Obesity is no longer considered a cosmetic issue that is caused by overeating and a lack of self-control. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.), along with National and International medical and scientific societies, now recognize obesity as a chronic progressive disease resulting from multiple environmental and genetic factors.

A number of other conditions associated with obesity contribute to the progression of the disease. Obesity reduces mobility and the number of calories that would be burned in the performance of activity. Weight gain may also cause psychological or emotional distress which, in turn, produces hormonal changes that may cause further weight gain by stimulating appetite and by increasing fat uptake into fat storage depots.

Weight gain also contributes to the development of other diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and depression, and these conditions are often treated with medications that contribute to even further weight gain. In all of these ways and more, obesity ’begets’ obesity, trapping the individual in a vicious weight gain cycle.

The disease of obesity is extremely costly not only in terms of economics, but also in terms of individual and societal health, longevity, and psychological well-being. Due to its progressive nature, obesity requires life-long treatment and control.

Multiple factors, including genetics, can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Conditions associated with weight gain and biological changes in the body that occur as a result of weight gain contribute to progression of the disease, often trapping the individual in a vicious weight gain cycle. If you are concerned with your weight, please speak to your primary care physician to learn more about how to improve your weight and health.

In the United States, epidemiological data from an ongoing study that measures the actual body size of thousands of Americans, show that 34 percent of adults more than 20 years old are affected by obesity and 68 percent are overweight (2007-2008 data). Obesity affects 10 percent of children between two and five years of age, 2 percent of those between 6 to 11 years old, and 18 percent of adolescents.

Throughout the last 20 to 25 years, the prevalence of obesity has been increasing at an alarming rate. Since 1985, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has supported an ongoing study, conducted on a yearly basis by state health departments, to examine changes in obesity prevalence state-to-state, and has found the following:

  • In 1990, the obesity prevalence for most of the states was 10 percent or less.
  • By 1995, more than half the states had a prevalence of 15 percent.
  • By 2000, nearly half the states had a prevalence of 20 percent or higher.
  • Five years later (2005), all but three states had a prevalence greater than 20 percent and nearly a third had a prevalence of 25 percent or more.
  • By 2010, the data show that most of U.S. states had a prevalence of 25 percent and many had a prevalence of 30 percent or higher.

Body size categories using BMI have been based upon the ranges of BMI associated with a certain risk for mortality1-2. The categories and respective BMI categories are:

Category BMI Range
Normal Size 18.9 to 24.9
Overweight 25 to 29.9
Class I, Obesity 30 to 34.9
Class II, Serious Obesity 35 to 39.9
Class III, Severe Obesity 40 and greater

BMI calculator

Dr. Sethre is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).  This organization provides excellent information and resources for people with excessive weight, including a FAQ page for bariatric surgery. Dr. Sethre has provided weight loss and bariatric services for over 20 years, and has provided over 2,500 pre-surgery psychological assessments for bariatric patients.