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Demystifying Obesity

by clepage
Demystifying Obesity

Do you think you are obese or overweight? If so, rest assured you are not alone…In Canada, at rates of over 60% according to Statistics Canada, more Canadians are overweight than not. Moreover, almost one in four Canadians lives with obesity. Many people believe that obesity is determined by food and exercise. But this belief is very far from reality. Obesity is a complex illness caused by many factors. Even with the same diet or the same level of exercise, people vary widely as regards the weight at which their bodies settle. This article aims to help you understand some of the underlying causes of obesity, as well common misperceptions and prejudice people might have. It’s important to raise awareness about this disease so we can find better ways to treat obesity.


What is obesity and what are its causes?

Obesity is characterized by excess of body fat that can impair your health. People are considered overweight when their body mass index (BMI, weight divided by height squared) reaches 25 kg/m2 or more. They are obese when their BMI exceeds 30 kg/m2. The most common obesity stigmatization is that “good will” as it pertains to changing lifestyle habits can prevent and fix obesity.

Social misperception number 1:

“Look what he’s done to himself. If only he had self-control, or wasn’t so lazy.”

In fact, obesity is a complex illness caused by your environment, genes, emotional health, lack of sleep, medical problems or even some medication you might be on. For example, some medications decrease ability of your body to burn energy, resulting in weight gain. Today, obesity is considered a chronic disease, because, of the complexity and the lifelong management obesity requires.

Social misperception number 2:

“Managing obesity is easy. Just eat less and move more.”

If loosing weight was so easy, nobody would be overweight. The fact is that most of us are. Only up to 20% (1 in 5) people who lose weight are able to keep it off…and many studies show that keeping the weight off is not without hard work! Even after surgery lost body weight can be regained. Why is lost body fat regained so easily? This is because your body tries to “defend” its fat reserves to maintain your highest weight. Though we do not fully understand you’re your body defends its weight, we know that it can release hormones during weight loss to make you feel hungry. We also know that the body changes so it burns energy less effectively. Researchers call this “starvation response”. Therefore, when you go on a diet or begin exercising, weight loss becomes progressively more difficult and the weight will come back as soon as you stop or reduce your efforts at keeping it off.


Social misperception number 3:

Maybe if—he—she) exercised more she wouldn’t look like that

Though being sedentary can contribute to weight gain, many studies actually show that exercise alone is unlikely result in significant weight loss. Significant weight can only be lost with changes to the diet. Even with dietary changes, weight is difficult to loose because when eating habits go back to “the usual” weight is regained. Also, as previously mentioned, our bodies are programmed to try to hold on to that excess weight!


Social misperception number 4:

“Just get surgery. Surgery is an easy fix for obesity. You’ll loose weight like magic!”

No matter which way you look at it, losing weight takes effort. Weight loss surgery involves making the stomach smaller to limit food intake and sometimes, making the small intestines shorter to decrease the amount of food (and nutrients) entering the body. After the surgery there can be severe gastrointestinal consequences with over consumption of food. The forced limitation of food can be very difficult emotionally. Though weight loss surgery is relatively effective, surgery of any kind has risks of short and long term complications and mortality. That is why weight loss surgery is often limited to people with BMI over 40 kg/m2 or those with obesity that have conditions that can be helped with weight loss. Surgery is not always successful. Weight regain can occur in 10-20% of patients after 36 months. Sometimes a second surgery, called a “revision” is also needed.

This is an informative video to help you understand



Our studies at MON LAB aim to improve the treatment of obesity.

We are studying the underlying effects of obesity, in order to improve treatment. At MON Lab, we combine unique biological, physiological and nutritional techniques to investigate and understand the underlying effects of obesity that contribute to weight gain and disease. When it comes to treatment and disease prevention, what works for one person might not work for another. We want to know what makes an individual with obesity unique. Our focus is in linking how metabolism, molecules, and cells in blood, tissue, and organs contribute to the variations in outcomes of treatment and chronic disease prevention. In doing so, we will be able to use this knowledge to improve the treatment of obesity and its related diseases.


You can become a participant in our project, here.

Interesting link: Understanding Obesity (obesitycanada.ca)