Being overweight is NOT the same as being obese! Find out more

Have you been thinking that being overweight and obesity are synonymous? An expert gives you a reality check!
overweight and obesity
You must know the difference! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Vikas Singhal Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 11:08 am IST
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In common language, being overweight is considered the same as being obese. However, the key difference between being overweight and obesity lies in the extent of accumulation of excessive body fats. While being overweight is considered a risk factor, obesity is defined as a disease as is it can lead to a lot of long-term health issues.

The excessive accumulation of fat, particularly around the belly (visceral obesity), can cause several metabolic health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, increasing risk of heart disease and stroke.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a deciding factor. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Obesity is also associated with arthritis (joint pains), fatty liver, sleep apnea, infertility, apart from increased risk of several cancers and moreover a poor quality of life and self esteem.

How do you know the difference between being overweight and obesity?

A person is classified as ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ based on their Body Mass Index (BMI), a measurement metric that is calculated based on weight and height. BMI is a simple measure and BMI calculators are readily available to download on one’s phone. Based on World Health Organization’s (WHO) classification, when a person’s BMI is greater than or equal to 25, they are overweight. And a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is classified as obesity.

For the Asian population, it is advocated to lower the BMI criteria by 2.5 points when considering someone as overweight or obese. This is due to high preponderance of visceral fat in Asians which leads to diabetes and other metabolic problems.

Obese patients, as compared to overweight patients, are at a much higher risk of developing co-morbid health problems and may need surgical intervention (bariatric surgery) to treat obesity and associated problems.

BMI greater than 40 is considered as morbid obesity as that’s when weight typically becomes a morbid problem. Patients with morbid obesity often struggle to lose weight as they usually have impaired mobility and poor exercise tolerance often coupled with depression and other mental health problems.

Being overweight or obese depends primarily on one’s calorie intake and calorie expenditure. Obesity has been classified as a disease as it is multi-factorial.

Also Read: Fighting obesity? Let’s bust some myths around food and weight loss

sedentary lifestyle
Our sedentary lifestyles are to be blamed for weight woes. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The key risk factors of obesity include:

* Hormonal imbalances, genetics, socio-cultural and environmental factors

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* Sedentary lifestyles, a lack of any form of physical exercise, high-calorie foods and energy-rich foods.

* Those who have grown up in difficult situations and suffer from mood disorders and take to food for comfort, engaging in binge eating.

* Hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome

* Several chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders cancers, and diabetes are triggered by excessive weight and fat accumulation

Prevention and treatment of obesity

It is important to seek help and get treatment early before one goes from being overweight to obese and starts developing obesity associated co-morbid diseases.

* All patients, whether overweight or obese, need lifestyle modification in the form of suitable regular exercise and healthy diet.

* Healthy diet includes control over food portions, eating the right kind of food, ensuring adequate protein, fiber and water intake while reducing carbohydrates and fats.

* Those who are morbidly obese, often require the help of bariatric surgery to kickstart the weight loss journey.

Also Read: Gluten or anxiety, what type of obesity do you have?

exercise to fight obesity
Exercise is a must to fight obesity! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

For those who have taken to binge eating, the solution often lies in therapy – understanding the root cause behind the anxiety and tackling the same. In children, there is an urgent need to inculcate sustainable and good eating habits from a young age.

One must also encourage physical activities, outdoor games, and sports which will enable children to get rid of excessive energy. Consuming food while watching television must not be allowed as it will eventually result in the development of poor eating habits.

We must remember a few key points to keep our weight in check:

* Eat a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables, natural proteins and avoid packaged foods
* Stay hydrated
* De-stress and engage in outdoor activities which will keep our weight down and spirit up
* Morbid obesity especially if co-morbid health problems have started developing may need
Bariatric surgery to treat obesity and health problems
* Seek help timely. Don’t let overweight turn into obesity

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About the Author

Dr Vikas Singhal MBBS, MRCS, FACS, FASMBS, FALS Fellowship- Bariatric Surgery, Cleveland USA Senior Consultant Division of GI Surgery, GI Oncology, Minimal Access & Bariatric Surgery, Medanta - Medicity Hospital ...Read More

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