Understanding Obesity

What Is Obesity?

Obesity is a complex health issue influenced by a combination of causes and individual factors, often resulting from the body taking in more calories than it burns through exercise and normal daily activities. The main symptom of obesity is excessive body fat, which increases the risk of serious health problems. As obesity gets worse, the body’s weight regulation mechanism tends to break down. When this system fails, it can trigger powerful, metabolic changes, making it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy weight.

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Factors That Affect Obesity

There are a multitude of factors that can trigger obesity. These include inadequate physical activity, genetics, excessive calorie consumption, medication use, and other exposures. Several studies show adult obesity rates are linked to an individual’s socioeconomic (lower incomes and less education) status, and educational background. Your race, ethnicity, and family history also plays a key role. Obesity is often accompanied by chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, certain cancers, obstructive sleep apnea and arthritis.

Obesity Facts & Figures

Adult Obesity In Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., obesity is a local epidemic, where more than a third of all adults are overweight. African Americans are more likely to have the highest rates of obesity and chronic disease compared to all other race/ethnic groups. In areas East of the River (Wards 7 and 8), obesity rates climb to over 50% among African American populations. In fact, one in every three African American D.C., resident is obese compared to less than one in every ten White D.C. resident.

Obesity Misconceptions

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are many misconceptions about obesity. Many people are misinformed and think it's a result of overeating. While diet is an important factor, there are other significant factors that cause obesity. These factors make some people and groups more susceptible to obesity as well as making it difficult to treat it with only lifestyle changes.

Risks & Treatment Options

Am I At Risk?

There are many risk factors that contribute to obesity. If you have a body mass index of 30 or greater, you are in the at-risk category (Click here to access a BMI Calculator). You can control your risks by improving your lifestyle habits and environments, including physical activity, healthy eating, sleep, and reducing stress levels. Other obesity risk factors that are out of your control include: race, ethnicity, gender, age, family history and genetics. A healthy lifestyle change greatly decreases your risk for developing obesity.​

Available Treatment Options

Common treatments for obesity includes losing weight through healthy eating, being more physically active, and making other changes to your usual habits. Weight-management programs may also help some people lose weight. Individuals who are obese and are unable to lose enough weight to improve their health should Consult with a Doctor who may consider other treatments options, including weight-loss medicines, weight-loss devices, or bariatric surgery.