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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What factors contribute to obesity?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Kirsty Woods

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi I’m Kirsty Woods,I would like to use my experience, expertise and passion to help you reach your weight, energy and health goalsI have been … View Profile

    The answer to this this question depends on who you talk to as new research is emerging every day. But put simply there is 2 main factors that contribute to obesity.

    1) Society= readily available food (especially packaged foods), large portion sizes, energy saving technology, media and mixed messages. 

    2) The Individual= Diet, physical activity, genetics, hormonal balance, stress, body composition, nutritional deficiencies and I’m sure there is many more which i have missed out on. 

    Because everyone is unique one or all of these factors may be the contributing factor for obesity. At METS we offer the technology to assess your current metabolism to help you better understand how YOUR body works and what nutrition and exercise/activity strategies are right for YOU.'

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    Alysha Coleman

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist

    Alysha is the Primary Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Institute for Healthy Living, a clinical psychology practice in Bondi Junction. Alysha has worked with … View Profile

    Another factor that contibutes to obesity is our early learning about food. For example, if we grow up learning that food makes us feel better when we are upset; we are more likely to turn to food to numb out negative emotions. It is important that we look at and shift our own personal relationship with food in order for eating to play a more balanced, functional role in our lives.

  • Elizabeth Newsham-West is committed to optimising the health and well-being of people across all ages within the Mount Tamborine community.  She works as a domicillary … View Profile

    Obesity is very simply moving less and eating more.

    This is because our environment is now very obesigenic. This is created by our working culture, technology, food industry producing cheap energy rich nutrient poor foods, working and lifestyle pressures. Some disease and medication can increase weight. and some can make weight loss more difficult.

    There are really no special diets for weight loss. Very simply we need to move more and eat less while meeting our nutritional needs.  The success of having a healthy weight is how well we are able to incorporate this healthy eating and lifestyle habits into our lives with our other working , family and lifestyle pressures and it is this which we find so hard to do.

  • Kirsty Woods

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi I’m Kirsty Woods,I would like to use my experience, expertise and passion to help you reach your weight, energy and health goalsI have been … View Profile

    Energy In vs Energy Out is a contributing factor to Obesity, however working with obese clients it is clear that this is not always the case. This video by Peter Attia M.D gives a good insight to the complexity of the obesity issue:) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3oI104STzs

  • Elizabeth Newsham-West is committed to optimising the health and well-being of people across all ages within the Mount Tamborine community.  She works as a domicillary … View Profile

    To become overweight  or obese you do need to eat more than your body needs if there is no other pathology present.e.g hypothroidsim or medications complicating weight management. This was the question “ What causes obesity”

    However when we are overweight or obese metabolic changes occur within our body  which can make weight loss more difficult. However it still requires an energy deficit. Bariatric surgery confirms this and some of these metobolic changes are no longer present after this weight is lost.

    The video in which you refer from Peter Attia is on his hypotheses, his own weight loss success ( thoughts and ideas) on how to lose weight not how to become obese. These hypotheses are well documented in the literature and which the research is testing with results showing a number of metabolic changes which occur in our bodies with obesity , which we need to understand to help people lose weight.

    As Dietitians we understand the metabolic changes and continually learning from new research what is happening inside our bodies when we are overweight/obese, food choices which may make this worse and how we need to manipulate the diet for weight loss success. It still requires an energy deficit  for weight to be lost.

    However we require a lot more research in this area to help us best manage ( diet/ exercise/ lifestyle) with this epidemic in our current  environment that is contributing to our high rates of obesity.

  • Kirsty Woods

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi I’m Kirsty Woods,I would like to use my experience, expertise and passion to help you reach your weight, energy and health goalsI have been … View Profile

    Agreed, baseline metabolism and metabolic changes play a significant role in health, particularly weight loss.
     
    As an Exercise Physiologist my role is to understand how the body uses and produces fuel, in order to reduce obesity fat must be burned. As mentioned above there is no ‘one best way’ to combat obesity. For these reasons I use Indirect Calorimetry (metabolism measurement) as a management and validation tool for my interventions. How much is the client burning? Is the energy from Fat or Glucose? And has this changed? 

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    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Obesity occurs when you eat and drink more calories/kilojoules than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities. Your body stores these extra calories/kilojoules as fat. Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including:

    Genetics. Your genes may affect the amount of body fat you store and where that fat is distributed. Genetics may also play a role in how efficiently your body converts food into energy and how your body burns calories/kilojoules during exercise. Even when someone has a genetic predisposition, environmental factors ultimately make you gain more weight.

    Family lifestyle. Obesity tends to run in families. That's not just because of genetics. Family members tend to have similar eating, lifestyle and activity habits. If one or both of your parents are obese, your risk of being obese is increased. Your parent’s habits become family habits.

    Inactivity. If you're not very active, you don't burn as many calories/kilojoules. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can easily take in more calories/kilojoules every day than you burn off through exercise and normal daily activities.

    Unhealthy diet and eating habits. A diet that's high in calories, lacking in fruits and vegetables, full of fast food, missing breakfast, and laden with high-calorie beverages and oversized portions contributes to weight gain.

    Quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is often associated with weight gain. And for some, it can lead to enough weight gain that the person becomes obese. In the long run, however, quitting smoking is still a greater benefit to your health than continuing to smoke.

    Pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman's weight necessarily increases. Some women find this weight difficult to lose after the baby is born. This weight gain may contribute to the development of obesity in women.

    Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep at night can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite. You may also crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain.

    Certain medications. Some medications can lead to weight gain if you don't compensate through diet or activity. These medications include some antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, antipsychotic medications, steroids and beta blockers.

    Age. Obesity can occur at any age, even in young children. But as you age, hormonal changes and a less active lifestyle increase your risk of obesity. In addition, the amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease with age. This lower muscle mass leads to a decrease in metabolism. These changes also reduce calorie/kilojoule needs and can make it harder to keep off excess weight. If you don't control what you eat and consciously become more physically active as you age, you'll likely gain weight.

    Social and economic issues. Certain social and economic issues may be linked to obesity. You may not have safe areas to exercise, you may not have been taught healthy ways of cooking or you may not have money to buy healthier foods. In addition, the people you spend time with may influence your weight — you're more likely to become obese if you have obese friends or relatives.

    Medical problems. Obesity can rarely be traced to a medical cause, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing's syndrome, and other diseases and conditions. Some medical problems, such as arthritis, can lead to decreased activity, which may result in weight gain.

    Even if you have one or more of these risk factors, it doesn't mean that you're destined to become obese. You can counteract most risk factors through diet, physical activity and exercise, and behavior changes.

     

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Question

    What factors contribute o to obesity?

    Answer

    The obesity epidemic covered on TV and in the newspapers did not occur overnight. Obesity and overweight are chronic conditions. Overall there are a variety of factors that play a role in obesity. This makes it a complex health issue to address.

    Overweight and Obesity:

    • Overweight and obesity result from an energy imbalance. This involves eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity.
    • Body weight is the result of genes, metabolism, behavior, environment, culture, and socioeconomic status.
    • Behaviour and environment play a large role causing people to be overweight and obese. These are the greatest areas for prevention and treatment actions. Energy imbalance - When the number of calories consumed is not equal to the number of calories used. Energy Balance is like a scale. When calories consumed are greater than calories used weight gain results.Weight Loss: Calories Consumed < Calories Used No Despite obesity having strong genetic determinants, the genetic composition of the population does not change rapidly. Therefore, the large increase in . . . [obesity] must reflect major changes in non-genetic factors. Looking back at the energy balance scale, weight gain is a result of extra calorie consumption, decreasing calories used (physical activity) or both. Personal choices concerning calorie consumption and physical activity can lead to energy imbalance. A changing environment has broadened food options and eating habits. Grocery stores stock their shelves with a greater selection of products. Pre-packaged foods, fast food restaurants, and soft drinks are also more accessible. While such foods are fast and convenient they also tend to be high in fat, sugar, and calories. Choosing many foods from these areas may contribute to an excessive calorie intake. Some foods are marketed as healthy, low fat, or fat-free, but may contain more calories than the fat containing food they are designed to replace. It is important to read food labels for nutritional information and to eat in moderation. Choosing a variety of healthy foods in the correct portion sizes is helpful for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Our bodies need calories for daily functions such as breathing, digestion, and daily activities. Weight gain occurs when calories consumed exceed this need. Physical activity plays a key role in energy balance because it uses up calories consumed.
    • Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in an expenditure of energy with a range of activities such as
    • Calories Used
    • Portion size has also increased. People may be eating more during a meal or snack because of larger portion sizes. This results in increased calorie consumption. If the body does not burn off the extra calories consumed from larger portions, fast food, or soft drinks, weight gain can occur.
    • Calorie Consumption
    • Genetics and the environment may increase the risk of personal weight gain. However, the choices a person makes in eating and physical activity also contributes to overweight and obesity. Behaviour can increase a person’s risk for gaining weight.
    • Weight Change: Calories Consumed = Calories Used
    • Weight Gain: Calories Consumed > Calories Used
    • Overweight and obesity are a result of energy imbalance over a long period of time. The cause of energy imbalance for each individual may be due to a combination of several factors. Individual behaviours, environmental factors, and genetics all contribute to the complexity of the obesity epidemic.
    • Occupational work Carpentry, construction work, waiting tables, farming
    • Household chores Washing floors or windows, gardening or yard work
    • Leisure time activities Walking, skating, biking, swimming, playing Frisbee, dancing Structured sports or exercise Softball, tennis, football, aerobics Despite all the benefits of being physically active, most people are sedentary. Technology has created many time and labour saving products. Some examples include cars, elevators, computers, dishwashers, and televisions. Cars are used to run short distance errands instead of people walking or riding a bicycle. As a result, these recent lifestyle changes have reduced the overall amount of energy expended in our daily lives. According to the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, in 2000 more than 26% of adults reported no leisure time physical activity. EnvironmentLocation Environmental Factors Potential Impact on Energy Balance Home Reduce time spent watching television and in other sedentary behaviors Build physical activity into regular routines Increases daily and leisure time physical activity Increases calories used Schools Ensure that the school breakfast and lunch programs meet nutrition standards Provide food options that are low in fat, calories, and added sugars Provide all children, from prekindergarten through grade 12, with quality daily physical education Decreases excessive calorie consumption Increases daily physical activity Work Create more opportunities for physical activity at work sites Increases daily physical activity Increases calories used Community Promote healthier choices including at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and reasonable portion sizes Encourage the food industry to provide reasonable food and beverage portion sizes Encourage food outlets to increase the availability of low-calorie, nutritious food items Create opportunities for physical activity in communities Decreases in excessive calorie consumption Increases leisure time physical activity How do genes affect obesity?
    • Science shows that genetics plays a role in obesity. Genes can directly cause obesity in disorders such as Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.
    • Genetics
    • People may make decisions based on their environment or community. For example, a person may choose not to walk to the store or work because of a lack of sidewalks. Communities, homes, and workplaces each shape health decisions. With fewer options for physical activity and healthy eating, it becomes more difficult for people to make good choices. The Surgeon General’s Call to action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity 2000 identified action steps to prevent and decrease obesity and overweight. Below is a table listing the steps related to possible environmental factors.
    • The belief that physical activity is limited to exercise or sports, may keep people from being active. Another myth is that physical activity must be vigorous to achieve health benefits. Physical activity is any bodily movement that results in an expenditure of energy. Moderate-intensity activities such as household chores, gardening, and walking can also provide health benefits. Confidence in one’s ability to be active will help people make choices to adopt a physically active lifestyle.
    • Regular physical activity is good for overall health. Physical activity decreases the risk for colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It also helps to control weight, contributes to healthy bones, muscles, and joints; reduces falls among the elderly; and helps to relieve the pain of arthritis. Physical activity does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial. Moderate physical activity, such as 60 minutes of brisk walking five or more times a week, also has health benefits.
    • Despite all the benefits of being physically active, most people are sedentary. Technology has created many time and labour saving products. Some examples include cars, elevators, computers, dishwashers, and televisions. Cars are used to run short distance errands instead of people walking or riding a bicycle. As a result, these recent lifestyle changes have reduced the overall amount of energy expended in our daily lives. According to the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, in 2000 more than 26% of adults reported no leisure time physical activity.

      The belief that physical activity is limited to exercise or sports, may keep people from being active. Another myth is that physical activity must be vigorous to achieve health benefits. Physical activity is any bodily movement that results in an expenditure of energy. Moderate-intensity activities such as household chores, gardening, and walking can also provide health benefits. Confidence in one’s ability to be active will help people make choices to adopt a physically active lifestyle.

      Environment

      People may make decisions based on their environment or community. For example, a person may choose not to walk to the store or work because of a lack of sidewalks. Communities, homes, and workplaces each shape health decisions. With fewer options for physical activity and healthy eating, it becomes more difficult for people to make good choices. The Surgeon General’s Call to action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity 2000 identified action steps to prevent and decrease obesity and overweight. Below is a table listing the steps related to possible environmental factors.

      Location Environmental Factors Potential Impact on Energy Balance Home Reduce time spent watching television and in other sedentary behaviors Build physical activity into regular routines Increases daily and leisure time physical activity Increases calories used Schools Ensure that the school breakfast and lunch programs meet nutrition standards Provide food options that are low in fat, calories, and added sugars Provide all children, from prekindergarten through grade 12, with quality daily physical education Decreases excessive calorie consumption Increases daily physical activity Work Create more opportunities for physical activity at work sites Increases daily physical activity Increases calories used Community Promote healthier choices including at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and reasonable portion sizes Encourage the food industry to provide reasonable food and beverage portion sizes Encourage food outlets to increase the availability of low-calorie, nutritious food items Create opportunities for physical activity in communities Decreases in excessive calorie consumption Increases leisure time physical activity

      Genetics

      How do genes affect obesity?

      Science shows that genetics plays a role in obesity. Genes can directly cause obesity in disorders such as Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.

      However genes do not always predict future health. Genes and behavior may both be needed for a person to be overweight. In some cases multiple genes may increase one’s susceptibility for obesity and require outside factors; such as abundant food supply or little physical activity.

      Other Factors

      Diseases and Drugs

      Some illnesses may lead to obesity or weight gain. These may include Cushing's disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome. Drugs such as steroids and some antidepressants may also cause weight gain.

      A doctor is the best source to tell you whether illnesses, medications, or psychological factors are contributing to weight gain or making weight loss hard.

       

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Obesity is a complex condition with biological, genetic, behavioural, social, cultural, and environmental influences. For example:

    Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including:

    • Genetics. Your genes may affect the amount of body fat you store, and where that fat is distributed. Genetics may also play a role in how efficiently your body converts food into energy and how your body burns calories during exercise.
    • Family lifestyle. Obesity tends to run in families. If one or both of your parents are obese, your risk of being obese is increased. That's not just because of genetics. Family members tend to share similar eating and activity habits.
    • Inactivity. If you're not very active, you don't burn as many calories. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can easily take in more calories every day than you burn through exercise and routine daily activities. Having medical problems, such as arthritis, can lead to decreased activity, which contributes to weight gain.
    • Unhealthy diet. A diet that's high in calories, lacking in fruits and vegetables, full of fast food, and laden with high-calorie beverages and oversized portions contributes to weight gain.
    • Medical problems. In some people, obesity can be traced to a medical cause, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing's syndrome and other conditions. Medical problems, such as arthritis, also can lead to decreased activity, which may result in weight gain.
    • Certain medications. Some medications can lead to weight gain if you don't compensate through diet or activity. These medications include some antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, antipsychotic medications, steroids and beta blockers.
    • Social and economic issues. Research has linked social and economic factors to obesity. Avoiding obesity is difficult if you don't have safe areas to exercise. Similarly, you may not have been taught healthy ways of cooking, or you may not have money to buy healthier foods. In addition, the people you spend time with may influence your weight — you're more likely to become obese if you have obese friends or relatives.
    • Age. Obesity can occur at any age, even in young children. But as you age, hormonal changes and a less active lifestyle increase your risk of obesity. In addition, the amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease with age. This lower muscle mass leads to a decrease in metabolism. These changes also reduce calorie needs, and can make it harder to keep off excess weight. If you don't consciously control what you eat and become more physically active as you age, you'll likely gain weight.
    • Pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman's weight necessarily increases. Some women find this weight difficult to lose after the baby is born. This weight gain may contribute to the development of obesity in women.
    • Quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is often associated with weight gain. And for some, it can lead to enough weight gain that the person becomes obese. In the long run, however, quitting smoking is still a greater benefit to your health than continuing to smoke.
    • Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite. You may also crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain.

    Even if you have one or more of these risk factors, it doesn't mean that you're destined to become obese. You can counteract most risk factors through diet, physical activity and exercise, and behaviour changes. 

     

     

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Obesity is a complex condition with biological, genetic, behavioural, social, cultural, and environmental influences. For example:

    • Individual behaviours and environmental factors can contribute to excess caloric intake and inadequate amounts of physical activity. The current high rates of obesity have been attributed to, in part, increased snacking and eating away from home, larger portion sizes, greater exposure to food advertising, limited access to physical activity opportunities, and labour-saving technological advances.
    • Certain medical conditions (e.g., polycystic ovary syndrome) and prescription drugs (e.g., steroids, anti-depressants) can cause weight gain.
    • Recent evidence suggests that inadequate sleep, prenatal and post-natal influences (e.g., maternal pre-pregnancy weight status, maternal smoking during pregnancy), chemical exposure, and stress may affect energy balance or obesity risk.
    • Race-ethnicity, gender, age, income, and other socio-demographic factors also can play a role in this complex health issue, as discussed elsewhere on this web-site.
    • Emotional conditions, stress, anxiety can lead to eating. However happy situations also lead to overconsumption – birthdays, socializing all include food and people tend to focus on eating, drinking soft drinks or alcohol.
    • People eat because the food is available. There is too much food cooked, bought and therefore eaten! Food is cheaper so more accessible.

    Many of these and other contributing factors affect everyone at some point during their lives, at least to some extent, but those who are food insecure or low-income face additional challenges and risks

     

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