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What is Obesity?

Obesity is one of our nation's most critical health problems; each year, hundreds of thousands of people are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening mental and physical complications as a direct consequence of their obesity. Appropriate treatment not only improves individuals' quality of life, it can save lives.

The consequences of obesity can be severe. If left untreated, an obese person is at pronounced risk of developing serious mental disorders, such as depression, personality disorders, or anxiety disorders as a direct consequence of their obesity. For many, obesity leads to chronic and often life-threatening eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. People who are obese are also at much greater risk of developing a variety of serious medical conditions including high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, upper respiratory problems, arthritis, skin disorders, menstrual irregularities, ovarian abnormalities, and complications of pregnancy. Obesity is one of our nation's most critical health problems and is directly responsible for as many as 300,000 deaths each year.

Feelings of shame and a profound sense of isolation often accompany obesity. However, with therapeutic intervention, the individual can develop the appropriate inner resources to successfully manage their weight and look forward to leading a healthy and productive life.


  • More than 20% over ideal body weight. Ideal weight is based on gender, age, and typical activity level (e.g., sedentary or active).
  • Body-fat percentage greater than 30% for women and 25% for men.


There are many factors that alone, or in combination, can cause a person to become obese. These include genetics, metabolism, developmental factors, personality factors, environmental factors, level of physical activity, and lifestyle. For some people who become obese, the condition is the result of unhealthy eating behaviors developed as a means of coping with such feelings as stress, helplessness, or anxiety.


Obesity has biological, psychological, familial, and sociocultural components. The first course of action should always be seeking help from a physician to diagnose and address any physical problems. Further effective treatment of obesity can involve a collaboration among health professionals, including a therapist, dietician, and the physician.

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