Overweight and obesity – what are they and why do they really matter?

Certain major causes of early death are attributable to overweight and obesity. But what are they and how do they affect your health?

Approx read time: 6 mins


This is always a tricky topic to discuss because body size is so closely linked to emotion and self-esteem. Before reading this please be aware that this is a non-judgemental, objective, piece about the potential effects of overweight and obesity on the human body. It flies in the face of the current trend for promoting health at every size, which is a concept that defies well-respected and established health science, even though it’s a very nice way of helping people to feel better. What people eat, and their body size, is nobody else’s business unless they want it to be. Sadly we live in a society where trying to get to a healthier weight is beginning to be derided and frowned upon. Diet-shaming is raising its head and people are very confused. The health at every size movement talks about ‘thin privilege’ which in itself is a derogatory term and a judgement on size. Nuush always strives to present clear facts and guidance within a supportive culture.

People who own a pet usually take care of its weight because they know that their pet being overweight is not good for its health. But as humans we often overlook that fact when it comes to our own health, even vehemently deny it. We continue to overeat and be sedentary even though, instinctively, we probably know it’s not good for us. 

Of course it’s different for animals because they can’t go and get food whenever they like – although a few owners overfeed and over-snack their pets too, and sadly don’t exercise them enough. In general we often take better care of our pets’ health that we do of our own.

Rates of obesity have doubled worldwide in less than half a decade. That can’t be attributed to a change in genetics but is the result of the abundance, availability and consumption of food, especially pre-made food. Other factors include increased disposable income, more eating out, a change in societal norms, more at-home drinking, a decrease in physical activity and perhaps an increase in emotional and stress-related eating.

What is overweight and what is obese?

Overweight is classed as anyone who has a BMI of 25–29.9 and obese is a BMI of over 30. While there is some controversy over the use of BMI most of the population are not heavily-muscled enough for it to affect their weight as significantly as being over-fat does, so it’s not as bad a tool as the naysayers believe. The argument goes that one can be heavy due to being more muscular, and light due to being less muscular but on average it’s a pretty good reflection of the fact that the largest percentage of people are overweight because they’re carrying too much fat

In the absence of inaccessible and expensive fat-measuring methods, such as DEXA scans and underwater weighing, a better at-home measure is body fat percentage.

The UK doesn’t give classifications for overweight and obesity based on fat percentage. However, the American Council on Exercise states that 32% and over for women and 26% and over for men defines obesity.

On average, people who start with Nuush are up to 20 percentage points higher than those cut offs.

Obesity’s heath toll

Certain major causes of early death are, in part, attributable to overweight and obesity. They include:

  • breast, prostate and colorectal cancers,
  • coronary heart disease,
  • type 2 diabetes and its complications,
  • high blood pressure and stroke,
  • respiratory diseases due to accumulation of fat in the upper body and the burden it puts on lung function.

Carrying excess fat can cause hormonal changes, not just reproductive hormones but the range of hormones that help control how the body works, such as the hunger and satiety hormones leptin and ghrelin.

Carrying excess fat can reduce mobility and flexibility, place stress on joints and ligaments, affect sleep quality and duration and can cause haemorrhoids.

Carrying excess fat inside the abdomen causes particular issues because that type of fat is more metabolically active and negatively influences the body’s processes.

Not least, being overweight or obese can heavily knock a person’s confidence and self esteem. That is a completely valid feeling. It’s no different to people having hair dyes and styles, wearing certain clothes, having tattoos and piercings and aligning themselves with certain brands, it’s to do with personal image.

Some people are happy at larger sizes and it’s a completely personal choice, but it’s entirely valid and human not to be happy being overweight.

How to lose excess body fat

Unfashionable as it is to say so, it really is down to eating less energy than you burn. It would be so simple to just do that wouldn’t it? Countless diets cause just that situation; however they’re dressed up they are always about a calorie deficit, including the Nutrition for Everyone plan.

Anyone can lose weight by following a diet regime, although plenty find themselves unable to follow one because the plan is unsustainable or just not ‘them’. Keeping the weight off is the harder part because we all have ingrained habits.

Many mainstream diets don’t teach anything about how to eat a balanced and sustainable diet for the rest of a person’s life outside of the regime – because that doesn’t sell as well (hello from one who knows!).

The weight loss magic wand doesn’t exist

I keep saying it lately but there really is no magic wand for weight loss. Highly restrictive diets can seem appealing because they entirely remove certain foods and even whole food groups which some people find mentally easier than trying to simply moderate the amount they eat of everything. But they’re doomed to fail!

It really is down to good old fashioned ways. At Nuush that’s three square meals a day and no, or very infrequent, snacks; it’s moderating alcohol, it’s sleeping and chilling more and it’s being active every day, not necessarily through organised exercise but just moving a lot more.

I wish I could dress it up and say it’s a big amazing thing that makes you lose 7lb every week but that would just be criminal. Sensible, achievable and consistent change is what works for always.

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Thank you for reading this article. Please note that while we share a lot of awesome information and research you should be aware our articles are strictly for informational purposes and do not constitute medical advice intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

Cover photo by Parker Amstutz.