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Obesity is a serious condition that affects almost every part of your body. People who are obese have an increased risk for many diseases and health problems, including the following:

Obesity and BMI

Being obese means having a body mass index — or BMI — of 30 or more. Your BMI is a number based on the ratio of your height and weight:

  • Underweight: BMI under 18.5
  • Normal: BMI between 18.5 and 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI between 25 and 29.9
  • Obese: BMI of 30 or more
  • Morbidly obese: BMI of 40 or more

If you are overweight or your BMI is in the obese range, it doesn’t mean you are not healthy. It does mean you are at higher risk of developing one or more serious health problems. Calculate your BMI.

Your risk of developing obesity-related health problems increases if you are morbidly obese.

Abdominal obesity (belly fat)

Abdominal obesity — sometimes called belly fat — refers to excess fat around the midsection. People who have abdominal obesity are often said to have an apple shape.

Even if your weight is normal, storing excess fat around your stomach puts you at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, heart disease and other problems.

One way to tell if you have abdominal obesity is to measure your waist size. If you are a man, your waist size should be no more than 40 inches. If you are a woman, your waist size should be less than 35 inches.

Obesity causes

Obesity occurs over time when you take in more calories than your body needs to function properly. When you eat and drink more calories than your body needs, your body stores the extra energy as fat.

Being obese is more than a matter of simple math, however. There are many factors that influence whether you become obese. The following are just a few:

Your environment and lifestyle

  • Where you live may affect your access to healthy foods and places to safely take part in physical activities.
  • Your work hours or family obligations may make it difficult for you to fit exercise into your life.
  • You may eat at restaurants a lot, which often leads to eating more calories than you need.

Your genes

  • Research shows that obesity tends to run in families, suggesting that your genes have an impact on whether you become obese.

Lifestyle changes to lose weight

Becoming more active and eating more healthy foods are steps you can take to lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your weight can help improve your health.

Tips for starting an exercise program

  • Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Aerobic activity is anything that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat. Taking a walk, riding a bicycle, swimming, playing tennis: Any activity that gets you moving counts.
  • If you can’t do long workout sessions, you can get your 150 minutes of activity in small chunks of time spread out over the week. Do chores around the house at a brisk pace, walk your dog or dance to your favorite music for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Ways to start eating better

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Try to make them take up half of your plate at most meals.
  • Replace refined grains like white bread with whole grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Focus on healthy sources of protein, like seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Cut down on or eliminate sugary drinks. Choose unsweetened tea, low-fat milk or water instead.
  • Try to eat more meals at home.

How can I get help for obesity?

Talk to your primary care doctor if you are concerned about your weight. He or she can help you create a plan for safely reducing your weight.

If needed, your primary care doctor may refer you to a bariatric surgeon, a registered dietitian or another specialist who focuses on prevention.

Obesity care at Rush

Specialists at Rush offer a full range of services to help you lose weight, improve your health and live longer:

  • Medical weight loss: Doctors, dietitians and psychologists at Rush can help you make and execute a plan to lose weight. Your plan will be based on research about the most effective ways to shed extra pounds, and tailored to your individual needs.
  • Bariatric surgery: For many people who are obese, bariatric surgery is the most effective way to lose weight and reduce the risk of obesity-related health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

Why choose Rush for obesity care

  • Comprehensive weight management services: Rush has a Center for Weight Loss and Lifestyle Medicine, a Prevention Center and a Nutrition and Wellness Center, all of which offer services to help you learn how to make and sustain lifestyle changes.
  • Experienced bariatric surgeons: Bariatric surgeons at Rush have performed more than 2,000 bariatric procedures. Research suggests that experienced surgeons have better outcomes and lower complication rates.
  • New insights: Researchers at Rush have been active in studies that have increased understanding of abdominal obesity in women and of bariatric surgery outcomes.

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