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What Obesity Does to Your Body continued...

Adam Tsai, MD, of Kaiser Permanente Colorado and a spokesman for the Obesity Society, agrees. "The risks go up and up as BMI increases," he says.

Obesity puts extra stress on your bones, joints, and organs, making them work harder than they should. Too much body fat raises your blood pressure and cholesterol, and makes heart disease and stroke more likely. It also worsens conditions like osteoarthritis, back pain, asthma, and sleep apnea.

Too much fat causes inflammation that can damage cells. Obesity is also linked to several types of cancers. It can also make your body respond less well to insulin, which controls your blood sugar. Over time, that can lead to type 2 diabetes.

The weight makes it harder to be active, too. "Carrying around extra pounds takes extra energy, so it can be difficult for obese people to exercise," Tsai says.


If you think calories are the only thing that matters, think again.

No doubt: Calories definitely count. But so do a lot of other things, like whether you can afford healthy foods and can easily use parks, sidewalks, or other places where you can be active.

"For many people, it's not an individual choice," Wang says.

Your emotions, and how you handle them, also matter. Many people eat when they're mad, sad, bored, or stressed. Weight problems can add to that. If you feel badly or are self-conscious about your body, that can hold you back from the full life that people of all sizes deserve. In turn, you eat more, seeking comfort.

Obesity can run in families, too. Your genes might be part of the reason. And you probably got your lifestyle and eating habits from your family, too. You can change those habits, though.

Your friends also count. Some research shows that obesity is "contagious" socially. In one study of some 12,000 people, Harvard researchers found that if someone gains weight, their family, friends, and partners also tend to gain weight, even if they don't live near each other. Their influence affects you.

Also, you might've heard about studies that show links to air pollution, viruses, exposure to certain chemicals, or even the bacteria in a person's gut. But they don't prove that those things cause obesity.

"There's a lot we still don't know," but it's clearly not just about self-control, Wang says.

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