Many of us don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between the terms “overweight” and “obese”. These two terms are often used interchangeably, however, do the terms overweight and obesity really mean the same thing? Overweight or obese, is there any difference at all? If you’re overweight, does it mean you’re obese as well?
To define both overweight and obesity, BMI, or body mass index, is used. Your weight and height are what’s used to calculate this. Someone with a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight.
Once you pass that BMI of 29.9 and have a BMI of 30.0, you will be medically diagnosed with obesity. If your BMI gets to 40.0 or more, you are now considered to be morbidly obese. It’s important to clearly understand being overweight is medically distinct from being obese.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has an easy to use BMI calculator that you can use here: Calculate Your BMI – Standard BMI Calculator (nih.gov)
Obesity and Overweight Facts
- Obesity is preventable in most instances.
- In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of this number, more than 650 million adults were obese.
- In 2016, more than 340 million children and adolescents between the ages of five to nineteen were overweight or obese.
- 39 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2020.
- Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for chronic diseases that may shorten your life.
- Since 1975, the rate of obesity worldwide has tripled.
- Doctors and other health care providers can work with exercise professionals, psychologists, and dietitians to improve the chances of successful long-term weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.
- If you’re obese, you can enjoy health benefits and lower the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and blood pressure even if you lose only five to ten percent of your initial weight.
- Getting to an ideal weight is less important than achieving and maintaining a “healthier weight,” which should be considered the treatment goal.
- You will want to be committed to regular exercise, increased physical activity, and a change in your eating lifestyle habits in order to combat obesity. There’s no easy “fix” for obesity when it comes to treatment and more specifically, quick fix diets and diet foods are not the long-term answer.
- It’s crucial to view your commitment as a lifestyle change for the long term as you’re likely to regain your weight within about five years according to statistics. Obesity has a high relapse rate, and it can be difficult to treat for the long term.
- Obesity is a risk factor for several cancers.
- Obesity can make you more likely to develop chronic illnesses like gallstones, heart disease, other cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It’s a chronic medical disease and not just a cosmetic consideration.
- Excess body fat is an indication of obesity.
- You can be overweight but not obese.
Fear of Gaining Weight
Obesophobia is the term for the fear of gaining weight. If you’re obsessively frightened about the prospect of gaining weight or becoming obese, you may be obesophobic or considered to have obesophobia. Left untreated, this may lead to the development of an eating disorder.
While obesophobia can be diagnosed among men and women of all ages, it’s most often common with women in their teens. Left untreated, there’s a tendency to develop a strong dislike for and judgment against people who are overweight.
Symptoms of Obesophobia
How do you know if someone is obesophobic? Most people who are suffering from this phobia tend to adhere to a strict diet, avoid social situations involving high-calorie foods and would prefer to bring their own meals to gatherings. They have been known to have panic attacks if they gain weight, and even talking about weight gain can make them very uncomfortable.
People who are obesophobic may also:
- Be malnourished or underweight
- Avoid eating
- Weigh themselves frequently
- Obsessively count calories
- Use diuretics or laxatives beyond normal usage
- Exercise too much and too often as a payback for eating more than they think they should.
These symptoms can also be exhibited by obesophobic people when the topic of weight gain is discussed or they gain weight:
- A strong urge to urinate
- Abdominal pain or nausea
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
What are the Causes?
Weight stigma, perfectionism, anxiety disorders and traumatic personal experience are three possible causes of obesophobia. You may start discriminating against people who are overweight, and your fear of gaining weight can be worsened by the media praises of a particular appearance people should have. If you were teased by your peers or family members as a child, this negative or traumatic memory may cause you to become obesophobic. You also have a greater chance of developing this phobia around eating or irrational fear of gaining weight if a close family member had it as well.
How is it Treated?
Obesophobia is most often treated by a mental healthcare provider. The presence of an underlying eating disorder and the level of intensity of your fear of gaining weight are what determine your treatment plan. Here are the three common treatments for obesophobia.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy is intended to help you learn how to cope and identify these harmful, irrational thinking patterns that revolve around gaining weight. They will help you learn to manage your negative emotions associate with the possibility of weight gain.
- Exposure therapy: Just as it sounds, this therapy attempts to make you face what you fear the most, eating. This is done in a safe, controlled environment. You’ll be exposed to higher-calorie foods slowly and gradually.
- Medications: Anxiety related to obesophobia can be also be managed and potentially reduced by beta-blockers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications.
Other ways to work toward reducing the anxiety associated with obesophobia are to keep a journal, practicing meditation, exercise regularly, and to join a support group.
Helping You Achieve Major Wellness!
Cheryl A Major, CNWC
I’m author, health guru, and entrepreneur Cheryl A Major, and I would love to connect with you. If you’re new to the world of creating a healthier menu and wellness plan for yourself, please check out my signature program The Anti-Diet Solution. Learn how to lose weight without dieting. You may lose a whole lot more…like depression, which is exactly what happened to me!
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