesity can also lead to many other health complications, including infertility, depression, heart disease and stroke.

Being slightly overweight may not affect your health seriously, but when weight reaches levels of obesity, then problems will occur. Everyday activities may become difficult, and irregularities may appear with breathing. Sweating may occur during the simplest tasks, and a persistent feeling of fatigue may result from the extra weight.

Obese people often have problems with regular sleeping patterns. They are also very susceptible to snoring and awaken frequently during the night. Conditions such as arthritis and diabetes may also set in as a result of obesity. Serious problems, such as breast cancer and ovarian disease, have also been linked to obesity.

Obesity is usually caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise, but there are some medical causes for the problem. These are rare, but conditions such as an underactive thyroid or Cushing’s disease may be the cause of obesity. There are also certain medications that add weight when taken, such as steroids and certain antidepressants. Medications such as the contraceptive pill or quitting smoking can also contribute to weight gain.


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Post 6

Sunny27-I think that is so sad, but it can be treated with a lot of physical exercise. Kids need exercise to feel better and become more mentally agile.

Kids that engage in sports or some form of physical activity often have fewer problems with their weight, are able to sleep better, and they often concentrate better in school.

For example, in Japan, the school day is started with recess. The Japanese understand that daily exercise is not only good for the body but is good for the mind as well.

This is what is missing in American schools which tend to cut back on physical education due to lack of funding.

This is an area that should always be included in the school curriculum. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from the Japanese who have among the top scores in literacy and mathematical computation in the world.

Post 4

Cafe41 - I agree that many of the obesity causes are due to eating larger portions but I also agree with Ivanka that a lack of exercise plays a vital role in obesity.

For example, with the technological advances and the popularity of gaming software both adults and children are getting less exercise.

Most kids spend hours indoors playing video games and often snack on unhealthy high calorie foods while doing so.

They say that for the first time in history children suffering from childhood obesity might have a shorter life span than their parents.

Post 3

Ivanka - Those are great tips. I have to say that the obesity statistics are soaring in the United States.

As a matter of fact about 60% of adults are obese. Obesity in America has gone out of control. The reason can be explained in a variety of ways. First, our portions are larger than ever. When you order an entrée of pasta at a restaurant they actually serve you three times the normal serving.

If you are one to “Clean your plate” then it can be disastrous. Along with the larger portion sizes come the unhealthy options available. There is just so much fast food available everywhere that when people are short on time that is where they tend to go.

Post 1

Since our bodies are designed to gain weight and retain it for survival, it is no wonder that it is so easy for us to pile on weight. Add to that the abundance of food in the western world, and lack of movement, due to lifestyle, we are so prone to become obese.

Fortunately for us we do have an answer, and a rather simple one, as how to prevent obesity.

It is not any particular diet, nor starvation, but eating food in measured amounts and exercising.

So eat often, in small quantities, plenty of fruit and vegetable, and move; walk, swim, bike, just keep on moving. That is what doctors are telling us, and it is working.

There are so many foods that are low in calories. It is wise to look up the ingredients, and calories per serving.

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