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Obesity means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. The weight may come from muscle, bone, fat, and/or body water. Both terms mean that a person’s weight is greater than what’s considered healthy for his or her height.

Obesity happens over time when you eat more calories than you use. The balance between calories-in and calories-out differs for each person. Factors that might affect your weight include your genetic makeup, overeating, eating high-fat foods, and not being physically active. Obesity increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some cancers.


Common specific causes of obesity include:

  • Eating a poor diet of foods high in fats and calories
  • Having a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle
  • Not sleeping enough, which can lead to hormonal changes that make you feel hungrier and crave certain high-calorie foods
  • Genetics, which can affect how your body processes food into energy and how fat is stored
  • Growing older, which can lead to less muscle mass and a slower metabolic rate, making it easier to gain weight
  • Pregnancy (weight gained during pregnancy can be difficult to lose and may eventually lead to obesity)
Certain medical conditions may also lead to weight gain. These include:
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome(PCOS): a condition that causes an imbalance of female reproductive hormones
  • Prader-Willi syndrome: a rare condition that an individual is born with which causes excessive hunger
  • Cushing syndrome: a condition caused by having an excessive amount of the hormone cortisol in your system
  • Hypothyroidism(underactive thyroid): a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones
  • Osteoarthritis (and other conditions that cause pain that may lead to inactivity).