Although there are genetic and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when you take in more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities. Your body stores these excess calories as fat. Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including:

  • Inactivity. If you're not very active, you don't burn as many calories. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can easily take in more calories every day than you use through exercise and normal daily activities.
  • Unhealthy diet and eating habits. Having a diet that's high in calories, lacking in fruits and vegetables, full of fast food, missing breakfast, and laden with high-calorie beverages and oversized portions all contribute to weight gain.
  • Pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman's weight necessarily increases. Some women find this weight difficult to lose after the baby is born. This weight gain may contribute to the development of obesity in women.
  • Lack of sleep. Too little sleep can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite. You may also crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain.
  • Certain medications. Some medications can lead to weight gain if you don't compensate through diet or activity. These medications include some antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, antipsychotic medications, corticosteroids and beta blockers.
  • Medical problems. Obesity can sometimes be traced to a medical cause, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing's syndrome, and other diseases and conditions. Some medical problems, such as arthritis, can lead to decreased activity, which may result in weight gain. A low metabolism is unlikely to cause obesity, as is having low thyroid function.
May. 13, 2014

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