It's a Family Affair: Facts About Weight

Families, Food and Fitness November 05, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

66% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese and 32% are obese (these are 2003-2004 statistics and they may need to be updated yearly). The prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents has increased dramatically in recent years. There has been a 45% increase since 1994.

Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and it is a major cause of morbidity and disability. Many deaths can be prevented each year if only we take action against overweight and obesity. We need to start by educating young people and families so that they will be well informed of the health benefits of healthy lifestyle choices and health consequences related to poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.

These statistics are based on a person’s Body Mass Index. An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.


BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is a number that shows body weight adjusted for height. For adults aged 20 years or older, BMI falls into one of these categories: underweight, normal, overweight, or obese. BMI can be calculated using pounds and inches with this equation

BMI formula

Two people can have the same BMI but a different percent body fat. A bodybuilder with a large muscle mass and a low percent body fat may have the same BMI as a person who has more body fat because BMI is calculated using weight and height only. This is a good reminder that BMI is only one piece of a person's health profile. It is important to remember that there are other measures and factors (e.g., waist circumference, smoking, physical activity level, and diet) influencing the overall health of an individual.

BMI for children and teens is based on gender and age-specific growth charts. Childhood obesity can be defined as having a BMI greater than that of 95% of others of the same age and gender.

  • Underweight BMI-for-age < 5th percentile
  • At risk of overweight BMI-for-age 85th percentile to < 95th percentile
  • Overweight BMI-for-age equal to or greater than 95th percentile

Health Effects of Childhood Obesity

Years ago, these health problems were unusual in childhood, but they have become more common as weight among children and adolescents has increased.

Type 2 Diabetes: As many as 80% of youth may be overweight at the time of diagnosis. As the U.S. population becomes increasingly overweight, researchers expect type 2 diabetes to appear more frequently in younger, pre-pubescent children.

High Blood Pressure adds to the workload of heart and arteries, and if not controlled, it can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure.

High Blood Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance. It is found in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells; body needs cholesterol to function normally, but much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease. If you’re overweight, losing weight may improve blood cholesterol levels, and therefore, decrease your risk of heart disease.

Asthma is a chronic disease which causes breathing difficulty when it flairs up. Those who carry too much body weight have a greater risk of having asthma and frequent flair-ups.

Sleep Apnea is caused by a temporary blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. It can lead to many other problems, not to mention a poor night’s sleep.

Low Self-Esteem: Self-esteem is how one feels about him(her)self. Obese and overweight children tend to have a lower self-esteem than non-overweight children. In addition, obese children with decreasing levels of self-esteem demonstrate significantly higher rates of sadness, loneliness, and nervousness and are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as smoking or consuming alcohol.

Weight-Related Conditions in Adults

Being overweight and obese can increase the risk of certain health conditions. Carrying excess weight can result in the following:

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects the cartilage. Carrying excess weight causes increased wear and tear on the cartilage. Weight loss can reduce stress on weight-bearing joints and limit further injury. Exercise is one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis.

Varicose Veins are gnarled, enlarged veins. They can cause pain and discomfort and may also increase the risk for other circulatory system disorders. Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.

Fallen Arches: Pressure from excess weight can flatten the arches in feet. Abdominal Hernias. A hernia is a bulge of soft tissue through a weak spot in the abdominal wall in the groin area. Being overweight can increase the pressure within the abdominal cavity, causing a hernia to form.

Respiratory Problems like sleep apnea and asthma can be caused by obesity. Breathing becomes difficult as the lungs are compressed by excess weight making the chest difficult to expand.

Low Self Esteem Issues: Overweight or obese adults may not feel as good about themselves because of their perceived appearance, abilities, or health due to being overweight.

Next: It's_a_Family_Affair:_Making_Healthy_Changes >>


Lesson Contents
I. It's a Family Affair: Introduction
II. It's a Family Affair: Facts about Weight
III. It's a Family Affair: Making Healthy Food & Physical Activity Changes
IV. It's a Family Affair: Appropriate Serving Sizes
V. It's a Family Affair: Preparing Healthy Meals
VI. It's a Family Affair: Dining Out
VII. It's a Family Affair: Family Mealtime Behaviors
VIII. It's a Family Affair: Keeping Active
VIII. It's a Family Affair: References


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.