Focusing On Causative Factors In The Global Obesity Epidemic


Table of Contents

An Introduction To Obesity

Obesity is the fastest growing epidemic globally, and the stats suggest over half the population of adults on planet Earth are currently overweight. Of that number, 70% are bordering on becoming obese.  

How did we all get so fat, and how do we return to being a healthy, normal weight that reflects our best selves and living our best lives?

If you were lucky enough to be a child of the eighties in Australia, you will have a clear memory of two lifesaving advertising campaigns. ‘Slip, slop, slap‘ for sun smart cancer awareness, and the lifestyle awareness campaign called, ‘Life be in it!’

Life be in it had two lead characters’ Norm’ the obese, inactive, sedentary Australian male and his long-suffering, fit and active wife ‘Libby’, who is trying to motivate a highly resistant Norm out of his armchair and into the world.  

If obesity was of concern forty years ago, back in the days when the average Australian was only overweight with a few extra kilos, how did it explode to become the biggest global epidemic humanity has encountered, and why does the condition continue to grow increasingly more prolific and severe with every year that passes?

The bigger question to ask is when will we see ourselves as we really are and take action to correct the damage we are doing in slowing killing ourselves with bad food and lifestyle choices? 

Are You Sure Obesity Isn’t Contagious

Looking around society, you could be mistaken for believing that obesity is contagious and that you catch it the same way you do the flu. You’re not fat if most people you look at are more overweight than you, right? Wrong!

One day you are normal weight, then the next your normal clothes have shrunk in the wash, and you have to buy bigger clothes that fit. You repeat the cycle a few times, walk past a mirror, and see a reflection that brings with it the harsh realisation that you are no longer carrying a few extra kilos. You can’t even call yourself fat. You barely fit behind the steering wheel, you haven’t seen your feet in over a year. You can no longer deny you are obese, have developed life-threatening medical conditions and need external professional help to transform your life.

How Is Obesity Measured And Diagnosed 

Let’s define what obesity is according to the World Health Organisation.

The World Health Organisation defines obesity on their website as, “Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. The issue has grown to epidemic proportions, with over 4 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese in 2017.”

What BMI Is Considered Morbid Obesity

Defining Morbid Obesity

“Individuals are usually considered morbidly obese if their weight is more than 80 to 100 pounds above their ideal body weight. A BMI above 40 indicates that a person is morbidly obese and therefore a candidate for bariatric surgery.”

The BMI or Body Mass Index is a scale for measuring weight against height. A healthy adult’s BMI is between 20-23. Under 20 enters the anorexic realms, and over 25, you are significantly overweight beyond the ideal weight for your frame to carry and your organs to function at the optimal levels.

Let’s be brutally honest. Obesity is diagnosed by looking in a mirror or hearing an innocent child tell you that you are really fat. You know better than anyone the excess weight you are carrying around. Your reflection doesn’t lie. Clinically, you are diagnosed with obesity based on the BMI score. They can then measure the percentage of fat to muscle with any of the following tests:

  • Using skinfold callipers
  • Body circumference measures 
  • Hydrostatic weighing
  • Bioelectrical impedance
  • Air-displacement plethysmography
  • 3D body scans
  • X-rays

The Complications That Arise From Obesity

According to WHO, “Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death worldwide.

Being overweight can also lead to diabetes and its associated conditions, including blindness, limb amputations, and the need for dialysis. Rates of diabetes have quadrupled around the world since 1980.

Carrying excess weight can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, including osteoarthritis.

Obesity is also associated with some cancers, including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney and colon.

The risk of these noncommunicable diseases increases even when a person is only slightly overweight and grows more serious as the body mass index (BMI) climbs.

Obesity in childhood is associated with a wide range of serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of related illnesses. Studies have found that without intervention, children and adolescents with obesity will likely continue to be obese into adulthood.”

Obesity also has hidden physical and emotional complications that are not so readily visible but can have an equally devastating impact on the person’s life.

  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Becoming housebound
  • Shame

Why Are So Many People Obese In 2023

There is no ‘one answer’ that clearly defines the cause of obesity definitively. Unfortunately, there are as many causes of and for obesity as there are chocolates in a store to choose from. There is the obvious starting point with the individual overeating and not exercising enough to keep the calorie balance in check but let’s dig a little deeper for some other medically recognised causes:

  • Depression eating to self-medicate
  • Alcoholism
  • Self-loathing with underlying psychological imbalances to punish the body 
  • Gluttony for the sake of eating unnecessarily large portion sizes and servings
  • General laziness and apathy toward physical exercise, preferring a sedentary lifestyle.

The Controversial Causes

  • Genetically Modified Foods
  • Hormones added to livestock to boost meat production 
  • Secret addictive additives to foods by manufactures 
  • Convenience and prevalence of fast-food chains
  • High levels of hidden sugars, fats, carbohydrates, and salt 
  • The prevalence of processed meals and takeaway options over freshly made foods.
  • Portion sizes have significantly increased in volume
  • The increasing cost of purchasing organic, fresh, natural-state fruits, vegetables, and meats
  • Medication side effects
  • Conspiracy theories aplenty
  • Naturally occurring organ corruption and chemical imbalances in the body

How Bad Is The Global Obesity Problem

The island country of Nauru is the most obese in the world, with obesity affecting 61.0% of the adult population, according to the most recent data available from WHO in March 2020. Think about that for one minute. More than half of their entire adult population isn’t just carrying a few extra kilos, they are all obese, and they are not alone.

Every country on the planet is experiencing a growing number of obesity cases in children, teens and adults with each year that passes. Given the epidemic and its global spread, perhaps we need to stop fat shaming and start genuinely looking for causal factors outside of an individual’s gluttony. 

No two people are the same, and their weight gain can be attributed to different things, but one must stop and ask bigger questions. Why are so many people with such diverse cultural backgrounds and eating habits, spread across the globe, suddenly experiencing soaring numbers of obesity cases where there previously weren’t any general weight issues to be found?

Let alone obesity in the high numbers recorded in 2021 with the exponential trend increasing into 2022 and beyond.

Why Is Obesity So Bad For The Body

Weight gain doesn’t happen instantly. It accumulates over time. The act of gaining a few kilos won’t be immediately noticeable until your clothing becomes tight or doesn’t fit and sit correctly. At that point, you acknowledge you have gained some weight and have two options. Either do something to lose the weight and return to your healthiest self or ignore it and hope it vanishes on its own.

The latter never happens, and a few extra kilos quickly escalates. When we think about weight, we don’t think of kilos or pounds in the form of other relatable items that make it easier to want to deal with keeping excess weight off the body. It doesn’t sound like much if you say you have gained 5 kilograms.

When you convert five kilos to a bucket of oranges that weighs five kilos, and you pick up that bucket and carry it with you all day, you quickly become aware of how heavy five kilos is and what a difference it makes to your body’s ability to carry that extra weight.

If we scale it up to 20 kilos, you are carrying a bag of dry cement around with you. I could guarantee if you had to carry a physical bag of concrete for the day, you wouldn’t be living your best life. Your body would quickly throw up a series of objections in the form of aches, pains, muscle cramps, and heart palpitations, and you would quickly get short of breath and find travelling even short distances exhausting.  

If you can imagine the average person at five-feet-seven-inches should weigh between 60 and 68 kilos, and then add two bags of concrete weighing 20kg to each shoulder until you have added an extra 80kgs, you can see why being obese and morbidly obese poses so many potential life-threatening dangers to the person. The strain placed on the skeletal system and all the organs is tremendous, and they tend not to handle that unnecessary stress and strain well.

Prevention And Control Of Obesity

Many causes of a person being overweight and obese are preventable and can be reversible with lifestyle and the correct dietary changes. It won’t happen overnight and will take the same amount of time it took to accumulate to reduce.  

Rapid weight loss fads, diets and surgeries often result in the person gaining back all the lost weight and then some extra. Liposuction will remove the fat, but if the person doesn’t change their eating habits and lifestyle to correct the weight gain problem, the weight will rapidly accumulate once more.

No country has yet found a way to reverse the growth of the massive weight gain epidemic. Most people think of America as having the highest number of obese people and where the trend for the mass populace to become overweight originated.

 Sadly, there are only a handful of third-world countries that DO NOT have an obesity epidemic, and one has to do the logical science and maths on cause and effect to understand why countries that aren’t wealthy and don’t have access to food 24/7 don’t have an obesity epidemic. It is not rocket science. No one has ‘big bones’.

Although multiple factors are involved, the fundamental cause of obesity is gluttony in the form of an imbalance of calories consumed against the total number of calories expended.

 As globalism allowed franchised fast-food outlets into foreign countries, regional diets have changed in recent decades to include an increase in the consumption of energy-dense, salt-saturated foods high in fat and sugars. 

There has also been a decrease in physical activity due to an array of factors:

  • Global gaming and computer usage rise
  • Working from home 
  • Access to multiple forms of transportation that limits physical activity
  • Convenience stores that are one-stop shopping 24/7

Get Active And Live Your Best Life

 The best way to prevent and control weight gain and obesity is to have a healthy balance in your dietary foods and control the portion size and frequency of food consumption. It is a myth that you require three meals a day. The human body only requires one meal a day that contains a variety of healthy food groups with the occasional treat.

 The body also requires movement and physical activity to burn glucose stores and prevent type 2 diabetes onset. The added vitamin D from the sun and fresh air for the lungs as you walk outdoors in a park or woodland allows you to take in nature, relax and centre yourself. All the things the body requires to function at its optimal capacity and enables you to live the best life possible.

First Aid Skills For Life

You might wonder what First Aid skills have to do with obesity, and the answer is everything. When you gain First Aid certification with a Registered Training Organisation, you learn a range of skills from CPR to basic First Aid for various situations. 

The top three life-threatening medical conditions that accompany obesity are:

  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke

All three have obvious signs and symptoms and are classed as a medical emergency that requires First Aid treatment. If you don’t know what that treatment should be, now is the time to take a nationally recognised and accredited FACE First Aid Course.

If you think your First Aid skills are pretty good, take our First Aid Quiz and test yourself and your friends. While there, check out our FACE Blog page for a range of interesting First Aid and medically related topics for motivation, inspiration and general knowledge.

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