Paul M. Thaxton, MD
7013 Evans Town Center Blvd · Suite 101 · Evans, Georgia 30809
706·922·1717

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a very real, even dangerous,  medical condition that occurs when excess body fat accumuliates to the point it may have an adverse effect on your health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems. While in most cases obesity occurs when you eat too much and exercise too little, other factors also play a role in obesity.

Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide, with increasing prevalence in adults and children. It is viewed as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.

You are considered obese if your body weight is 30 percent or more above the normal weight for a person your height, weight and age. The most common measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI, a measurement which compares weight and height. You are considered overweight if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9 and obese if it is over 30.

Obesity is most commonly caused by a combination of too many dietary calories, the lack of physical activity and genetic susceptibility, although a few cases are caused solely by genes, endocrine disorders, medications or psychiatric illness. Other factors may include:

  • Age. As you get older, your body's ability to metabolize food slows down and you do not require as many calories to maintain your weight. This is why people gain weight at age 40 eating the same foods and doing the same things physically they did at age 20,

  • Gender. Women tend to be more overweight than men. Men have a higher resting metabolic rate (meaning they burn more energy at rest) than women, so men require more calories to maintain their body weight. Additionally, when women become postmenopausal, their metabolic rate decreases. That is partly why many women gain weight after menopause.

  • Genetics. Obesity (and thinness) tends to run in families. If your biological mother is heavy as an adult, there is approximately a 75 perent chance you will be heavy. If your biological mother is thin, there is also a 75 percent chance that you will be thin. But that is not always the case. Many people genetically predisposed to obesity do not become obese or are able to lose weight and keep it off.

  • Physical activity. Active individuals require more calories than less active ones to maintain their weight. Additionally, physical activity tends to decrease appetite in obese individuals while increasing the body's ability to preferentially metabolize fat as an energy source. Much of the increase in obesity in the last 20 years is thought to have resulted from the decreased level of daily physical activity.

  • Environmental factors. Although genes are an important factor in many cases of obesity, a person's environment also plays a significant role. Environmental factors include lifestyle behaviors such as what a person eats and how active he or she is.

  • Psychological factors. Psychological factors also influence eating habits and obesity. Many people eat in response to negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, or anger. While most overweight people have no more psychological disturbances than people at their normal weight, about 30 percent of people who seek treatment for serious weight problems have difficulties with binge eating. Binge eaters consume large amounts of food while feeling they can't control how much they are eating.

  • Illness. Some illnesses that can cause obesity including hormone problems such as hypothyroidism (poorly acting thyroid slows metabolism), depression, and some rare diseases of the brain that can lead to overeating. These illnesses are not as common as we like to think.

  • Medication. Certain drugs, such as steroids and some antidepressants, may cause excessive weight gain.

Emotional Aspects of Obesity

In addition to the health issues caused by obesity, one of the most crippling aspects of the disease is the emotional pain and suffering it causes. Unfortunately, American society places too much emphasis on physical appearance, often equating attractiveness with slimness and muscularity. In addition, obese people are routinely stereotyed as gluttonous, lazy, or both. Obese people often face prejudice or discrimination at school, at work, at school, while job hunting and socially. Feelings of rejection, shame, or depression are common. However, more and more evidence contradicts these  assumptions. 

Interestingly, obesity was perceived as a symbol of wealth and fertility at other times in history, and still is in many parts of Africa.

Do not hesitate to contact Dr. Thaxton if you are having emotional problems related to your weight. He has spent the past 30 years working with women of all ages in Augusta and he understands the painful emotional problems associated with the disease. In fact, the mental and emotional well-being of his patients is one of the factors which led him to become a bariatric physician and establish Advanced Medical Weight Loss Augusta in Evans.

You should also consider a medical weight loss solution if:

  • Your BMI is 30 or greater, you're considered obese. You should talk to your doctor about losing weight since you are at high risk of having health problems.
  • Your body is apple shaped -- a so-called potbelly or spare tire -- you carry more fat in and around your abdominal organs. Fat in your abdomen increases your risk of many of the serious conditions associated with obesity. Women's waist measurement should fall below 35 inches. Men's should be less than 40 inches. If you have a large waist circumference, talk to your doctor about how you can lose weight.