Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more. While BMI is not a perfect measure of body fat content, it provides guidelines for those who are concerned about health issues related to excess weight.
BMI is calculated by dividing body weight by height squared and multiplying by 703. This number has been shown to correlate closely to body fat findings through other methods, such as underwater density measurements, although athletes with heavy muscles may find the number is not as accurate for them.
Most insurance companies use BMI or a height/weight comparison chart to determine whether an individual is overweight. While life insurance companies routinely use these figures to calculate whether a person is at risk for early death.
Health insurance companies have also begun to classify obesity as a pre-existing condition that can bar individuals from receiving health care coverage or result in very high premiums. Even worse, the Affordable Care Act bars insurance companies from denying coverage for every pre-existing condition except obesity.
What Causes Obesity?
While most of us have been taught to think that obese or overweight people simply eat too much or exercise too little, there can be a variety of other causes for overweight conditions. In fact, recent research shows that what we eat is far more important than how much we eat when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Generally speaking, the following factors lead to weight gain:
- Sedentary Lifestyle – Working in an office all day and watching television all evening is one of the biggest changes in lifestyle in the last hundred years and has been linked to weight gain. Failure to get at least 30 minutes a day of cardiovascular exercise has been linked to heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
- Diets High in Processed Foods – The more processed foods a diet contains, the more likely it is that the person consuming the foods will be overweight. Chemicals in food react in our bodies in ways we do not completely understand to convert energy to fat storage.
- Diets Low in Fresh or Raw Foods – People who eat a diet high in fiber and raw fruits and vegetables have far less weight issues than those who eat high-fat, high-cholesterol diets
- Heredity – Our body shape and type is determined before birth. Some people simply gain weight more quickly than others or put on weight in certain areas of the body. However, body type does not force a person to become overweight; it simply makes the person more susceptible to weight gain.
Will My Health Insurance Premiums Increase If I Gain Weight?
If you are struggling with a weight issue, it is very likely that you will at some point deal with higher health insurance premiums. Because the ACA allows obesity to be considered as a pre-existing condition, few insurance companies will fail to take advantage of the opportunity to charge heavier people more in premiums, especially since these same companies will have to take losses on other pre-existing conditions.
Many critics argue that the Act should not allow obesity to be exempted from the pre-existing condition ban. They point out that many Americans in low-income and urban areas, where obesity rates are very high, lack access to food that can prevent weight gain. They also point out that the chemicals in foods contribute to weight gain and that many people simply do not understand this connection.
However, until legislation changes, obesity will continue to be regarded as a preventable and controllable condition that can cost participants money when they buy health insurance.
How Can I Control My Weight?
There are several proven strategies to reduce body weight. However, none of them involve crash dieting or insane exercise routines. Some Experts advise that if you want to lose weight, follow these steps:
- Limit your food intake to between 1200 and 1800 calories per day, depending on your hunger and activity level
- Get 30 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate to 60 percent of the maximum nearly every day. Walking, jogging, and swimming are good exercises because they work the entire body and elevate the heart rate.
- Eat a diet rich in variety of lean means, lean dairy products, fruits and vegetables. Limit sugar, flour and fat.
- Avoid processed foods and “fast food” in restaurants and stores.
These steps will not result in overnight weight loss but they can ultimately get your weight under control. Furthermore, these steps should help you become healthier from a cardiovascular standpoint, reducing your risk of heart attack as well as diabetes and other diseases.