Medically reviewed on Aug 14, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Despite the prevalent stigma surrounding being overweight, weight issues are extremely common. The National Institutes of Health estimate that about 1 in 3 American adults are overweight, while 2 in 5 have obesity. 
While both excess weight and obesity relate to body mass, the two are distinct when it comes to how they are diagnosed and the numerous adverse health conditions they can cause. That said, treatment for both issues revolves around the same principle: losing weight, and cultivating the healthy habits needed to maintain a healthy body mass.
If you’re one of the many Americans who struggle with their weight, know that moving in a healthier direction is possible. Understanding how excess weight impacts your health and how you can build a foundation for total health and weight management is the first step in supporting your body beyond numbers on a scale.
Being diagnosed as overweight or obese is more complicated than stepping on a scale. Most healthcare providers assess weight-related health concerns using the BMI system. BMI stands for body mass index.  This is measured by taking a person’s weight and it dividing it by their square height in meters.2 BMI does not calculate body fat. 
Healthcare providers typically use the following BMI benchmarks to assess patients :
Because of concerns surrounding escalating obesity trends in the US, the condition is divided into several sub-classes. These escalate according to severity and include :
While BMI is the most current evaluation system for identifying potential weight-related health risks, it isn’t without criticism. BMI is not considered a diagnostic mode for identifying health issues; many medical professionals suggest that far more factors affect health than BMI alone. 
So, if you fall into the “overweight” category, it’s possible your healthcare provider may not find any other health risks associated with excess weight. That said, if your weight is concerning to you, there are healthy ways to achieve sustainable weight loss that may significantly improve your physical health and quality of life.
When the body carries excess weight, it can increase the risk of health hazards that affect multiple systems of the body. The following are some of the most urgent conditions affecting people who are overweight or obese.
One of the greatest concerns for overweight and obese people is the heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is an irreversible health condition driven by insulin insensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that enables your body to use and regulate blood sugar. Being overweight can lead to insulin resistance, which is an increased risk in the development of this health condition.
Type 2 diabetes is linked with a variety of other illnesses, including but not limited to :
Type 2 diabetes can be managed, but it can alter a person’s way of life. Fortunately, recent developments in the medical field have increased accessibility to medications (e.g. Mounjaro®) that can help treat type 2 diabetes while promoting weight loss.
The connection between obesity and metabolic disorders is an area of mounting interest in the medical research community.5 Some metabolic disorders linked to obesity include :
Metabolic syndrome is currently one of the most pressing concerns for healthcare providers and medical researchers.  This refers to a cross-circuit of comorbid health conditions, including :
People who are obese and favor a sedentary lifestyle are the most likely to develop metabolic syndrome.7 However, even when metabolic syndrome does not occur, people who are obese have a high risk of developing chronic health conditions. 
Heart disease is closely associated with both overweight and obese people.4 It’s often connected to hypertension (high blood pressure), which overweight and obese people have an increased risk of developing.
Fortunately, heart disease is one health risk that can be significantly decreased by losing a relatively small amount of weight compared with your body size. Even a 5% or 10% reduction in body weight may promote cardiovascular health by reducing physical stress on the heart. 
Cancer can be another health problem associated with excess body weight. Some forms of cancer are more common in obese people. These include :
In total, healthcare providers recognize 13 forms of cancer are linked with obesity.8 People assigned female at birth (AFAB) who are obese or overweight are also more likely to develop female-associated forms of cancer, like breast or ovarian cancer. 
The link between excess weight or obesity and cancer is not fully understood. The mechanisms responsible for causing cancer in people with excess weight are still being researched. However, it’s theorized that the connection could be caused by several factors :
People who carry excess weight are more likely to develop reproductive disorders.9 People AFAB are particularly vulnerable to fertility challenges.10 In people assigned male at birth (AMAB), excess weight can negatively affect sperm count and quality. 
The effect of excessive body fat on reproductive function is highly complex and can adversely impact fertility at all points in the reproductive cycle.10 It may suspend an AFAB person’s ability to ovulate or cause complications during the birthing process.10 It can also cause infertility. 
Fortunately, weight loss can largely restore fertility in the majority of cases. 
Both being overweight and obese are associated with having poorer mental health and a lower quality of life.  Individuals carrying excess weight are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. 
Losing weight does not always relieve psychological struggles completely. However, it can take care of a major physical factor in well-being, making it easier to address stressors and cultivate a sense of total well-being.
Understanding overweight and obesity risk factors is the first step to finding the right treatment. The key difference between overweight vs. obese treatment plans is whether any chronic conditions resulting from excess weight require treatment. A trusted healthcare provider can evaluate your overall physical health and assess whether interventions beyond weight loss are needed.
Beyond that, treatments for being overweight or obese are focused on :
In some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend procedures like bariatric surgery to help you lose weight. Bariatric surgeries structurally modify your digestive system to assist with weight loss.
More recently, weight loss medications have been developed as a tool to support people looking to lose weight without surgery. Each type of medication is different, but most work by interacting with hormones affecting your body’s metabolism and digestion.
If you’re interested in learning more about weight loss drugs and whether you qualify for a prescription, a healthcare provider can help you decide whether these medicines are right for you.
No matter what BMI category you fall into, losing weight and restoring health requires a comprehensive approach. Everlywell can help you take control of your well-being with a suite of services designed to support your weight loss journey.
From at-home tests that screen for metabolic disturbances to prescription fulfillment services for weight-loss medication, Everlywell helps you understand your health from the comfort of your home. Our online weight management program can even connect a broad network of telehealth experts in weight loss to help you cross each milestone.
Learn more about how Everlywell can help you on your well-being journey by visiting us online today.