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About Obesity
Working together, we all become healthier

A big part of Fit Together’s mission is preventing overweight and obesity. But it goes far beyond that to include a broader range of topics including healthy weight management— helping people reach and maintain a healthy weight.

It’s a job that may be more important than ever. According to the Center for Disease Control, 57% of all North Carolinians are either overweight or obese, up 82% from 1990 – 2002. Further, 26% of youth 12-18 and 20% of children 5-11 are overweight or obese. Interestingly, each of these NC statistics is significantly above the national average.

They’re frightening numbers. And they serve as a warning to all North Carolinians, because regardless of your individual health status, ultimately we all suffer through increased healthcare costs and lost productivity in the workplace. In fact, based on research from a January 2004 study from the Research Triangle Institute, North Carolina taxpayers pay an estimated $2.1 Billion annually for obesity related medical expenses.

However, it is the loss of life that concerns us the most. Overweight and obesity dramatically increases your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer, among others. Currently, it is poised to overtake tobacco as the number one cause of preventable death in North Carolina.

Through Fit Together, we can all work to help prevent overweight and obesity in North Carolina and create healthier families and communities.

Overweight refers to increased body weight in relation to height, when compared to some standard of acceptable or desirable weight. Note: Overweight may or may not be due to increases in body fat. It may also be due to an increase in lean muscle. For example, professional athletes may be very lean and muscular, with very little body fat, yet they may weigh more than others of the same height. While they may qualify as "overweight" due to their large muscle mass, they are not necessarily "over fat," regardless of BMI (Body Mass Index).

Desirable weight standards are derived in a number of ways:

  • By using a mathematical formula known as Body Mass Index (BMI), which represents weight levels associated with the lowest overall risk to health. Desirable BMI levels may vary with age.
  • By using actual heights and weights measured and collected on people who are representative of the U.S. population by the National Center for Health Statistics. Other desirable weight tables have been created by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, based on their client populations.

These sources are consistent with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults.

Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass. (NRC p114; Stunkard p14) The amount of body fat (or adiposity) includes concern for both the distribution of fat throughout the body and the size of the adipose tissue deposits. Body fat distribution can be estimated by skinfold measures, waist-to-hip circumference ratios, or techniques such as ultrasound, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging.

Difference Between Overweight and Obese
Individuals with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, while individuals with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese.

For children, BMI between 85th and 95th percentile for age and sex is considered at risk of overweight, and BMI at or above the 95th percentile is considered overweight or obese

Contributing Factors

  • Overweight and obesity result from an energy imbalance that involves eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity. Factors such as eating more meals away from the home; eating higher fat condensed foods; larger portion sizes; increases in sugar sweetened beverages; decreases in physical activity in schools; more time spent in sedentary activities such as watching TV, playing video games or on computers; urban sprawl and automobile dependency; community infrastructure and safety concerns; and moving from a predominantly blue collar work force to a white color more sedentary workforce; have all been linked to the excessive rise in obesity rates in the U.S.
  • Body weight is the result of genes, metabolism, behavior, environment, culture, and socioeconomic status.
  • Behavior and environment play a large role in causing people to be overweight and obese. These are the greatest areas for prevention and treatment actions.

Adapted from U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, 2001

For more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, go to their website by clicking here.

For questions about whether or not you or your child is overweight or obese, please discuss this with your physician.


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