When you think of obesity in women, you don’t think of much beyond excessive weight. While this is indeed the main symptom of obesity in women, the condition is so harmful overall that it has several accompanying symptoms in addition to the excess weight.
Symptoms of Obesity in Women
If you know you are overweight and experience any of the accompanying symptoms below, you may be obese or be headed toward it.
BMI Higher than 30
Your BMI is your body mass index, which is nothing more than a way to measure body fat. It is calculated by dividing your weight in kilos by your height in meters squared. For example, if your weight is 70 kg and your height is 5 feet 5 inches or 1.65 metres, you would calculate as below:
70 ÷ (1.65 x 1.65)
70 ÷ 2.7225
So your BMI is 25.71.
You do not have to learn the formula if you don’t want to. There are several online BMI calculators that can do the job for you in a jiffy.
Once you arrive at your BMI, you can determine where you stand on the BMI chart which will let you know whether or not you are overweight. As we have seen, obesity is when the BMI is above 30. So a person with a BMI of 25.71 is not obese. However, look at the chart below and you will see that this is still a borderline number into being overweight.
If your BMI is…
…then you are…
18.5 to 24.9
25 to 29.9
30 and higher
40 and higher
So precautions should be taken to lose some weight and bring it under control before it spirals into obesity.
Know that although BMI is generally used to determine body fat percentage it is not the most accurate and should not be taken as absolute evidence of obesity. For example, women who work out a lot or are into bodybuilding may be heavier because of muscle mass so their BMI may be above 30. But it’s common sense that they are not fat.
This is why other symptoms of obesity in women need to be taken into consideration before making a diagnosis.
Obesity means that your bones have to carry around more weight than they are ready for. This puts intense pressure on the joints and can lead to severe joint pain as well as early onset arthritis.
There are several athletic women whose BMI is above 30 and you might argue that since their weight is far in excess then their bones should be hurting too. When athletes, weightlifters, wrestlers or bodybuilders put on weight as part of their routines, the scenario is completely different as they are strengthening their bones through exercise and a diet high in nutrition so that the bones gradually get accustomed to the weight gain. Plus, this kind of weight gain has more to do with muscle mass than fat. Muscle latches itself on to the bone and strengthens it further.
With obesity, all that happens is that the body puts on extra weight in the form of fat. There’s no muscle and practically no nutrition either. Naturally, the bones are not prepared to deal with extra weight and problems are bound to occur.
Fatigue and Lethargy
Your bones aren’t the only things to suffer from the extra weight. The truth is that it affects your entire body. Your organs have to slug it out to keep your system moving, your heart has to pump harder to get the blood moving, your veins and arteries are stressed. There’s no organ that is not affected and which is not working ten times harder than in someone of average weight. All this extra work takes a huge toll on the body, drawing desperately on resources and energy that it barely has. That is why obese women tend to feel extreme fatigue and even downright lethargy, getting exhausted even before they get out of bed and barely able to make it through the day.
Diminishing Sex Drive
Women tend to worry more about their appearance than men, especially in bed. Obesity in women can make them feel unattractive and undesirable. This leads to avoidance of intimacy. However, obesity in general changes the body chemistry from the inside and considerably reduces libido.
The body and mind are intricately connected. Any change to one will have repercussions on the other. Considering how obesity affects the body so completely, it is no surprise that mental and emotional problems will also ensue.
Firstly, being so grotesquely overweight leads to body image issues. Many of us tend to judge our worth based on how we look, and since being vastly overweight is not the normal criterion for beauty (or health), intense feelings of loathing towards the body develop and this veers into loathing of yourself as a person too.
When you hate yourself, your whole life is affected. Work is almost impossible because you feel you can accomplish nothing, you may not want to even get out of bed in the morning, thoughts of self-harm may crop up from time to time and every single moment can become torture.
This makes extreme depression a common symptom of obesity. A profound sadness and a sense of hopelessness pervade your thoughts and you feel like nothing is worth anything, least of all yourself.
If the cause of the obesity is an excess intake of junk food, then that may also be the culprit of depression and mood-related issues. Much of the junk food today has high levels of chemicals which are known to affect the brain in the same way that recreational drugs do. The behavior of drug addicts is very similar to those who live on junk food and fast food. The only difference is that an addiction to food is accepted by society while one to drugs isn’t. The chemicals in junk food alter the neural pathways of your brain, creating a desire for evermore junk food. If the junk food requirements are not met, irritability, anger, lethargy, sadness, anxiety and other negative emotions follow.
These are all actually withdrawal symptoms and the main reason that obese people find it so difficult to start and stick to a healthy diet, especially if junk food has been their main diet for several years.
Obese women and indeed even men may suffer from sleep-related issues. Snoring is the most common symptom of obesity, especially if a condition called sleep apnea is also present. The latter is when there are periods during the night when breathing stops.
Ironically, although one of the obesity symptoms is extreme fatigue, sleep can be hard to come by. Insomnia is another rather common symptom of diabetes in women. What’s worse, not sleeping enough just leads to weight being accumulated around the belly. As you can see, several of the symptoms of obesity are linked to each other and each is instrumental in creating a vicious cycle which is hard to break out of.
High Blood Pressure
As we saw earlier, obesity puts a lot of stress on the heart. It has to pump blood into more of you and is working way harder than it is equipped for. This causes high blood pressure and is one of the symptoms of obesity in women and men.
Higher Cholesterol Levels
You will not necessarily have cholesterol if you are obese, many skinny people have high cholesterol too. However, if your diet consists mainly of junk food and you are overweight then high cholesterol could be a warning sign for the beginnings of not just obesity but a number of serious medical conditions such as heart disease.
Many obese people become diabetic. Diabetes is as widespread an epidemic in the modern world as obesity, and just as much of a killer because of the toll it takes on the normal functioning of the body leading to kidney failure and even blindness. If you are diabetic and overweight, it may be the latter that has led to the development of the former.
Menstrual Irregularities and Problems
Your menstrual cycle will function normally as long as your body is healthy enough to bear and care for a baby. You may have noticed if you were sick for a long time, very stressed out or lost weight too suddenly that your period simply stopped but resumed when your body and mind were healthy again. Your body is very intuitive and will thus keep your periods going normally only so long as it can sense that all is well with you and that in case of a pregnancy you will be able to see it to full term. When you are obese, the body can feel the degeneration of the organs and the upheaval in the mind. So your periods can get highly irregular, even stopping altogether for months at a time.
However, at some point during the excessive weight gain the body has too much to handle and cannot keep efficient track of the periods anymore. It is quite literally far too chaotic inside for things to be moving along as normal. This can lead to a very heavy flow or a very light flow, severe pre-menstrual symptoms and even lead to the development of cysts on the ovaries. All these in addition to weight gain should be seen as symptoms of obesity in women and steps should be taken to reverse the damage before things get out of hand.
Since obesity has such a chaotic effect on the reproductive system, it stands to reason that it will also affect fertility. If you are overweight and have been unsuccessful in your attempts to get pregnant despite having regular periods, it may be because of infertility caused by obesity. This is a symptom of obesity which is sometimes overlooked.
Worsening Asthma and other Breathing Problem
The extra weight also makes it difficult for the respiratory system. Which is why even a short walk or taking the stairs can lead to heavy breathing, wheezing or breathlessness.
If you have a history of asthma, you may experience more frequent attacks if you are obese. Allergy symptoms related to the respiratory system tend to occur with great intensity too.