Morbid or Extreme Obesity

Morbid or Extreme Obesity

Morbid obesity is a complex, chronic disease. Obesity specifically means having too much body fat. Many people confuse the term with being overweight, but they are not the same. When a person is overweight, extra muscle, bone, or water can be causing a higher-than-ideal weight. When a person is morbidly, or extremely obese, it means he or she has a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher and generally has life-threatening health conditions because of the excessive body fat. These health conditions may include: 
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes 
  • Heart disease 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Sleep apnea 
  • Some cancers 
  • Stroke

Causes Morbid or Extreme Obesity

Obesity can be caused by:
  • Eating more food than your body can use
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Certain health issues, such as an under active thyroid
  • Certain medications
  • Stress, anxiety, and feeling sad
For women: 
  • Menopause (women may gain 12-15 pounds during menopause)
  • Not losing the weight they gained during pregnancy
When a person becomes obese, biology is also a significant factor. Some people may be overweight but living the same lifestyle and eating the same types and amounts of food as someone who is thin. The human body has a complex system to help keep weight at a healthy level. In some people, this system does not work normally. 

Lifestyle Factors:

Lifestyle factors affect a person’s body size. The way we eat when we were children can affect the way we eat as adults. Generally speaking, children can eat more than adults because they are more active and their bodies use more calories to grow. However, the way we eat over many years becomes a habit, and as we get older, we do not need as many calories. The unused calories are stored as fat. 

In America, we are surrounded by things that make it easy to overeat and hard to stay active: 
  • Eating Out: Restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants, tend to cook food in unhealthy ways, adding more calories than necessary to a meal. Restaurants also tend to serve larger portions than necessary. 
  • Busy Lifestyle: Being busy means that many people do not have time to plan and make healthy meals.
  • Sedentary Jobs: Being less active means burning fewer calories. More people today work desk jobs compared to more active jobs in the past.
  • Lack of Exercise: Being busy means little or no time to exercise to burn the extra calories consumed in a day. 
  • Sleep Habits: Sleeping poorly during the night or lack of sleep contributes to weight gain.  
Having one or more of the above risk factors does not mean that you will develop morbid or extreme obesity. Understanding your risk factors will help you determine, what, if any, precautions and special screening you should consider.


The most common ways to measure your level of obesity are: 
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Waist circumference (your waist measurement in inches)
  • Body fat percentage
BMI is measured using height and weight, which provides an estimate of how much body fat you have. A higher BMI indicates more stored fat.   

The waist measurement is another way to estimate how much fat is present. Extra weight around the middle or stomach area increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Body fat percentage is gathered by taking skin fold measurements in key areas of the body, such as the stomach and underarm areas. 


Treatment for morbid obesity includes a combination of approaches including surgery, lifestyle changes, and addressing medical issues.


Bariatric surgery has successfully helped many morbidly obese patients finally lose the weight. However, bariatric surgery is not for everyone. 

The Yale Bariatric Surgery Program adheres to the National Institutes of Health guidelines to determine if an individual is a candidate for bariatric surgery. The most likely candidates for weight-loss surgery will have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher. On average, this group includes women who are approximately 80 pounds overweight or men who are approximately 100 pounds overweight. Bariatric procedures may also be considered for individuals who suffer from sleep apnea, diabetes, or hypertension and have a BMI of 35 or higher. 

In addition to BMI requirements, all candidates must meet strict physical and psychological criteria before weight-loss surgery will be considered. 

Our surgeons have extensive experience in treating patients who are extremely obese using the most advanced, minimally invasive bariatric procedures. Our laparoscopic bariatric surgeries include LAP-BAND ® surgery, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, and laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. On average, our patients recover more quickly than patients who have undergone open bariatric surgery.

Make An Appointment

Yale Bariatric/Gastrointestinal Surgery Program
40 Temple Street, Suite 7B
New Haven, CT 06510

T 203.785.6060 or 203.785.2616
F 203.785.6666

41.30395 -72.928946