Obesity and being overweight is caused by a build-up of body fat, which occurs due to eating too much food or eating foods that are high in calories, and not moving the body enough to burn off the excess calories. On average, a woman needs to consume around 2000 calories per day, and a man needs around 2500, however, this will differ from person to person depending on how active they are.
Excess body fat and being overweight happens gradually, and it takes years for a person to become obese. The dietary causes of obesity may include:
• Eating too much saturated fat i.e. in fatty meat, processed foods, baked goods, full fat dairy (cream, cheese, whole milk), takeaways and fast foods, ‘junk food’ (crisps, sweet foods)
• Eating too much sugar i.e. biscuits, sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks, fruit juice, ice cream, milkshake
• Drinking too much alcohol, which contains lots of calories
• Eating too much i.e. larger portion sizes
There are lots of reasons why people may have poor dietary habits that lead to becoming overweight or obese. For example, some people eat for comfort rather than to satisfy hunger. Some people may have grown up in a family that did not eat a healthy diet. Some people eat out at restaurants or have lots of take-away food and ready meals because they feel they have little time to cook or are unable to cook. Many people are unaware of the risks of becoming overweight or obese, and how this may affect their life and health, and do not understand nutrition. Some people are more likely to have issues with weight gain than others. Genetics may also play a part.
If you need more information on what a healthy diet is, download the Eatwell Guide or speak to your GP.
Not getting enough exercise may also be what causes obesity. As a society, we are increasingly more sedentary which, coupled with an unhealthier diet, is causing the obesity epidemic. Exercise and keeping the body active rather than sitting or lying down, helps burn calories and use up energy from food, helping to reduce the amount of fat stored in cells, and thus reduce overall body fat and body mass.
Childhood obesity is caused by similar factors as adult obesity, and children are more likely to be overweight or obese when:
• They eat unhealthily
• The family eats unhealthily
• There’s a lack of physical activity
• They sit down a lot, watching TV/playing video games/screen time
Occasionally, if a child is overweight or obese, this may be due to hormonal problems or other conditions. Some children who have autism or learning disability may have issues with their weight and are more likely to be obese than children without these conditions, but it’s not clear yet why this is the case. It may be due to misunderstanding hunger feelings, habitual eating, picky eating (only liking high fat or high sugar foods) or even caused by genetic factors.