Hope For Those Living With Obesity

Obesity is a disease that affects over 115 million Americans. It’s a national crisis driven by an epidemic that has spiraled out of control. Every community across the country is impacted by obesity. But there is hope.

What You Should Know About Obesity:

  • It’s not a character flaw. It’s a disease, a complex disease.
  • Losing weight and keeping it off is hard.
  • Diet and exercise aren’t always enough.
  • Where you live and genetics play a role.
  • Obesity impacts everyone, regardless of weight
  • It’s not funny. Weight bias is dehumanizing and damaging: it causes poor physical and psychological health outcomes and promotes a social norm that marginalizes people with obesity.

The Good News: There are treatment options

There is a range of treatment options for obesity, depending on the severity of the condition. Options include lifestyle interventions, such as diet and physical activity, as well as medication management and surgery for the most severe cases.  You can start by calculating your BMI using the BMI Calculator below.  While you should consult with your doctor on your specific needs, generally speaking, adults with a BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2 are Under Weight; adults with a BMI of 18.5 to less than 25 are Normal Weight.  Those with a BMI from 25 to less than 30 are Overweight and are appropriate for lifestyle interventions.  If you have a BMI in the range of 30 to less than 35, medication management might be the most appropriate option.  Finally, for those with a BMI of greater or equal to 35 and two comorbidities, surgery may be appropriate.  Surgery may also be appropriate for those who have a BMI at 40 or over without any additional comorbidities. For children ages 2-19, you can learn more about the percentile ranges for each category in the section below.

The BMI Calculator and How to Use it

BMI Chart
Ages 2-19
Under Weight < 18.5 < 5th
Normal Weight 18.5 to < 25 5th to < 85th
Overweight 25 to < 30 85th to < 95th
Obese (Class I) 30 to < 35 >= 95th
Obese (Class II) 35 to < 40 -
Obese (Class III+) >= 40 -
  • Health professionals use a BMI Calculator to determine if you are at a healthy weight for your age and height. You can enter some basic information about yourself into Pennington Biomedical’s BMI Calculator to learn the following:
  • BMI (Body Mass Index) is an estimate of body fat and is calculated for both children and adults. A high BMI might mean you are at a higher risk for diseases associated with obesity.
  • The BMI Percentile is calculated for children and young adults aged 2 to 19.  Health professionals can use the percentile score to categorize a child’s BMI to identify where the child falls in relation to other children of the same age and sex.
  • BMI Z-Scores are also calculated for children and young adults aged 2 to 19. This number indicates how much higher or lower your BMI is on a standard growth chart. BMI Z-Scores help health professionals to monitor weight changes in children and adolescents especially if they are in the underweight or overweight percentiles.

Further Treatment:

Lifestyle: Eating right and losing weight can be difficult. To lose weight and keep it off, changes in lifestyle and daily habits are necessary. Long-term lifestyle changes require more than simply watching what one eats and how much one exercises. These changes require adjusting one’s approach (thinking, feelings and actions) to eating and physical activity.

Pharmaceuticals: Medical Management: In carefully selected patients, appropriate drug treatment can help with weight loss. Weight loss medicines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for both short- and long-term use. A person must be under continual medical supervision by a physician while taking such medicines. The medication and dosage are tailored individually to the patient.

Surgery: Surgical therapy such as gastric bypass or gastric banding may be considered for someindividuals with obesity, who also have other chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes or sleep apnea, AND for whom dietary attempts at weight loss have not been successful. For more information on metabolic and bariatric surgery , visit the Metamor Institute, the first institute in the nation to offer an integrated and multidisciplinary approach in a single facility at the world-renowned Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA.

Childhood Obesity: The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated its Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Obesity. Comprehensive treatment suggested by the Academy include nutrition support, physical activity treatment, behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy, and metabolic and bariatric surgery.

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The scale only tells one side of the story.  Watch Ezra’s film and you’ll see there’s far more to the obesity epidemic than just a person’s weight.

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Join us in the fight to solve the obesity epidemic. Sign up to receive periodic updates from Obecity, USA and Pennington Biomedical, and we’ll send you a free electronic copy of some of Charlie and Ezra’s favorite recipes.

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Ezra & Charlie's Classmates

Stress and weight stigma both contribute to obesity. Stress may promote struggles with a healthy lifestyle, increasing the risk of obesity. Weight stigma and fat-shaming can increase the odds of developing obesity by six-fold. The combination of stress and negative effects of fat-shaming can lead to health struggles, including sleep loss, which all contribute to poor health and increased weight.

Mr. Miller

As a classroom educator for eleven years, Mr. Miller has seen firsthand the increase in the number of students who are overweight or have obesity.  During that period, he has also watched the budgets for sports and physical education programs shrink and school lunch menus promote less healthy alternatives.

He knows that with the proper support, schools can have a positive influence on childhood obesity, through changes in the school environment which improve physical activity and eating habits.

The Guesser

The Guesser plays the vital role of providing factual information to Ezra in response to her question about her weight.

Few public health problems are as complex as obesity, which has many causes. It is one of the most prevalent and deadly diseases, yet it is widely overlooked and often misunderstood.

With over 30 years of groundbreaking, evidence-based research, Pennington Biomedical is recognized as a world leader in the fight against obesity and related chronic diseases.  No guessing, just hope.

Kelly & Aaron
Charlie's Parents

Like many families today, Charlie’s parents face financial challenges. Healthy food alternatives are often more expensive and not as available as unhealthier foods. 

People in the poorest neighborhoods typically must travel further to reach a supermarket or grocery store and have 2.5 times more exposure to fast food than those in wealthy neighborhoods.   

Sometimes the healthier option is not an option at all.

Ezra's Parents

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Jayla & Caleb
Ezra's Parents

Ezra’s parents have always struggled with obesity, which means Ezra had an 80% chance of having obesity.

While there are very few obesity genes, there are hundreds of genes, markers, and chromosomal regions associated with obesity. And a person’s environment, from preconception and throughout their life, influences genetic factors linked to obesity. Obesity is a generational disease that commonly runs in families.


Everyone looks at obesity differently in America.  But the only way to see an end to the epidemic is to see it through the eyes of those who live with it every day.

Watch Charlie’s film and see for yourself.