In 2016, around 30% of adults in the United States were estimated to be obese (
Many people blame obesity on poor dietary choices and inactivity, but it’s not always that simple.
Other factors can have powerful effects on body weight and obesity, some of which are outside of a person’s control.
These include genetics, environmental factors, certain medical conditions, and more.
This article lists 9 compelling reasons why obesity is not just a choice.
Health is especially important during early life, as this affects your health later on. In fact, a lot can be determined while the fetus is still in the womb (
A mother’s diet and lifestyle choices matter a great deal and may influence a baby’s future behavior and body composition.
Furthermore, the genes you inherit from your parents may determine your susceptibility to weight gain (
Though genetics and early life factors are not exclusively responsible for obesity, they contribute to the problem by predisposing people to weight gain.
About 40% of children with excess weight will continue to be heavy during their teenage years, and 75−80% of teenagers with obesity will maintain this condition into adulthood (
SUMMARY Genetics, a mother’s weight, and family history can all increase the likelihood of childhood and adult obesity.
It’s important to note that these factors are generally not made by choice of either the mother or baby yet seem to be linked to the child’s obesity risk.
Additionally, forming healthy dietary and exercise habits during childhood may be the most valuable prevention against obesity and lifestyle-related diseases.
If young children develop a taste for healthy foods instead of processed junk foods, it helps them maintain normal weight throughout their life.
SUMMARY Certain childhood factors may affect your risk of obesity later on. These include childbirth method, breastfeeding, and childhood dietary and exercise habits.
Many medical conditions can only be treated with pharmaceutical drugs.
These drugs may increase your appetite, reduce your metabolism, or even alter your body’s ability to burn fat, increasing your rate of fat storage.
Additionally, many common medical conditions can predispose you to weight gain. A key example is hypothyroidism.
SUMMARY Weight gain is a common side effect of many medications, including diabetes drugs, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.
Hunger and uncontrollable eating are not just caused by greediness or lack of willpower.
These hormones function improperly in many people with obesity, which alters their eating behavior and causes a strong physiological drive to eat more.
Your brain has a reward center, which starts secreting dopamine and other feel-good chemicals when you eat.
This is the reason why most people enjoy eating. This system also ensures that you eat enough food to get all the energy and nutrients you need.
SUMMARY Hunger is controlled by powerful hormones. These hormones often function improperly in people with obesity, which causes a strong physiological drive to eat more, resulting in weight gain.
Leptin is a very important hormone that helps regulate appetite and metabolism (
It’s produced by fat cells and sends a signal to the part of your brain that tells you to stop eating.
The more fat contained in fat cells, the more leptin they produce. People with obesity produce a lot of leptin.
Thus, even though your body produces a lot of leptin, your brain doesn’t see or recognize it. When your brain doesn’t receive the leptin signal, it wrongly thinks that it’s starving, even if it has more than enough body fat stored (
Hunger is increased, and you burn fewer calories to prevent starvation. Trying to exert willpower against the leptin-driven starvation signal is almost impossible for many people.
SUMMARY Leptin resistance is common in people with obesity. Your brain doesn’t sense the leptin that is produced and thinks that you’re starving. This causes a powerful physiological drive to eat more.
In modern society, you’re confronted with endless advertisements, health statements, nutrition claims, and unhealthy foods.
Despite the importance of nutrition, children and adults are generally not taught how to eat properly.
Nutrition education is very important, especially when forming the dietary and lifestyle habits that you bring into adulthood.
SUMMARY Teaching children the importance of proper nutrition is important, but nutrition education is generally lacking in society.
Some foods can be downright addictive.
This is more common than you may think.
When you become addicted to something, you lose your freedom of choice. Your brain chemistry starts making decisions for you.
SUMMARY Junk foods can be addictive, and up to 25% of people with obesity or excess weight may live with food addiction.
Your digestive system hosts an immense number of bacteria, which are known as your gut microbiota.
Many studies show that these bacteria are incredibly important for overall health.
Interestingly, people with obesity tend to have different gut bacteria than those with a normal weight (
SUMMARY People with obesity have different gut bacteria than people with a normal weight. This may cause people with obesity to store more fat.
In some areas, buying healthy food is simply not an option.
These areas are often called food deserts and located in urban neighborhoods or rural towns without ready access to healthy, affordable food.
This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets, and healthy food providers within walking distance.
Those living in these regions are often poor and may not have access to a vehicle to travel far to buy groceries.
An inability to buy healthy and fresh foods limits your diet substantially and increases your risk of problems like obesity.
Other environmental factors may play a role in obesity as well, including artificial light from electric light bulbs, computers, phones, and televisions.
Even though the link between screen use and obesity has been well established, most studies chalk this up to a lack of exercise.
Animal studies suggest that artificial light may alter the inner circadian clock, making rodents more susceptible to obesity and metabolic syndrome (
SUMMARY Several environmental factors can make you more susceptible to obesity, including living in a food desert and exposure to artificial light.
When it comes to obesity, multiple factors are at play, many of which are beyond your control, including genetics, childhood habits, medical conditions, and hormones.
Though becoming overweight or obese may not be a choice and shedding excess weight may be difficult, you can lose weight if you choose to.