10 Major Causes of Obesity and Weight Gain
Medically reviewed by Dr. Shunmukha Priya, Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition
Obesity is a bodily condition marked by excessive deposition and storage of fat which develops gradually with time and does not happen overnight. While a BMI of 25 is considered to be healthy internationally, it has been reported that for Indians, more precisely the South Asians, the health quotient according to the BMI number may change.
Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).
Obesity is a condition where an individual has a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30 Kg/m2.
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The causes of obesity in India are aplenty. Obesity is emerging as a silent pandemic in India. Obesity leads to hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels in the body and impaired glucose tolerance.
According to a National Family Health Survey (NFHS) of 2016, 20.7% of Indian women and 18.6% of Indian men in the age group of 15 to 49 are overweight.
Major Causes of Obesity
1. Energy imbalance
One of the main reasons for being both overweight and obese are the result of eating an excess of high-energy foods laden with high fats and simple sugar. These come in the form of highly processed comfort foods, restaurant foods, sugary colas and drinks among others. Couple it with a sedentary lifestyle, you will indeed record a higher number on the weighing scale due to obesity.
A person who is very physically active might maintain energy balance and healthy body weight by eating and expending the same amount. Church et al recently estimated that occupational physical activity has declined by an average of ≈142 kcal/d. This alone could explain a substantial amount of weight gain in the population. 
2. Lack of sleep
The lack of sleep among populations, the habit of staying awake until the wee hours can also cause obesity in both adults and children. A good 7 to 8 hours of sleep at the right time is essential to regulate metabolism in your body.
Hormones can work at their best only when the body’s metabolism functions properly. Metabolic disorders in women can lead to irregular menstruation and imbalance in the synthesis of reproductive hormones and thyroid hormones.
Eventually, these conditions lead to excessive weight gain that too rapidly, which may become tough to shed-off.
In both men and women, irregular sleep habits may cause increased appetite that stays the same even after a heavy meal. Metabolic disorders are more than detrimental to the body and cause obesity which can be regulated only with good sleep habits. Early to bed and early to rise is essential for physical and mental well-being. 
Early to bed and early to rise is essential for physical and mental well-being.
3. Junk food habitude
Overconsumption of junk food can displace fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-3 with trans fats which are harder to digest. A 2011 study shows that trans fats may cause inflammation in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain containing neurons to control body weight. An inflamed hypothalamus can cause obesity.
Fast food is among the top food that causes obesity. It is packed with refined carbohydrates which cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate rapidly. With the high content of sugar and fats, you tend to eat too fast and too much to satisfy your cravings.
4. Wrong parental approach
There is a misconception in India even among educated parents that an overweight child is a healthy child. In countries like India, the margin between healthy and overweight is almost invisible. This is especially true for young parents. They have no clue on what constitutes healthy and what is obese.
In many families, in order to maintain the ‘healthy outlook of the child,’ parents feed the kids excessively. When kids are fed more than the necessary quantity, they adapt to high quantities over a period of time. When less physical activity is coupled in such a scenario, it leads to obesity in adolescents and pre-adolescents.
Another misconception among Indian parents is limiting the time of physical activity, especially for slim kids. When a kid is slim, most parents mistake it for weakness and limit play and other forms of physical activity for the child. Over time a sedentary child holds on to the thought and avoids physical activity even into his adulthood.
This misconception and a general lack of awareness are among the reasons for obesity in Indians.
5. Lifestyle-related stress
The drastic change in lifestyle coupled with the workload and less time to indulge in outdoor activities can lead to stress. In India, it is not just the adults who are stressed. Anxiety in school going children is a form of stress too.
In Indian society, the causes of stress are plenty.
- The needs and demands that increase with every passing day.
- The burden of responsibilities to be fulfilled for adults.
- Complete lack of physical activity.
When the body goes into a stressful mode, it releases the hormone called cortisol that is also known as the stress hormone. Increased secretion of cortisol results in increased appetite and in such situations, a person favours high-calorie food for comfort.
Stress does as much harm to metabolism as sleeplessness. It is also one of the causes of obesity.
There are hormones that make or break your weight. Did you know, thyroid hormones control the rate of metabolism?
Any ups and downs in them seriously affect your body’s ability to utilise stored fat. Similarly, insulin is a known fat-storing hormone. PCOS is a condition that results in insulin resistance too.
Adding to insulin are cortisol (stress hormone) and ghrelin (hunger-inducing hormone), two of the fat-storing hormones in the body. Hence, knowing your hormonal conditions can be a great way to inhibit the causes of obesity.
7. A sedentary lifestyle and reduced physical activity
Reduced physical activity and changes in lifestyle and jobs that demand many hours of immobility are among the causes of obesity in adults. To maintain a healthy BMI it is necessary to burn more calories than you consume in a day.
To fight against this, more than an hour or two high-intensity physical activity is required depending on your body.
With the usage of appliances, a large percentage of the population is dependent on technology for everything including daily chores. From escalators that make us avoid the stairs to washing machines and dishwashers, all of our everyday needs are taken care of by technology.
In urban spaces, people are averse to walking even a few meters to run basic errands. They are dependent on vehicles. This general hostility towards physical activity coupled with apathy and lethargy is among the reasons for the growing number of obese people in India.
8. The drastic change in food habits
One of the prime causes of obesity in India is the changing adherence towards unhealthy nutrition.
In the last decade, people of all age groups have shown an inclination towards fatty food and processed food. Various causes have led to a shift in food habits.
A few of them include:
- Easy availability of processed and junk foods.
- Less time is taken to cook the foods.
- The low-cost of high-calorie foods.
- Numerous television advertisements promoting fatty and processed foods.
- The brand-building strategy of big business houses that target young consumers.
- Addiction to these foods because they please the taste buds.
9. Genetic reasons
Except for the rare genetic condition, Prader-Willi syndrome’ which causes obesity, there are no other genetic conditions that stop people from losing the weight that they’ve gained.
A study has identified genes that play a crucial role in the neuronal control of body weight. They act in the brain in pathways that may affect people’s food intake, hunger, satiety, etc. 
The number of weight loss information available on the internet is not even partially true.
There are myths that may affect your healthy lifestyle rather than preventing you from becoming obese.
Some of these myths promote useless weight loss supplements and surgeries, encourage skipping meals and eating very fewer calories.
These myths also depict carbohydrates and fats as extremely unhealthy which is not entirely true. Application of these rules may result in poor health.
Things To Avoid While Fighting Obesity
While trying to lose weight or finding obesity treatments, we often look for easy solutions and that is where we make the mistake.
The weight loss industry is full of easy but unhealthy ways of weight loss. The most important thing about them is that they often come with side-effects and are not sustainable.
1. Avoid Weight loss pills and chemical supplements
There are medicines approved by the FDA which people take as obesity treatment too. Most of these medicines do not have ample studies to back their effectiveness and often result in withdrawal symptoms. We highly recommend losing weight the healthy way by eating healthy food and exercising.
2. Avoid Weight-loss Surgeries
Although they are an effective option for preventing obesity, then again, there are risks associated with them.
If you can cut down several kilos and inches simply by eating right, just like Anant Ambani, then why opt for these surgeries?
3. Avoid using Slimming belts
The weight loss industry has introduced a gadget promising weight loss that is sauna slim belt. While preventing obesity, the sauna belt can also cause side effects and may contribute to some health problems to your body.
Remember there are no short cuts to a healthy and slim body. A healthy body and successful weight loss is the combination of a nutritious diet and regular workout.
Obesity in the body does not develop overnight. It progresses over years of bad food habits. Wrong eating habits in childhood result in overweight adults. The right balance of nutrition goes a long way in maintaining a healthy BMI (body mass index) that is measured to evaluate obesity.
Are you still thinking about whether you should take that crucial step towards weight loss? The first step against the causes of obesity, its effects, and symptoms is to set proper and healthy weight loss goals.
We are here to tell you how to keep your weight loss goals and expectations real.
To help you in preventing obesity here is an Indian weight loss diet plan just for you! Don’t wait too long before stepping towards a healthier future, else your wait may turn into weight!