Lack of Energy Balance
A lack of energy balance most often causes overweight and obesity. Energy balance means that your energy IN equals your energy OUT.
Energy IN is the amount of energy or calories you get from food and drinks. Energy OUT is the amount of energy your body uses for things like breathing, digesting, and being physically active.
To maintain a healthy weight, your energy IN and OUT don’t have to balance exactly every day. It’s the balance over time that helps you maintain a healthy weight.
- The same amount of energy IN and energy OUT over time = weight stays the same
- More energy IN than energy OUT over time = weight gain
- More energy OUT than energy IN over time = weight loss
Overweight and obesity happen over time when you take in more calories than you use.
An Inactive Lifestyle
Many Americans aren’t very physically active. One reason for this is that many people spend hours in front of TVs and computers doing work, schoolwork, and leisure activities. In fact, more than 2 hours a day of regular TV viewing time has been linked to overweight and obesity.
Other reasons for not being active include: relying on cars instead of walking, fewer physical demands at work or at home because of modern technology and conveniences, and lack of physical education classes in schools.
People who are inactive are more likely to gain weight because they don’t burn the calories that they take in from food and drinks. An inactive lifestyle also raises your risk for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, and other health problems.
Our environment doesn’t support healthy lifestyle habits; in fact, it encourages obesity. Some reasons include:
- Lack of neighborhood sidewalks and safe places for recreation. Not having area parks, trails, sidewalks, and affordable gyms makes it hard for people to be physically active.
- Work schedules. People often say that they don’t have time to be physically active because of long work hours and time spent commuting.
- Oversized food portions. Americans are exposed to huge food portions in restaurants, fast food places, gas stations, movie theaters, supermarkets, and even at home. Some of these meals and snacks can feed two or more people. Eating large portions means too much energy IN. Over time, this will cause weight gain if it isn’t balanced with physical activity.
- Lack of access to healthy foods. Some people don’t live in neighborhoods that have supermarkets that sell healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Or, for some people, these healthy foods are too costly.
- Food advertising. Americans are surrounded by ads from food companies. Often children are the targets of advertising for high-calorie, high-fat snacks and sugary drinks. The goal of these ads is to sway people to buy these high-calorie foods, and often they do.
Genes and Family History
Studies of identical twins who have been raised apart show that genes have a strong influence on a person’s weight. Overweight and obesity tend to run in families. Your chances of being overweight are greater if one or both of your parents are overweight or obese.
Your genes also may affect the amount of fat you store in your body and where on your body you carry the extra fat. Because families also share food and physical activity habits, a link exists between genes and the environment.
Children adopt the habits of their parents. A child who has overweight parents who eat high-calorie foods and are inactive will likely become overweight too. However, if the family adopts healthy food and physical activity habits, the child’s chance of being overweight or obese is reduced.