External Influences on Obesity

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over some of the many external influences on obesity. You'll find out how things like diet, exercise, sleep and even television all play a role in increasing the risk of obesity.

Genes & Obesity

Genes play a heavy role in determining a lot about you. This includes things like potential disease you may get or be predisposed to. But genes aren't always the end all, be all, deciding factors for a disorder.

One great example of this is smoking. For most people, long-term smoking is a potential prelude to lung cancer, even if they have 'strong' or 'good' genes.

The same idea kind of goes for obesity. While genetics do play a role in obesity, environmental and lifestyle factors are often to blame as well. Let's find out how in this lesson.


To understand how lifestyle and environmental factors play a role in all of this, we're going to spend a day with Mary, a woman struggling with obesity.

Mary's diet is not the healthiest in terms of choices she can make. For breakfast, she has some high-sugar cereal with milk, followed by eggs and bacon. Animal fats, processed/refined grains and sugars, red meat, and animal fat are all part of an unhealthy diet that can predispose a person to obesity.

But it's not just the type of food she eats, it's the amount as well. In other words, the size of the portions she eats. A little bit of cereal once in a while, even sweet cereal, is not going to do much damage.

But Mary eats large amounts of unhealthy food with every meal, way more than her body needs. Instead of focusing on eating large meals with lots of red meat, unhealthy animal fats, refined grains and sugar, Mary should focus on eating the following in moderation:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Nuts
  • Healthy fats, like avocado oil
  • Whole grains


Tied in with diet is another external influence on obesity. Television! Yes, Mary sits around for long stretches of the day watching television. This is bad for two very important reasons. First of all, television is full of yummy advertisements for delicious ice-cream and savory juicy steak. You might be salivating just by reading that sentence. And so, television ads are a risk factor for obesity.

Of course, the manufacturers of food items that are extremely palatable, energy dense, and in large portion sizes are somewhat to blame as well. And the relatively cheap prices for some of these foods don't help things either!


The second reason for why TV is such a large obesity risk factor has to do with a much bigger issue, exercise, or a lack thereof. See, Mary is simply sitting still while eating and watching TV. This creates an imbalance.

She is taking in more calories than she is expending, which predisposes her to weight gain. Instead of watching TV, she could go walk, run, or swim to burn off excess calories.

Her job doesn't help her much either. Mary works in HR and sits for about 8-10 hours a day in front a desk. These are hours she could be exercising instead!


Research also suggests that a lack of sleep can contribute to obesity as well. Mary agrees. She says that because of all of her life stresses, she doesn't get enough sleep. She finds it very difficult to exercise when she's so tired, which increases her risk for obesity.

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