Nearly 50% of the world’s female population suffers from obesity. Can you imagine what that looks like? It means that one in every two women is overweight or obese. It means that a obesity in women is growing at an alarming rate in the developed nations of the world. Since the developing nations follow the trend of the developed nations, the women in those countries can’t be far behind. Obesity in women is not just affecting the older generation. 35% of all women who suffer from obesity are below 25. Steps need to be taken now to curb the prevalence of obesity in women and bring the existing obesity cases under control.
Causes of Obesity in Women
There’s no secret to obesity causes. Excess calorie intake, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyles, fast food all lead to obesity in women and men alike. However, there are a few obesity causes that are unique to women.
Some contraceptive pills are known to cause weight gain, thus contributing to obesity in women. Since contraceptive pills alter the hormonal functioning in the body, it is not surprising that it can affect a woman’s weight. The Pill is the most popular form of contraception for women. And more and more women are opting for it rather than leaving contraception to their partners. Women are also more sexually active and adventurous which again translates to higher use of the contraceptive pill. This may be why obesity in women has increased over the last few decades.
During pregnancy, a woman will put on at least 15 kg. And this is only if she eats healthy and watches her weight, a little hard to do with all the pregnancy cravings. Most women put on much more weight than is normal when they get pregnant, and they find it very hard to lose the weight once the baby is born since the average woman does not have a full-time nanny, a maid to help with chores, a personal trainer to help her keep track of her fitness goals and an at-home gym in the spare bedroom. The only women who snap back to their pre-baby bodies after childbirth are Hollywood celebs and models who have the time and resources to tackle the weight. But the regular new mom has to juggle the baby, household chores, and her professional life without losing her mind. Not surprisingly, obesity in women is mainly caused by childbirth weight that is never gotten rid of.
Thyroid conditions affect women more than they affect men. Sometimes, obesity in women can be caused by hormonal imbalances brought on by a dysfunctional thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland under-works, so the metabolism gets sluggish, the patient gets more tired than is normal, and several other organs do not function optimally – all contributing to obesity in women. Thyroid problems are usually genetic.
Lower Muscle Mass
Women have less muscle than men. Muscle burns more calories, even while resting, which is why men can eat a lot more and get away with it.
Women have slower metabolism than men. But we all still eat the same amounts of food without appreciating that our bodies may not be able to burn it all.
Even in developed nations, a woman has a lot more to deal with than her male counterparts. You have probably seen this in your own life as well. You have to juggle a home and career, always be taking care of or being there for friends, family and extended family, take on tasks that you really don’t have the time for just to show that you care, meet the demands of busy hubby, ambitious kids, maddening in-laws, and heartless bosses. Women’s lives today are far more jam-packed than they were just a decade ago. Planning healthy meals and working out have to take a backseat. So obesity in women is bound to occur as women just do not have the time or energy at the end of the day to take care of themselves.
Risks of Obesity in Women
Obesity in women causes several health problems that are unique to women. Below are the health conditions that are most likely to develop due to obesity in women.
For reasons unknown, obesity in women puts them at higher risk for diabetes than obesity in men. Obesity in women is one of the primary causes of diabetes in women. Obesity in women is directly responsible for 63% of all female diabetes cases.
Until as little as two decades ago, cardiovascular disease used to be more prevalent among men than women. However, the growing rates of obesity in women have resulted in more and more women developing heart disease post-menopause.
Hormones play an essential role in the smooth functioning of the human body. The slightest hormonal imbalance can mean a whole host of problems for women. Since obesity in women dramatically affects the hormonal balance, women are susceptible to several problems. If you do not have a thyroid problem already, obesity will be sure to put you at very high risk of developing one.
Obesity in women and infertility are directly related. The change in the body’s hormonal systems as well as the change in the cells themselves cause lower levels of ovulation plus a resistance to any fertility treatments.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is actually a hormonal problem which causes a number of health problems such as irregular periods, acne, weight gain, insulin resistance and is a high risk factor for other health conditions such as high blood pressure and infertility. Obesity in women has often been linked to PCOS. More than half of all PCOS sufferers are obese.
One of the worst side effects of obesity in women is how it influences a pregnancy. Obesity causes the cells to change their chemical composition, which makes them act differently than normal healthy cells. Plus, obesity in women causes severe hormonal imbalance as we have seen earlier. This leads to several pregnancy complications, a few of which are mentioned below.
- As we have seen, obesity in women can create difficulties in getting pregnant. Even if fertility tests show no fertility issues, obese women will still end up trying for a very long time before their efforts are successful.
- Once they do get pregnant though, there are more problems at hand. Obesity in women is a high risk factor for several pregnancy complications with gestational diabetes and high blood pressure topping the list. Although gestational diabetes is supposed to typically end after childbirth, obesity in women causes it to stick around for long after the baby is born. High blood pressure in pregnancy is a very dangerous health condition which, if left untreated, leads to preeclampsia – a serious pregnancy complication that has a number of potential high risks for both mother and baby. Read more about preeclampsia to see how it can affect the pregnancy. Since obesity in women is unlikely to be tackled during pregnancy, it is more than likely that all the complications will be at their worst. This is why it is recommended that obese women lose weight before they even try to get pregnant.
- Pregnancy is a very trying time for the body. Pregnancy and obesity in women combined can be extremely taxing on the body, which can lead to a very difficult pregnancy that is fraught with problems.
- In addition to having a difficult pregnancy, obesity in women can lead to prolonged labor as well. The additional layers of fat on the body can make childbirth more painful and full of hassle than it already is.
- There may be far too much fat to even allow for normal vaginal childbirth. A c-section may have to be performed. A cesarean section may seem like a common delivery method, but it comes with its own set of risks and future complications.
- Babies born to obese mothers are usually overweight themselves. And they tend to remain heavy and have weight issues their whole lives.
- Obesity in women can also cause deformities in the growing foetus. A common birth defect of babies born to obese women is spina bifida, a neural tube defect.
- As if all these pregnancy complications are not bad enough, obesity in women can cause problems post-pregnancy too. For example, women who suffer from obesity heal much more slowly after childbirth, and they are more prone to developing urinary tract infections.
Obesity in women is very likely to cause several period problems which will differ from woman to woman, Menstrual irregularities caused by obesity in women include no period or amenorrhoea, heavy period flow, missed period, pain during period, and a highly irregular menstrual cycle. Again, all these have to do with the hormonal imbalance caused by obesity in women.
Loss of Libido
Obesity in women causes problems in the bedroom as well. Libido may be affected, although the reasons are as yet unknown. Hormonal imbalance could be a possibility. But researchers hypothesize that it has more to do with a woman’s mental state and how she sees herself. Obesity in women can cause them to consider themselves unattractive and unworthy of love, which can prevent them from enjoying a healthy sexual life even if they have loving partners.
Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
This is a scary one. As it is, breast cancer rates are growing each year. Obesity in women is also increasing, and with it comes the increased risk of developing breast cancer. Obesity in women is a very strong risk factor for breast cancer. The reasons are unknown, but it is though that excessive fat in the body can cause the cells to mutate and prevent them from halting the growth of malignant cells.
Increased Risk of Uterine Cancer
As we have seen earlier in the pregnancy complications, obesity in women leads to an increased risk of uterine tract infections post-pregnancy. Researchers feel that this may be somehow connected to the higher incidence of uterine cancer in women who suffer from obesity.
Higher Likelihood of Developing Osteoporosis
One of the health effects of obesity in women and men is that it increases the risk of osteoarthritis due to excessive pressure on the joints. Another bone disorder affected by obesity in women is osteoporosis. This problem is characterized by depleting calcium stores in the bones that leads to low mineral bone density which in turn causes the bones to become very fragile. Hormonal changes are a risk factor for osteoporosis. So women are anyway at higher risk for osteoporosis because of the massive hormonal changes their bodies undergo due to puberty, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. Menopausal women in particular are at very high risk of developing osteoporosis. The hormonal changes brought on by obesity in women further contributes to the increased risk. Plus, the extra weight on the body puts more pressure on already brittle bones which can exacerbate an existing case of osteoporosis.
Women have to live with higher expectations of beauty than men. There is a constant barrage of images in the media telling us what we’re supposed to look like. And although we logically know that we should not judge ourselves by how we look, we nevertheless are brainwashed into doing exactly that. Obesity in women can cause them to feel ugly, undeserving, unloved, lonely, anxious, and very insecure. One in four women who suffer from obesity have mental health issues that require medical attention and treatment.
As anyone who has tried losing a few pounds can attest, losing weight can be a nightmare. And losing a huge amount of weight can be a mammoth task. But it needs to be done if you want to avoid these health effects of obesity in women. Losing just 10% of your body weight can considerably reduce your risk for all the above risks of obesity in women.