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Obesity - Cause

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 things, including:

  • Your habits. Eating unhealthy foods and overeating are easy in our culture today. Many things 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 genesYour genes. If one of your parents is obese, you are more likely to be obese than someone who has parents of healthy weight.
  • Your friends and family. If they eat a lot of snack foods high in saturated fat, 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, wine, 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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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