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Causes of Obesity

What causes obesity?

Obesity doesn't happen overnight, and its causes go far beyond what you eat. The risk factors that determine obesity can be a complex combination of factors, including:

  • Genetics/biology
  • Metabolic factors
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Behavioral and emotional patterns
  • Other factors, including eating disorders and medical conditions


Genetics can play an important role in peoples' tendency to gain weight. A number of specific genes may be directly related to weight:

  • Ability to feel full or satisfied
  • Metabolism
  • Tendencies to store fat
  • Natural activity levels


Metabolism is the amount of energy or calories that the body burns to maintain itself. Weight gain or loss is no longer a simple function of calories eaten versus calories burned. Obesity researchers describe the "set point," a thermostat in the brain that makes people resistant to either weight gain or loss. If you try to override the set point by drastically cutting your calorie intake, your body compensates by slowing your metabolism, which encourages weight gain.

A typical American lifestyle — high-calorie, high-stress, low-activity — can make it easy for anyone to gain weight. If you're already genetically prone to obesity, these factors can cause even more trouble:

Environmental and Lifestyle Factors

  • Fast food
  • Desk jobs
  • Lack of physical activity

Behavioral and Emotional Patterns

Many distressing events during our lives can lead to patterns of overeating, including:

  • Trauma, such as abuse
  • Death
  • Illness
  • Marital or family problems

Being overweight can also lower one's self esteem and make it even harder to lose weight. People often use food to dampen the effects of stress, anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain.

Eating Disorders and Other Medical Conditions

Eating disorders and medical conditions such as hypothyroidism and endocrine disorders can cause weight gain. These problems can be treated with medication, counseling, or both.

Although some of the factors that contribute to obesity can't be changed, a variety of treatments can help people overcome and manage the factors within their control. Obesity isn't anyone's destiny. It's a treatable, manageable medical condition.

Contact the Methodist Weight Management Program

Take the first step toward better health today. Contact the Methodist Weight Management Program at (214)-947-3699.