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Difference Between Obesity and Fat

Obesity and fat may be commonly interchanged as they both pertain to having a heavier weight as compared to the average population. Indeed, these words technically define each other in most dictionaries.  However, there are slight differences between these two words. Obesity is more of a specific and medical term while fat is a colloquialism. The following discussions further elucidate on such distinctions. 

 

What is Obesity? 

Obesity came from the Latin word, “obesus” which literally means “having eaten until fat”.  As a medical term, it refers to having a high Body Mass Index (BMI); specifically having a BMI score of at least 30. This condition is often attributed to consuming too many calories, poor metabolism, endocrine issues, and sedentary lifestyle. 

Obesity has been specified as an epidemic since a recent survey shows that as many as 70-80% American adults are actually obese. Surprisingly, around 21% of American children, aged 12 to 19 years old, are also obese. Aside from being a precursor of type 2 diabetes, this disease increases inflammation which is hypothesized to be one cause of cancer. The other health complications linked to obesity are hypertension, sleep apnea, infertility, and gallbladder disease. 

 

What is Fat? 

This colloquialism originated from the Old English word “fǣtt “, which means “well fed” or “plump”. Indeed, somebody is described as such when he exhibits a flabby and heavy physique. Fat may also refer to the white or yellowish substances found in the adipose tissue of humans, animals, and plants. Moreover, fat is a food nutrient such as omega-3 fatty acid which is a good source of energy and helpful in maintaining cells’ health. It may also pertain to being productive or fertile as in the idioms, “the fat of the land” and “ a fat contract”. 

 

Difference between Obesity and Fat

  1. Colloquialism

Fat is a colloquial term which refers to being plump of heavy. It is also used in several idioms such as “chew the fat” and “fat chance”. On the contrary, obesity is more of a medical term which refers to being grossly fat. 

  1. BMI for Obesity vs Fat

To be categorized as obese, a BMI score of at least 30 is needed. On the other hand, being fat is often merely visually perceived. 

  1. Good and Bad

There are good and bad as well as saturated and unsaturated fats. Moreover, being “fat” such as “fat land” refers to fertility or being rich. However, obesity does not have various definitions and it is basically perceived as unhealthy. 

  1. Epidemic of Obesity

As compared to “being fat”, “obesity” is more associated with being an epidemic as it is more of a medical term. Hence, it is imbued with more gravity. 

  1. Humans

Obesity is generally applied to humans while fat can be utilized when talking about animals as well as plants. 

  1. Food Nutrient

Fats can be food nutrients while obesity is far from being viewed as something nourishing since it is a disease. 

  1. Public Perception as to Level of Disgust

According to a study conducted by the University of New South Wales, being called “obese” is perceived as more disgusting as compared to being called “fat”. The respondents furthered that “fat” is a more familiar term and sounds less grave as compared. 

  1. Antonym 

Antonym of fat is “thinness”. The other antonyms are “clever” and “barren”. On the other hand, that of obesity is “emaciated” or “anorexia”. Evidently, the antonym of the colloquial term is less serious and varied. 

  1. Greasy Substance

Aside from its adjective definition, “fat” is also commonly known as a greasy substance while “obesity” is mainly understood as being heavy or large. 

  1. Ngram Viewer

According to Google Books’ Ngram Viewer, “fat” has been more frequently used as compared to “obesity”. This makes sense as fat is a more common term with more diverse meanings. 

  1. Etymology

Obese came from the word Latin word, “obesus” which literally means “having eaten until fat”.  On the other hand, “fat” came from the Old English word “fǣtt “, which means “well fed” or “plump”. 

  1. First Used 

The first records for the usage of the word “obese” was in the 1650s. As for “fat”, the first known use was significantly earlier which was before the 12th century. 

Obesity vs Fat: Comparison Chart

 

Summary of Obesity vs Fat

  • Obesity and fat may be commonly interchanged as they both pertain to having a heavier weight.
  • Obesity has been specified as an epidemic since survey shows that as many as 70-80% American adults are actually obese.
  • Obesity came from the Latin word, “obesus” which literally means “having eaten until fat”.
  • Fat originated from the Old English word “fǣtt “, which means “well fed” or “plump”.
  • Fat may also pertain to being productive as in the idioms, “the fat of the land” and “ a fat contract”.
  • Fat is a colloquial term while obesity is a medical term. 
  • Obesity is measured by a BMI of at least 30 while being fat has no distinct measurement. 
  • Obesity is generally viewed as unhealthy while there are nutritive fats. 
  • Obesity is branded as an epidemic while being fat is not. 
  • Obesity is seen as a more disgusting term as compared to being called fat. 
  • The antonym of fat is thin while that of obesity is anorexia or emaciated. 
  • As compared to obesity, “fat” is linked with greasy substances. 
  • According to Google’s Ngram Viewer, “fat” is more frequently used than “obesity”. 
  • Fat was first earlier used before the 12th century while obesity was only first used in the 1650s. 

 


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References :


[0]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/fat-obese-obesity-weight-heavy-3313923/

[1]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/obesity-fatness-love-handles-3114559/

[2]Brady, Ignatius. What is Fat For? Iowa: Ignatius Brady, 2015. Print. 

[3]Steelman, Michael and Westman, Eric. Obesity. Sound Parkway NW: CRC Press, 2016. Print. 

[4]The Sydney Morning Herald. Fat versus Obese. The Sydney Moring Herald, 2010. Retrieved on January 21, 2019 from https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/fat-versus-obese-20101214-18vz1.html 

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