Morbidly Obese and Malnourished.

Fat malnourished woman eating sweets
Photo by bilahata @

Today, as I was sitting in a medical clinic waiting room, I overheard a loud conversation between a morbidly obese couple. It is not that I wanted to hear them, I think “they” wanted everyone to hear them.  During the course of their annoying chatter, one said to the other something about starving kids around the world and what to do about their malnutrition. To wit, the other giggled and said “I am glad I never had that problem”, while shaking his fat belly. “I’m too well nourished” he said.

The irony is, if you are obese, then the odds are pretty high that you also suffer from malnutrition. It is not only the underfed who suffer from malnutrition – anyone who does not stick to a diet that serves a good balance of macro and micro-nutrients is at a high risk too. In other words, one who is morbidly obese is more similar to an anorexic than most people would believe possible.

Both anorexia and obesity are complex disorders that result in widespread metabolic consequences. Malnutrition is a growing epidemic in the United States. With approximately 40 million Americans – including 12 million children – facing food insecurity, malnutrition is a problem that spans across different socioeconomic groups, according to Focus for Health. It’s also prevalent among the aging population, with nearly one-half of older adults in the United States at risk, reports the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN). (1)

Eating disorders, another key cause of malnutrition, impact more than 30 million Americans, according to The Emily Program, a national leader in treating eating disorders, with facilities in Washington. These conditions are the third most common chronic illness among adolescents, and they affect people of every gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. (1)

You can be underweight, overweight, and even within a normal weight but skinny fat, and suffer the effects of malnutrition. Poor nutrition isn’t just about a lack of food. Malnutrition occurs when the body is deprived of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients necessary for the muscles, bones, organs and other tissues to function properly. This problem does not only effect the underfed and anorexics of the world.

While most people with obesity get more than plenty to eat, their diets are not healthy and nutritious. Malnutrition occurs when the body is deprived of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients necessary for the muscles, bones, organs and other tissues to function properly. While people who don’t have enough food to eat are susceptible, malnutrition can also be a result of a high-calorie, unhealthy diet loaded up with added sugars, unhealthy fats, and too much sodium and preservatives .  

Obesity is defined as a paradoxical state of malnutrition.

 Despite excessive energy consumption, obesity is associated with a shortage of individual micro elements. Deficiency or lack of homeostasis of essential micro-nutrients can significantly affect daily performance, intellectual and emotional state, but also the physical state of the body. Food deficiency can also contribute to further weight gain or the development of other metabolic diseases. Micro-nutrient deficiency may include not only incorrect dietary choices and insufficient access to nutrient-rich foods but also changes in the absorption, distribution or excretion of nutrients, and altered micro-nutrient metabolism resulting from systemic inflammation caused by obesity. (2)

Obesity brings about a great risk factor for metabolic diseases such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes as well as atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events, the prevalence of this is rapidly increasing in the general population. Additionally,  obese individuals have a higher risk of developing several chronic diseases which can lead to end-stage organ failure as well as higher risk of cancer and infections.

Malnutrition is largely an under-recognized and under-treated condition in people who are obese. Therefore, an increased abdominal girth is too often mistaken for over-nutrition rather than under-nutrition, even by some physicians.

If you believe that if you eat an abundance of calories, that your diet automatically delivers all the nutrients your body needs, you are sorely mistaken.  The more processed food you eat, the less healthy your body is going to be. This is just a simple fact of life, whether one thinks so or not.

Foods of convenience lack nutritional value.

Processed foods, stuffed with high fructose corn syrup, refined flours, and trans fats–are a modern phenomenon. These foods crowd out more nutrient-dense foods because they are inexpensive and convenient. And when your body doesn’t get the right nutrition, it just keeps demanding more food. The endless cycle of craving is a Catch-22; people are eating more, getting fatter, but still not feeling satisfied—it’s a nightmare from which they can’t escape.

That is, the endless cravings are a nightmare that people can’t escape, unless they follow  a healthy eating plan prescribed by your doctor, or one such as ours here at David’s Way to Health and Fitness. Eating as we teach means that your body will lose weight and get healthier because you are getting all the nutrition that your body requires.

(1) Providence.Org

(2) National Library of Medicine,

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I didn’t know that obesity is also malnutrition. I always ascribed it to bad habits and overindulgence, other than an emotional disorder that results in compulsive eating.

    1. David Yochim says:

      People who are obese are not likely to be filling themselves with wholesome and healthy foods. With the overindulgence of unhealthy food choices, they deprive themselves of needed macro and micronutrients that are the key to good health.

      1. You are so right, David; I just never thought of it this way.

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