Obesity is a problem. And the health problems it causes make it even more of a problem. However, it is both preventable and curable.

Try and pay attention to how you feel depending on what you eat

What is obesity?

Obesity is a term used to define someone who is overweight to an extent that is likely to damage their health, with a high degree of body fat. Currently the number of people in the UK deemed obese is growing.

Someone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 is obese.

What is a BMI?

BMI = our weight in kilograms, divided by our height in metres, squared. For example, if we weigh 65kg and we are 1.68 metres tall, our BMI is 65 divided by (1.68 x 1.68) = 23

< 19 Underweight

20-25 Healthy

25-30 Overweight

> 30 Obese

Why does it matter?

It's about more than looking good on the dance floor. If we are obese we are more likely to get nasty illnesses like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and obese people are also more likely to suffer with depression and arthritis. Even some cancers are linked to being obese. The reality is that obese people are more likely to die earlier, which is awful. Especially when you know that it is preventable.

Why does it happen?

There is only one cause of obesity:

We eat more than we need, and we store the extra calories as fat.

Whether that's a result of not being educated about which foods are good for you, not exercising, or taking comfort in food because of other problems, it's eating food in excess of our body's needs that makes us fat.

I think I'm obese, what can I do?

We can't change our genes but we can all eat better and exercise more. Not just so that we look and feel fabulous, but so that we stay that way.

But I hate diets, what should I do?

Food is fabulous. No one enjoys going without. And crash diets don't work - we feel terrible during the diet: starving, weak and bad-tempered. Then the weight goes straight back on once we've stopped.

So, be sensible and aim for a gradual improvement where you eat more of the right things (like fresh fruit and veg), while cutting down on the rubbish (like crisps, chocolate and processed food). Don't deny yourself treats, just eat well and make good choices when you can. But at the same time try to face up to the problem. Being willing to make some realistic changes is half the battle.

The NHS tells us that a healthy diet should consist of a mixture of:

  • Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Wholegrain carbohydrates such as brown bread, brown rice and wholewheat pasta
  • Some milk and dairy products
  • Small amounts of foods that are high in fat, like butter. Remember - not all fats are the same. Good fats from things like oily fish and nuts are much better for you than fats from chocolate!

Try and pay attention to how you feel depending on what you eat. You'll soon notice that the better you eat, the better you feel, and the better everything else seems as a result.

And I hate the gym, what should I do?

Not everyone is a lycra bunny. Thankfully, our body's not fussy. Move as much as possible, as often as possible. Have a look at our page on fitness for more ideas.

And finally...

Go easy on yourself. Curves are gorgeous and talking incessantly about calories is boring. Eat well and you'll move well, and obesity will not be a problem for you.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.


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