According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity is defined as "the condition of an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass." 1 A more commonly-known definition of obesity is that of an individual's weight being 30% or more above what is considered normal as defined by a standardly-accepted height/weight chart (e.g. The National Center for Health Statistics or Metropolitan Life Insurance Company). Overweight and obesity are also commonly determined by calculating an individual's body mass index.

Morbid obesity means that the individual weighs anywhere from 50 to 100% percent more than normal weight or they are more than 100 pounds over normal weight. Morbid obesity literally means that the amount of overweight a person is carrying is life-threatening, due to its related health risks. Morbid obesity also often significantly hinders or prevents an individual from accomplishing many day-to-day functions. Surgical procedures like gastric bypass are often seriously considered as a weight control option for those who are morbidly obese.


Fats are organic compounds that are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They are a source of energy in foods. Fats belong to a group of substances called lipids, and come in liquid or solid form. All fats are combinations of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

Function of Fatness

Fat is one of the three nutrients (along with protein and carbohydrates) that supply calories to the body. Fat provides 9 calories per gram, more than twice the number provided by carbohydrates or protein.

Fat is essential for the proper functioning of the body. Fats provide essential fatty acids, which are not made by the body and must be obtained from food. The essential fatty acids are linoleic and linolenic acid. They are important for controlling inflammation, blood clotting, and brain development.

Fat serves as the storage substance for the body's extra calories. It fills the fat cells (adipose tissue) that help insulate the body. Fats are also an important energy source. When the body has used up the calories from carbohydrate, which occurs after the first 20 minutes of exercise, it begins to depend on the calories from fat.

Healthy skin and hair are maintained by fat. Fat helps the body absorb and move the vitamins A, D, E, and K through the bloodstream.

Types of Fatness

You might see ads for foods that say they're "low-fat" or "fat-free." Lower-fat diets have been recommended for health and to help people lose weight. But nutrition experts are finding that fats are more complicated and that some kinds of fat are actually good for your health. As a bonus, fat in food helps people feel full, so they don't eat as much.

But that doesn't mean a high-fat diet will be good for you. And some fats are better than others. Here are the three major types:

Unsaturated fats: These are found in plant foods and fish. These may be good for heart health. The best of the unsaturated fats are found in olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, albacore tuna, and salmon.

Saturated fats: These fats are found in meat and other animal products, such as butter, cheese, and all milk except skim. Saturated fats are also in palm and coconut oils, which are often used in commercial baked goods (the kind you buy at the store). Eating too much saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.

Trans fats: These fats are found in margarine, especially the sticks. Trans fats are also found in certain foods that you buy at the store or in a restaurant, such as snack foods, baked goods, and fried foods. When you see "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils on an ingredient list, the food contains trans fats. Like saturated fats, eating too much can raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.

What Causes of Obesity?


Gone is the simplistic notion that obesity is caused by a lack of willpower when it comes to food and laziness when it comes to exercise. Although the basis of obesity is not only fully understood, the condition has been recognized since 1985 as a chronic disease caused by a complex set of factors.


Studies show that obesity has a strong genetic component. If one or both of your parents are obese, your obesity risk is raised because genes determine your body shape and, to some extent, your weight. Just because you are vulnerable to obesity, however, doesn't mean your fate is sealed. You can defy Mother Nature by learning to control your diet and exercise habits. In certain cases, medication or surgery also can help.

Fatty Food

Hot dogs, Big Macs, french fries, macaroni and cheese, nachos, potato chips, ice cream -- all these high-fat American favorites are cheap, accessible and delicious. Is it any surprise that fatty foods are contributing to the soaring obesity rates in this country?

Life Style

If you spend most of your time at a desk or on a sofa, your risk for obesity is increased. Likewise, the risk is higher for people whose fat intake makes up more than 30 percent of their daily caloric intake. Studies show that people who get 20 to 30 minutes of exercise most days are less likely than sedentary people to be obese. Your obesity risk is lower still if you combine an active lifestyle with a low-fat, low-calorie diet.

Metabolic rate

This term refers to the rate at which your body uses food as a source of energy. If your metabolism tends to be slow, you are more likely to store excess calories in the form of fat. A slow metabolism means you probably need to work harder at losing weight. However, your efforts may ultimately increase your metabolic rate. Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. So reducing fat and building muscle through weight-bearing exercise can help you burn calories more efficiently.


Some people overeat (binge) when they feel stressed out or depressed. (Research shows that about 30 percent of obese people are binge eaters.) According to psychotherapist Shelia Harbet, Ph.D., binge eating temporarily relieves the stress of negative feelings. Unfortunately, bingeing is usually followed by feelings of guilt, shame, disgust and depression. "Often, binge-eating episodes are followed by resolutions by the compulsive overeater to stop bingeing and adhere to diets," says Harbet, a professor in the Department of Health Sciences at California State University, Northridge. "These resolutions are eventually broken, filling compulsive eaters with guilt and depression, leading them back to binge eating again."

A diet high in simple carbohydrates

The role of carbohydrates in weight gain is not clear. Carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, which in turn stimulate insulin release by the pancreas, and insulin promotes the growth of fat tissue and can cause weight gain. Some scientists believe that simple carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, desserts, soft drinks, beer, wine, etc.) contribute to weight gain because they are more rapidly absorbed into the blood stream than complex carbohydrates (pasta, brown rice, grains, vegetables, raw fruits, etc.) and thus cause a more pronounced insulin release after meals than complex carbohydrates. This higher insulin release, some scientists believe, contribute to weight gain.


Medications associated with weight gain include certain antidepressants (medications used in treating depression), anti-convulsants (medications used in controlling seizures such as carbamazepine and valproate), diabetes medications (medications used in lowering blood sugar such as insulin, sulfonylureas and thiazolidinediones), certain hormones such as oral contraceptives and most corticosteroids such as Prednisone. Weight gain may also be seen with some high blood pressure medications and antihistamines.

Reasons for excess weight include:

  • Emotional issues—Fear, Hidden anger, Resistance to forgive, Need for protection, Running away from feelings. Insecurity, Oversensitivity, Self-rejection. Seeking fulfillment, Childhood trauma—sexual abuse, corporal punishment and verbal abuse.

  • Diet high in carbohydrates

  • Thyroid imbalance

  • Insulin imbalance

  • Adrenal problems

  • Water retention—kidney/heart malfunction (edema, phlegm accumulation)

  • Weak digestive function

  • Blood sugar swings (glycogen/insulin imbalance or hypoglycemic/diabetes)


Excess weight and obesity are characterized by having at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Insulin Resistance (when the body can't absorb blood sugar or insulin properly) - elevated fasting insulin

  • Abdominal fat - in men this means a 40 inch waist or larger, in women 35 inches or larger

  • High blood sugar levels - at least 110 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) after fasting

  • High triglycerides - at least 150 mg/dL in the blood stream

  • Low HDL (the "good" cholesterol) - less than 40 mg/dL

  • Pro-thrombotic state (e.g. high fibrinogen or plasminogen activator inhibitor in the blood)

  • Blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher

Risk factors

Factors that increase your risk of being obese include:


Regular consumption of high-calorie foods, such as fast foods, contributes to weight gain. High-fat foods are dense in calories. Loading up on soft drinks, candy and desserts also promotes weight gain. Foods and beverages like these are high in sugar and calories.


Sedentary people are more likely to gain weight because they don't burn calories through physical activities.

Psychological factors

Some people overeat to cope with problems or deal with emotions, such as stress or boredom.


If one or both of your parents are obese, your chances of being overweight are greater. Your genes may affect the amount of body fat you store and where that fat is distributed. But, your genetic makeup doesn't guarantee that you'll be obese.


As you get older, you tend to be less active. In addition, the amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease with age. This lower muscle mass leads to a decrease in metabolism. These changes also reduce calorie needs. If you don't decrease your caloric intake as you age, you'll likely gain weight.

Cigarette smoking

Smokers tend to gain weight after quitting. This weight gain may be partially due to nicotine's ability to raise the rate at which your body burns calories (metabolic rate). When smokers stop, they burn fewer calories. Smoking also affects taste; quitting smoking makes food taste and smell better. Former smokers often gain weight because they eat more after they quit. However, cigarette smoking is still considered a greater threat to your health than is extra weight.


During pregnancy a woman's weight necessarily increases. Some women find this weight difficult to lose after the baby is born. This weight gain may contribute to the development of obesity in women.


Corticosteroids and tricyclic antidepressants, in particular, can lead to weight gain. So can some high blood pressure and antipsychotic medications.

Medical problems

Uncommonly, obesity can be traced to a medical cause, such as low thyroid function, excess production of hormones by the adrenal glands (Cushing's syndrome) or other hormonal imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. A low metabolic rate is rarely a cause of obesity. A medical problem, such as arthritis, can also lead to decreased activity, which can result in weight gain.


Drinking alcohol adds calories to your diet — just one regular beer is about 150 calories. If you don't cut back somewhere else, adding just one beer daily could cause a weight gain of more than one pound a month. Additionally, excessive drinking can stimulate your appetite and make you less likely to control portion sizes.

Environment: The environment plays a vital role in causing of obesity to the person. So, healthy environments should be creating to avoid obesity.

Behavior: Adopting healthy habits for lifelong weight control purposes includes regular physical activity and nutritious eating.


If you're obese, you're more likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems. These may include:

High blood pressure
As you put on weight, you gain mostly fatty tissue. Just like other parts of the body, this tissue relies on oxygen and nutrients in your blood to survive. As demand for oxygen and nutrients increases, the amount of blood circulating through your body also increases. More blood traveling through your arteries means added pressure on your artery walls. Weight gain also typically increases the level of insulin, a blood-sugar-controlling hormone, in your blood. The increase in insulin is associated with retention of sodium and water, which increases blood volume. In addition, excess weight often is associated with an increase in your heart rate and a reduction in the capacity of your blood vessels to transport blood. All of these factors can increase blood pressure.

Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes. Excess fat makes your body resistant to insulin, the hormone that helps your body maintain a proper level of a sugar (glucose) in your blood. If your body is resistant to insulin, your blood sugar is high — which isn't good — and leads to negative health effects.

Abnormal blood fats
A diet high in saturated fats — red meat and fried foods, for example — can lead to obesity as well as elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol. Obesity is also associated with low levels of high-density lipoprotein ("good") cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides. Triglycerides are the form in which most fat exists in food as well as in your body. Over time, abnormal blood fats can contribute to atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty deposits in arteries throughout your body. Atherosclerosis puts you at risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.

Coronary artery disease
This is a form of cardiovascular disease. It results from the buildup of fatty deposits in arteries that supply your heart. Over time these deposits can narrow your heart's arteries, so less blood flows to your heart. Diminished blood flow to your heart can cause chest pain (angina). Complete blockage can lead to a heart attack.

Obesity is associated with atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty deposits in arteries throughout your body, including arteries in your brain. If a blood clot forms in a narrowed artery in your brain, it can block blood flow to an area of your brain. The result is a stroke. Being obese raises your risk of a stroke.

This joint disorder most often affects the knees, hips and lower back. Excess weight puts extra pressure on these joints and wears away the cartilage that protects them, resulting in joint pain and stiffness.

Sleep apnea
This serious condition causes a person to stop breathing for short periods during sleep and to snore heavily. The upper airway is blocked during sleep, which results in frequent awakening at night and subsequent drowsiness during the day. Most people with sleep apnea are overweight, which contributes to a large neck and narrowed airways.

Many types of cancer are associated with being overweight. In women, these include cancers of the breast, uterus, cervix, ovaries and gallbladder. Overweight men have a particularly higher risk of cancers of the colon, rectum and the prostate.

Fatty liver disease
When you're obese, fats can build up in your liver. This fatty accumulation can lead to inflammation and scarring of the liver. Such scarring can cause cirrhosis of the liver, even if you're not a heavy alcohol drinker.

Gallbladder disease

Because overweight people may produce more cholesterol, which can be deposited in the gallbladder, the risk of gallstones is higher in obese people. Fast weight loss — more than 3 pounds a week — also can increase the risk of gallstones.


People who are overweight suffer from one more irksome problem piles. Constipation is a favorable condition to cause piles among over weight persons. This is more so with those cause piles among overweight persons. This is more so with those overweight persons who use the western type of toilets instead of squatting position. Sitting for long periods increases piles.


Whether you're at risk of becoming obese, currently overweight or at a healthy weight, you can take steps to prevent obesity and the associated health problems.

Not surprisingly, the steps to prevent weight gain are the same as the steps to lose weight: Daily exercise, a healthy menu, a long-term commitment and constant vigilance.

Exercise regularly: One of the most important things you can do to prevent weight gain is to exercise regularly. Studies suggest that it takes 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity daily to keep the pounds off. Moderately intense physical activities include fast walking and swimming.

Enjoy healthy meals and snacks: Focus on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Keep saturated fat low and limit sweets and alcohol. Remember that no one food offers all the nutrients you need. Choose a variety of foods throughout the day. It's not out of the question to eat and enjoy small amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods on occasion. But the main thing is that you choose foods that promote a healthy weight and good health more often than you choose foods that don't.

Know and avoid the food traps that cause you to eat: Know which situations trigger out-of-control eating for you. The best way to identify food traps and emotionally triggered eating is to keep a journal. For as long as you find it helpful, write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you're feeling and how hungry you are. After a while, you should see some patterns emerge. Once you know these patterns and triggers, you can plan ahead and develop a strategy for how you'll handle these types of situations. This will help you understand and stay in control of your eating behaviors.

Monitor your weight regularly: People who weigh themselves at least once a week are more successful in keeping off the pounds. Monitoring your weight can tell you whether your efforts are working and can help you detect small weight gains before they become larger.

Be consistent: Sticking to your healthy-weight plan during the week, on the weekends, and amidst vacation and holidays as much as possible increases your chances of long-term success.

If you really want to prevent weight gain, the best approach is to focus on lifestyle changes and develop an eating plan that's enjoyable, yet healthy and low in calories. This approach results in weight loss that you can live with — that is, that you can maintain over a long period of time.

Benefits of Weight Loss

  • Lower blood glucose if your blood glucose is higher than normal

  • Lower blood pressure if your blood pressure is higher than normal

  • Improve your blood fats if they are not in a healthy range

  • Lighten the stress on your hips, knees, ankles, and feet

  • Move around easier and breathe easier

  • Have more energy

  • Be more attractive to your partner

  • Play more with your children or grandchildren

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