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Understanding the Facts About Obesity

Obesity is about more than eating too much and exercising too little. It’s a complex disease that affects more than 2 in 5 adults in the U.S. Understanding the facts about obesity, its risk factors and the many ways it affects your health is an important part of your weight loss journey. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we provide the education and guidance you need to make informed decisions about your future. 

Did you know?

  • Obesity in the U.S. is on the rise. Over the last 10 years, obesity in adults increased by more than 11%. It’s also becoming more common in children. 

  • Obesity is a top cause of premature death. Obesity-related diseases are as dangerous as smoking when it comes to preventable, early death. 

  • Obesity affects some people more than others. Black adults and low-income individuals have the highest prevalence of obesity, making them at-risk populations.
  • Obesity is a serious and chronic medical condition involving too much body fat. Obesity is measured by body mass index (BMI), which is an estimated percentage of excess body weight based on your height and weight. You can calculate your BMI here.

  • There are different levels of obesity: 

    • Class 1: BMI of 30 to 34.9
    • Class 2: BMI of 35 to 39.9
    • Class 3 (severe obesity): BMI of 40 or above

    It’s important to note that being “obese” is not the same as being “overweight.” If your BMI is 25 to 29.9, you are overweight, not obese.

  • When you’re obese, excess body fat can interfere with your organs and prevent them from working as they should. Obesity can lead to life-threatening health problems called comorbidities. Some of the most common comorbidities related to obesity include: 

  • Obesity may develop if you consume more calories than you use. When you eat food, your body converts calories from fats, proteins and carbohydrates into energy. But if you don’t burn that energy, your body stores it as excess fat. 

    Certain conditions, behaviors and lifestyle factors make you more likely to develop obesity. Most people with obesity have a combination of these risk factors: 

    • Genetics
    • Not getting enough physical activity
    • Other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism
    • Poor sleep quality
    • Some medications, such as antidepressants or birth control
    • Stress and anxiety
    • Unhealthy diet
  • Losing weight is the only treatment for obesity, but there are a variety of methods you can use to accomplish this goal, including: 

    • Lifestyle changes: Eating a healthier diet and managing your portion sizes can help you decrease the calories you take in. Getting more physical activity can help you increase the calories you burn. Diet and exercise are the most common ways people lose weight. 
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Therapy can help you examine your psychological relationship to food, identify triggers that make you want to overeat and better control your thoughts and behaviors regarding food.
    • Weight loss medication: Certain medications can decrease your appetite so you don’t feel as hungry. Other medications reduce fat absorption. Medication should be used in combination with other weight loss treatments. 
    • Medical weight loss: Medically supervised, non-surgical weight loss often combines the above treatments. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we offer customized, comprehensive medical weight loss plans and procedures for people who aren’t ready for weight loss surgery.
    • Weight loss surgery: Weight loss surgery includes a range of procedures that change your digestive system (stomach and/or small intestine) to help you lose weight. Surgery can also treat comorbidities.
  • Weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, is used to treat obesity and obesity-related health problems. It is typically reserved for people with Class 3 obesity (BMI of 40 or above) or those with Class 2 obesity (BMI of 35 to 39.9) and certain chronic medical conditions related to obesity, such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea or heart disease. 

    Some unique situations may qualify you for weight loss surgery. For example, people with Class 1 obesity (BMI of 30 to 34.9) with Type 2 diabetes may be candidates. Discuss your treatment options with your weight loss specialist.

    Weight loss surgery may be an option if you:

    • Have been unable to lose weight and keep it off with diet, exercise and medication. 
    • Meet the required BMI for weight loss surgery. 
    • Understand and commit to lifelong changes in behavior and eating habits. 

    At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we offer a range of weight loss surgeries that can help you regain control of your body and reduce your risk for life-threatening health conditions.

Are you a candidate?

We invite you to take the next step to find out more about your weight loss options.