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Why Is Obesity So Complex?

Why are overweight and obesity such complex conditions?

Contrary to what diet culture tells us, weight status and obesity are unfortunately not as simple as an imbalance of calories in vs. calories out.

In addition to the multitude of factors which can influence weight (in combination or isolation), we have to remember that these factors will not even affect every individual in the same way!

Fluctuations in weight can be influenced by so many things we may not even think of, including physical, medical, emotional, lifestyle and genetic factors. Some are transient or acute and others are chronic. Some can be treated, some pass with time and others have to be actively managed throughout a person's life.

Causes of weight fluctuations you may not have thought of:

🔹️Dealing with grief

🔹️Medication side effects

🔹️Chronic illness

🔹️Habits of friends & family

🔹️Undiagnosed intolerances

🔹️Financial insecurity

🔹️Distress of moving home/school

🔹️Taking up a new hobby

🔹️New job (sedentary or active setting)

🔹️Dental or swallowing difficulties

Is it right to assume a person's health or situation based on their body mass? In short, absolutely not. 🚫

Tackling Obesity: the government's approach

Last July the government released a policy paper on Tackling Obesity. It included an action plan to reduce the obesity problem we currently face, but the policy has received criticism for not being sensitive enough, or in places, just totally missing the mark.

For example, the policy includes the introduction of calories on menus for food establishments with over 250 employees.


On one hand, this may help individuals who are slimming to keep track of their intake or make customers aware of the caloric value of their favourite foods. Potentially empowering them to make healthy choices.


However, we must consider the potential harm this could have on people who suffer from eating disorders or who have a troubled relationship with food and exercise. Numbers can be triggering for many individuals.

Coupled with the stark increase in demand this year for the BEAT ED support services, is this a well targeted approach?

This will also place a burden on food establishments who will have to stick rigidly to recipes, ingredients and cooking methods to keep the values consistent. The increased workload for businesses will include nutritional analysis of menus, training chefs and staff, sticking rigidly to recipes, reprinting menus or potentially reformulating recipes to improve the calorific content of meals.

Take home message

There is no one size fits all for nutrition and health. And whilst there are health detriments which arise from unhealthy eating and activity habits, they are not synonymous. The same diet and lifestyle will not produce identical results in 2 different people.

With this in mind, it's important to think before we speak and not assume or comment based on someone's physical appearance.


Thank you for reading this Nutrition Upon Tyne blog post on the complexities of obesity.

Please leave a comment or like if you enjoyed this post.

Our article on Creative Activities for Nutrition CPD may also be of interest to you!




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