Am I obese or overweight? Posted by Justine Clarabut on 3 January, 2020

This may be a strange question but do many of us really know the answer? What is classed as obesity, or am I just overweight, and is there a difference?

The term ‘obese’ describes someone that is carrying excess body fat. Obesity is usually measured using a BMI (body mass index) calculation. The guide below shows the range of BMI scores which indicate whether you are a healthy weight, overweight or obese. BMI is a universally recognised method of working out if someone is a healthy weight for their height. It is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres. Weight (kg) ÷ Height (m) ÷ Height (m) = BMI (For example: 75kg ÷ 1.8m ÷ 1.8m = 23.1)

Typical BMI scores for most adults are as follows:

  • 18.5 to 24.9 = healthy weight
  • 25 to 29.9 = overweight
  • 30 to 39.9 = obese
  • 40 or above = severely obese

Muscle Mass versus BMI

It is worth noting that BMI is merely an indication to see if someone is a healthy weight, it is not used to diagnose obesity! The reason being that some people are considered to be overweight according to their BMI despite having low body fat as they exhibit high levels of muscle mass! Also, as people age, they lose muscle mass, so even if they fall into the ‘healthy weight range’, they maybe carrying excess fat. In these situations, a BMI score is a starting point rather than a specific target and is a guide that you can discuss with your GP.

obese or overweight

Additional ways to measure obesity

Body Fat Content (BFC) is an estimate of what proportion of the body consists of adipose (fatty tissue) as opposed to muscle, bone and other lean tissue. The readings of BFC do vary throughout the day and are dependent on the amount of water in the body.

Hip to waist ratio is another measurement that indicates whether someone is obese. Waist measurement divided by hip measurement. For example, a person with a 30″ (76 cm) waist and 38″ (97 cm) hips has a waist-hip ratio of about 0.78. A healthy waist to hip ratio for women is under .85 and for men is .90 or less

According to the NHS, men whose waist size is 94cm or more and women whose waist size of 80cm or more, are at a higher risk of developing obesity-related health problems.

Visceral and subcutaneous fat

Not all fat is visible. Fat can be stored in the abdominal cavity surrounding internal organs such as liver, pancreas and intestines. Visceral fat can affect how our hormones function and is sometimes referred to as ‘active fat’. This is associated with a greater risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. Subcutaneous fat is stored just under the skin and is the type of fat that we may be able to feel on our limbs. There is a difference between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. A stomach that is growing can be the result of both types of fat.

The risks of being obese or overweight

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), kidney disease and some types of cancer. Carrying excess weight can also put pressure on joints, cause breathlessness and affect mobility!

Obesity can also affect our mental health causing depression, low self esteem and psychological problems. There is also the question of which came first – poor mental health which caused excess weight gain or vice versa! Each condition continually aggravates the other creating a vicious cycle.

Causes of obesity

Very simply, consuming foods that are high in calories (energy in) and then not burning off that energy through exercise and movement (energy out), will cause the body to store fat.

However, there are factors other than just poor diet, lack of exercise and inactivity. Genetic traits, and certain illnesses, can also increase the risk of obesity making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

National Obesity Awareness Week 14th to 20th January 2020

Why not take part in National Obesity Awareness Week this January? Help to improve the health of your friends, family and colleagues (as well as yourself of course!) Ideas could be to share a daily ‘healthy recipe’ with members of your team, take up a weight loss challenge over the next 6 weeks, have walking meetings or a brisk walk with a colleague or friend at lunchtime, cut out sugary fatty snacks and introduce fresh fruit or health bars. Here’s a great recipe for homemade health endurance bars!

Health screening your staff helps to identify risks to health and improve wellbeing.  Our Interactive Health Kiosk is effectual as an early warning system for potential health problems. Measuring your BMI, BFC, blood pressure, heart rate, wellbeing age and much more.