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Obesity - What are the symptoms of obesity?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you're obese, it's more serious than being a few kilograms or pounds overweight.

You're carrying a lot of fat on your body.[11]

  • Most of the extra fat will lie either around your waist and chest (making you 'apple shaped') or on your hips and buttocks (making you 'pear shaped').

  • Men who are obese tend to have big waists.

  • Women tend to carry extra weight on their hips.

  • Some women become apple shaped, especially after the menopause.[23]

How obesity affects you

Having a heavy body can be uncomfortable. And it can also cause other problems.[24]

Being short of breath

If you're very large, moving around may be a struggle. So you may get out of breath. If you have a lot of fat around your neck and chest, you may need to take short, shallow breaths. The extra fat makes it difficult for air to flow easily in and out of your lungs.[25]

Feeling tired

If you find it hard to breathe, you may not be getting enough oxygen into your blood. This can make you feel tired. Carrying extra weight can be tiring too. Some people find that everyday activities become a struggle. It may take a lot of effort to walk upstairs or carry shopping.

Sore joints or muscles

As you put on weight, your ankles and knees need to work harder. These joints and the muscles in your legs and lower back may become sore and stiff. Your posture may suffer too. You may hunch and fold in on yourself.

Skin problems

If you have folds of fat, the skin underneath the folds can stay moist from perspiration. This makes it more likely that you'll get a skin infection. The skin under large breasts and buttocks can also rub and become sore.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted blood vessels. They often look lumpy and blue. They aren't dangerous but they can look unattractive. And they may make your legs ache. They're partly caused by the strain of carrying extra weight.

Irregular periods

Some larger women find that their periods become irregular and may stop altogether. This is because the extra fat can upset the balance of hormones in your body.

Your feelings about food

You may feel you can't control how much you eat and can't stop eating when you feel full. You may have cravings for sweet or fatty foods. Some people go on a diet then eat large amounts of food. This is called binge eating disorder.

Your daily life

Being obese can also affect the quality of your life and how you feel about yourself. Your self-esteem may be affected and you may feel ashamed and guilty.

To read more, see How obesity affects your life.



Hormones are chemicals that are made in certain parts of the body. They travel through the bloodstream and have an effect on other parts of the body. For example, the female sex hormone oestrogen is made in a woman's ovaries. Oestrogen has many different effects on a woman's body. It makes the breasts grow at puberty and helps control periods. It is also needed to get pregnant.


When a woman stops having periods, it is called the menopause. This usually happens around the age of 50.

For more terms related to Obesity


For references related to Obesity click here.
Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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