The difference between overweight and obesity is one of degree. Picture a straight line… on the left side is underweight and on the far right is morbid obesity. Overweight and obesity are in between those extremes with obesity being the step just before morbid obesity.
These classifications are determined by a measurement called body mass index, BMI. The BMI considers the weight in proportion to the height and, as such, is considered a useful tool in evaluating weight. (A very muscular person may have a high BMI rating without being obese because muscle weighs more than fat. However, most of us reading about obesity don’t fall into that category.)
The vast majority of overweight or obese folks are “simply” consuming more calories than they are using up. However, there are rare occasions when the extra weight is tied to hereditary or “chemical imbalance” (hormonal or metabolic factors).
Overweight and obesity affect health in negative ways. Very often they contribute to the development or worsening of long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, joint problems such as arthritis, sleep disorders, cancer, and depression.
Particularly alarming is the growing trend toward excessive weight in children and adolescents. Some studies indicate that almost half of them are overweight, or even obese. Children who are overweight are likely going to become overweight adults. And, they are at greater risk of developing weight-related diseases because of the long time they have been overweight by the time they reach adulthood.
Our kids aren’t eating properly and they don’t get enough exercise. In addition to the danger of associated disease, kids who are overweight experience more social pressure (just what teenagers need… more pressure!), depression, behavioral and learning problems, and various other psychological disorders.
So, what’s the solution? Visit the health care provider first. Most adults can safely “go on a diet” but children have very different needs. They require a diet which provides adequate nourishment to support growth and development while at the same time, restriction of calories for weight loss. The doctor will first exclude physical reasons for the child’s weight issues. Then he will determine how many calories the child needs daily and which food items should be part of his daily nutrition.
There may be a need for intervention from other professionals as well, such as a nutritionist, counselor, or behavioral psychologist. A good plan needs to be decided upon because children who need to lose weight are at risk of over-reacting and may even become anorexic. Your doctor can help you make decisions on how best to help the child loss weight.