What is Obesity?

What-Is-Obesity is here to help answer all your questions about obesity, from definitions of obesity, morbid obesity and bariatric procedures and treatments, all through to different forms of obesity treatments and preventative measures. Here at What-is-Obesity, our experts will describe what we currently know about the causes and prevention of obesity and what we can do to manage it.


Scientists and obesity specialists are making constant discoveries about obesity and the ways to manage it. There is also a lot of misinformation or ill-considered advice floating around, especially from people who do not understand the difference between being overweight and being obese or morbidly obese, and what that necessitates in different treatment.
While treatments for obesity are still developing, there is no simple cure that will work for everyone. The best solution for any individual case of obesity needs to be tailored to that person’s lifestyle, weight, genetic dispositions, dietary preferences, level of exercise, and other conditions that are too numerous to list comfortably here.

Defining obesity

The World Health Organization’s current criteria for Body Mass Index (BMI) are considered the universal standard for defining levels of overweight and obese individuals.

So what is BMI? Your Body Mass Index is simply your weight in kilograms, divided by the square of your height in centimeters. What-is-Obesity has a simple to use BMI calculator so that you can work out your own BMI.

Remember that BMI is an inexact guide for determining overall health. Someone can weigh more than an average person and still be healthy if, for example, they consciously gain large amounts of muscle for use in sport or bodybuilding competitions. However, for the vast majority of the populace, BMI is an effective indicator of overall health.

A Body Mass Index of less than 18.5 is considered a signifier of malnutrition or being significantly underweight. A BMI of between 18.5 to 24 is within a normal range, from between 25 to 29 is considered overweight, and above 29 indicates obesity.

What is morbid obesity?

Morbid obesity has several widely accepted definitions. You would be considered morbidly obese if you:

  • Have a BMI in excess of 40
  • Weigh more than 100lb over your ideal body weight
  • Are suffering severe health problems directly attributable to your weight, like high blood pressure or diabetes
  • You are unable to achieve a healthier weight after sustained dietary efforts under medical supervision

Morbid obesity rapidly shortens your life expectancy and increases your risks of chronic and fatal diseases. Morbid obesity usually requires serious medical intervention by bariatric doctors, using specialized bariatric equipment to support you while undergoing the medical procedures, and often requires special palliative care by trained bariatric nurses and support staff.

What are the health concerns of obesity?
Obesity and excess weight are the causes of more illness than any other medical condition. They exacerbate existing or underlying conditions and can trigger new ones entirely on their own.

Even in the world’s poorest countries, obesity is rising rapidly and causing concern amongst the world’s health professionals.

Were obesity reaches epidemic proportions, it can put massive strain on countries’ health systems, as well as debilitating workers by causing ill health from afflictions like diabetes and heart disease.

As more countries become industrialized, one expected trend over the next few decades is that more people will need to see a doctor or bariatric medical specialist for diseases related to being overweight than from medical issues caused by cancer.

Some of the medical conditions that can arise from obesity are:

  • Heart disease
  • Adult-onset diabetes
  • Vascular disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Arthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Gastrointestinal complications

Costs of obesity to society
The costs of obesity to individuals and society are massive. Nearing 10% of all healthcare expenses in the US are spent on treatments directly associated with obesity.

This alarming statistic only accounts for the direct cost incurred in the medical system, and doesn’t cover things like economic losses suffered by individuals and companies when employees cannot work or die due to obesity related illness.

Nor does it take into consideration the cost of afflictions which are strongly associated but not solely linked to being overweight, like high blood pressure, arthritis, immune system stress, and early death.

More obesity articles
Read through the rest of What-Is-Obesity.com’s articles to find all the information you need on diagnosing and managing obesity, our recommendations for bariatric treatment and surgery, and comparison of the different approaches you can take to managing obesity.