The term obese is often used interchangeably with morbidly obese, but these are two separate terms signifying different levels of weight over ordinary body weight. Someone who falls into the obese category weighs about 20% more than what is considered normal for his or her height, giving the person a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. It doesn’t take much extra weight to be considered obese, and in developed countries like the US, a fairly large percent of people are in this category. To be morbidly obese means that person has very high body fat percentage, and his or her BMI might be anywhere from 35 to 40 and up. There are disputes on whether BMI of 35 or 40 is the beginning point of morbid obesity, but 40 is the more typically accepted measurement.
What this really translates to in poundage is that the person would weigh approximately 100 pounds (45.36 kg) or more above the normal weight for for his or her height and size. The average woman standing at approximately 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) and weighing about 150 pounds (68.04 kg) has an average body mass index of 21.5. This is well within normal weight range. When that woman weighs 250 pounds (113.4 kg), she has a BMI of 35.9, and may be considered morbidly obese by some authorities. Generally, shorter stature and the same amount of pounds translate to the more accepted BMI rating of over 40 for morbid obesity. A woman who is 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) and weighs 250 pounds (113.4 kg) has a BMI of 41.6, and would be considered by all authorities to be at serious health risk.
The reason morbid is attached to the term obesity is due to the risk factor for many different health conditions that may result in death, and can be caused when this much weight is on the frame. Morbid can be understood as things or elements that produce disease. When extra fat accumulates in the body, it begins to have negative effects on a number of the organs and body systems. Some conditions for which this much weight is a risk factor for include cardiac disease, sleep apnea, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, stress incontinence, arthritis, and yeast infections. Depending on the environment, these people may also bear a lifetime of shame over their condition, which can lead to social phobias, alienation, depression, and/or panic disorders.
There are many ways to treat those diagnosed as morbidly obese. These include modifying diet and exercise to ultimately shed some weight; using medical interventions, such as drugs or surgeries, to reduce weight; or trying a variety of methods that are both home and doctor-based. Weight loss can be difficult to achieve in any context without strong support, so people who are obese may want to work with skilled nutritionists, counselors, or therapists, in addition to medical professionals who can help during this process.