What is obesity?

A person is considered to be obese when they are carrying excess body weight in relation to their height; this is usually determined by the body mass index (BMI) which is worked out by comparing your height to your weight; a healthy BMI should be between 18.5 and 25, a reading of over 30 will indicate obesity. It is worth noting that the BMI is not always an accurate indicator of a healthy weight; professional rugby players for example will probably be identified as obese because of their heavy weight even though they are physically extremely fit and healthy.


In accordance with figures across the developed world, statistics concerning obesity in Scotland are increasingly concerning. Recent research suggests that over 50% of men and 40% of women are above the recommended weight for their age and height, while almost 20% were classified as obese.

Causes of obesity

Obesity is primarily caused by a poor diet and a lack of regular exercise. Weight gain or loss is a simple equation: when the body consumes more calories than it burns or uses up, it puts on weight. It is recommended that adult males take in 2,500 calories per day and adult females consume 2,000 calories per day. In some cases there is a medical reason behind obesity which may involve abnormal hormone secretion or an underactive thyroid for example.

Effects of obesity

Short-term effects

In the short-term, the effects of obesity may be fairly harmless; they are mainly physical changes and include disturbed sleep, sweating, difficulties with breathing and feeling tired and lethargic. In the long-term however, obesity can severely hamper lives and cause physical, social and mental hardship for many sufferers.

Long-term effects

Mentally, most people experience a lack of self-esteem and feel uncomfortable and nervous in social situations. Many obese people feel isolated and alone; consequently they turn to food to comfort them which makes them gain even more weight. Counselling and therapy may help to identify the source of unhappiness and help people to develop an alternative way to deal with pressures, such as exercise.

Physically, obesity puts a huge strain on the body and actively contributes to a host of serious medical conditions. The health of the heart is most at risk when a person puts on weight, as it struggles to pump blood around the body with the additional pressure; eating fatty foods also leads to a build-up of fat in the arteries which obstructs the flow of blood and makes it even harder to pump blood. Obesity can also cause severe muscle aches, increased blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes and a high risk of heart failure and strokes.

Preventing obesity

In the vast majority of cases, obesity can be treated by adopting a healthier diet and exercising frequently. Most obese people have diets which involve the consumption of too many calories and a high proportion of fatty and sugary foods. It is important to moderate the intake of these types of foods as they will cause you to gain weight and contribute to serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Exercise will help to burn calories, tone muscles and keep the organs healthy and functioning effectively.

Benefits of a healthy lifestyle

Having a healthy lifestyle will not only make the body lose weight but will also reduce the risk of illness, boost self-esteem, reduce stress and increase energy and motivation levels.