Obesity is a complex disease for which no single cause or cure exists. You gain weight when you take in more calories than you burn off. But obesity is influenced by many other factors, including:
- Your emotions and habits. Overeating is easy in our culture today. Many factors influence eating behavior, including emotions, habits, and the availability of food.
- Your lifestyle. Modern conveniences—such as elevators, cars, and the remote control for the television—cut activity out of our lives.
- Your genes. If one of your parents is obese, you are 3 times as likely to be obese as someone with parents of healthy weight.3
- Your friends and family. If they eat a lot of high-fat or snack foods, eat at irregular times, and skip meals, you probably will too. And if they are not physically active, you may not be either.
Other things influence your weight and whether you are physically active, including:
- Low self-esteem. Being overweight or obese may lower your self-esteem and lead to eating as a way to comfort yourself. Repeated failure at dieting also can affect your self-esteem and make it even harder to lose weight.
- Emotional concerns. Emotional stress, anxiety, or illnesses such as depression or chronic pain can lead to overeating. Some people eat to calm themselves, to avoid dealing with unpleasant tasks or situations, or to dampen negative emotions.
- Trauma. Distressing events—such as childhood sexual, physical, or emotional abuse; loss of a parent during childhood; or marital or family problems—can contribute to overeating.
- Alcohol. Alcohol (beer and mixed drinks) is very high in calories.
- Medicines or medical conditions. Some medical conditions and medicines may also cause weight gain. Examples include having Cushing's syndrome or hypothyroidism or taking certain antidepressants or corticosteroids.