Obesity is much more than just a "weight problem." Obesity is a chronic disease that can cause serious health problems in both adults and children.

"Obese" is a term that is simply a measurement of body fat. A tool called the body mass index -- or BMI -- is used to measure body fat.

BMI is based on your weight and height. If you have a BMI of over 30, you may be considered obese. A child's BMI is also based weight and height but is compared with other children of the same age and sex.

Your waist measurement alone can also show if you are obese. A waist measurement of more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women may increase your risk for obesity-related diseases, like:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Stroke

  • Gallstones

  • Sleep apnea

  • Joint problems, including osteoarthritis

  • Liver disease

  • Some cancers, and

  • Depression

Children who are overweight or obese have a high risk of getting diseases that are usually only seen in adults, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes.

As they get older, they're also at higher risk for heart attack, stroke and certain cancers.


There are many reasons why people gain weight, but it's usually caused by eating too many calories and not being active enough.

Other things, like your family health history, health conditions, medications, hormones, and even the amount of sleep you get, can all cause you to gain weight.

But, the most common causes for weight gain in both adults and children are:

  • Drinking too many sugary or sweetened soft drinks

  • Eating foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients

  • Spending too much time watching television, playing video games, or sitting in front of a computer

  • Not getting enough sleep

  • And a family history of obesity

Sometimes the cause of weight gain is more complicated. You or your child may have emotional issues and use food for comfort or relief from anxiety, stress, or depression.


The formula for losing weight is simple: eat less and do more. But simple doesn't always mean easy.

The first step toward a healthy weight is a visit with your healthcare provider. He or she will help you set reasonable, short-term goals.

For example, losing just 5% to 10% of your weight can reduce your risk for obesity-related diseases.

Short-term goals will also help you and your family start healthy habits that will help you keep the weight off long term.

The main strategies for losing weight are:

  • Changing your diet

  • Getting more exercise

  • And building a support network

A diet is simply the food you choose to eat every day. If you want to lose weight, it's important to choose foods that offer more of the nutrients your body needs per serving.

Exercise just means moving your body in any way that's enjoyable to you. That means you can dance in your living room, walk your dog a couple times a day, or play tag with your grandkids. Every time you get up and move, you are burning calories.

Children need to get at least 60 minutes of exercise per day and adults need 3 to 4 workouts a week. Each workout should last about 40 minutes and include moderate to vigorous exercise."

Using a weight loss support group can help you lose weight and keep it off. Support groups can be face-to-face meetings or online chat rooms where you can share your successes and frustrations, and learn from others who are facing the same challenge.

Medications or surgery may be recommended if your BMI is over 40, or if your weight is causing dangerous medical conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Things to Remember

Obesity increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and osteoarthritis.

Slow, gradual weight loss is the key to keeping the weight off.

A combination of healthy eating habits and regular physical activity can help you reach your goals.

What We Have Learned

Eating and drinking more calories than you burn causes obesity.
True or False?
The answer is true. Most weight gain is caused by a combination of being inactive and eating too many calories.

Experts say you have to lose more than 20 percent of your weight in order to lower your risk for obesity-related disease.
True or False?
The answer is false. Losing just 5% to 10% of your weight can reduce your risk for obesity-related diseases.