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A person is said to be obese when their body weight is 10% above the normal range. Tables of desirable and ideal weights or heights are based on actuarial estimates of what is consistent with a normal life expectancy. The normal range is difficult to establish. It is calculated on the basis of height, age and build.

A widely used formula for relating weight to height is the Body Mass Index (BMI). The weight in kilograms is divided by the height in metres squared. A BMI between 23 and 25 is desirable, a BMI between 25 and 30 is overweight and one of 30 or more is obese. Measurement of skin fold thichness on the upper arm is another method of estimating obesity amoung the individuals in the medium range of body size.

Obesity or excessive fat storage occurs when a person eats and drinks more food than is required for their normal day to day energy purposes. Emotional factors can play a part in some people who with each emotional crisis, find solace in overeating. Anorexia nervosa is the opposite and leads to gross underweight.

Genetically some people lack the ability to burn up energy and keep their fat storage levels at an acceptable level. It is also thought that obese people absorb food from the gut more efficiently. Another significant point is that fat cells which with dietary restriction and exercise, will get smaller but the number remain constant and will increase in size with a failure to control the food intake.

Obesity can commence in childhood and it is thought that it is in childhood that sensible eating and exercise patterns should be established particularly when signs of early obesity are present.

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