Weight is a preoccupation in our society. Just about everyone is concerned about being overweight. The media constantly send messages about the obesity epidemic and the health risks associated with obesity. People who are obese are at increased risk for developing a number of serious medical conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. There are also negative social connotations associated with obesity. No one wants to be obese, but a large proportion of American’s are obese today than ever before.
When we consume food, our bodies use the calories from the food to produce energy. Much of the energy that our bodies produce and use comes from the carbohydrates we consume. Obesity, or overweight, occurs when over a period of time a person consumes more calories than he or she expends. These excess calories are stored in adipose tissue and become our stored body fat.
Our bodies break down the foods we eat into sugars, primarily glucose. The sugars are then broken down further, and energy is released during this process. In the event that the body does not have a sufficient amount of glucose, it then breaks down the fat molecules in our stored body fat.
Our bodies are designed to protect us from starvation, and that is why excess calories consumed are stored as fat. When our bodies break down the stored fat molecules in our cells and use them for energy, our overall body fat percentage is decreased.
During times when access to food was much more uncertain than it is today, our bodies could self-sustain by converting stored fat to energy. However, these days, it is much more likely that we will eat enough food on a regular basis that our bodies will never have to tap into fat reserves in order to function.
When a person regularly consumes more calories than his or her body uses for energy for an extended period of time, body fat increases. Obesity is the state of having body fat at a level high enough that the health risks of being overweight outweigh any advantages that might be associated with having a ready energy supply.
As different people have different body types, there is no specific guideline for the exact weight and body fat percentage that signifies that a person has crossed the line into obesity. A health or fitness professional can help you determine if you are obese, and to what degree. Making this determination involves calculating your body mass index (BMI) and knowing your general body type.