What factors affect weight and health?

Many factors can affect your weight and lead to overweight or obesity. Some of these factors may make it hard for you to lose weight or avoid regaining weight that you’ve lost.

Family history and genes

Overweight and obesity tend to run in families, suggesting that genes may play a role. Your chances of being overweight are greater if one or both of your parents are overweight or have obesity. Your genes may affect the amount of fat you store in your body and where on your body you carry the extra fat.

Race or ethnicity

Some racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to have obesity. Obesity rates in American adults are highest in African Americans, followed by Hispanics/Latinos, then Caucasians. This is true for men and women.4 While Asian American men and women have the lowest rates of obesity,4 they can still be at risk of diseases associated with obesity if they carry a lot of unhealthy fat in their abdomen—even when their body mass index (BMI) is lower.5

Age

Many people gain weight as they age. Adults who have a normal BMI often start to gain weight in young adulthood and continue to gain weight until they are ages 60 to 65. In addition, children who have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults.

Sex

In the United States, obesity is more common in black or Hispanic women than in black or Hispanic men.4 A person’s sex may also affect where the body stores fat. Women tend to build up fat in their hips and buttocks. Men usually build up fat in their abdomen or belly. Extra fat, particularly if it is around the abdomen, may put people at risk of health problems even if they have a normal weight.

Eating and physical activity habits

Your eating and physical activity habits may raise your chances of becoming overweight and having obesity if you

  • eat and drink a lot of foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, and fat
  • drink a lot of beverages that are high in added sugars
  • spend a lot of time sitting or lying down and have limited physical activity

Where you live, work, play, and worship

Where you live, work, play, and worship may affect your eating and physical activity habits, and access to healthy foods and places to be active.

For example, living in an area that has a high number of grocery stores can increase your access to better quality, lower calorie foods. Living in a neighborhood with a lot of green spaces and areas for safe physical activity may encourage you to be more physically active.

Where you work and worship may also make it easier for you to eat unhealthy, high-calorie foods. Vending machines, cafeterias, or special events at your workplace or place of worship may not offer healthy, lower calorie options. Whenever possible, choose the healthier options and limit your treats to a small sliver of pie or cake.

Family habits and culture

Family eating and lifestyle habits may affect your weight and health. Some families may consume foods and beverages that are high in fat, salt, and added sugars or eat large amounts of unhealthy foods at family gatherings. Some families may also spend a lot of inactive time watching TV, using a computer, or using a mobile device instead of being active.

Your social, ethnic, or religious group culture may also affect your weight and health because of shared eating and lifestyle habits. Some cultures may consume foods and beverages that are high in fat, salt, and added sugars. Some common food preparation methods, such as frying, may lead to high-calorie intake. Regularly consuming foods high in calories, fat, and sugar may lead to weight gain overtime.

Not enough sleep

People who don’t get enough sleep may eat more calories and snack more.6 Experts recommend that adults ages 18 to 64 get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day, and that adults ages 65 and older get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day.7

Other factors

Other factors that can lead to weight gain include

What makes it hard for some people to lose weight?

Many factors can make it hard to lose weight, including

  • your genes
  • what and how much you eat
  • not getting regular physical activity or being inactive
  • taking certain medicines
  • having certain medical conditions
  • Difficulty in managing stress 

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