What causes someone to become overweight or obese?

You can become overweight or obese when you eat more calories (KAL-oh-rees) than you use. A calorie is a unit of energy in the food you eat. Your body needs this energy to function and to be active. But if you take in more energy than your body uses, you will gain weight.

Many factors can play a role in becoming overweight or obese. These factors include:

  • Behaviors, such as eating too many calories or not getting enough physical activity
  • Environment and culture
  • Genes

Overweight and obesity problems keep getting worse in the United States. Some cultural reasons for this include:

  • Bigger portion sizes
  • Little time to exercise or cook healthy meals
  • Using cars to get places instead of walking


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