The Difference Between Being Obese and Being Overweight

Patient Expert

On a worldwide scale, over one billion adults are overweight and about three hundred million of these people can be classified as obese. To differentiate between the two, a general definition for being overweight is when a person weighs more than what is considered to be  healthy for his age and height while obesity is when body weight is the result of an accumulation of fat.

A more concise definition for being overweight or being obese can be had by calculating a person's body mass index or BMI.

Body Mass Index

Body mass index can be calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by that person's height in meters squared or by multiplying the weight in pounds by 705 and dividing by height in inches twice. It is easiest to use an online BMI calculator to determine your body mass index.

A body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 is a healthy weight. A body mass index of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight,   and a BMI over 30 is considered obese. A BMI above 40 qualifies as morbidly obese, and the risk of death from any cause increases by 50% to 150%.

Am I Overweight?

A person's BMI is not always an accurate barometer as to whether that person is overweight. An individual's weight is a combination of fat and muscle. If a person is athletic, excess weight might very well be the result of   increased muscularity and not fat.

Other methods to estimate body fat and the distribution of body fat are measurements of   skin fold thickness and waist circumference, waist-to-hip
circumference ratios, ultrasound, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging.

Am I Obese?

A person is considered to be morbidly obese if she has a BMI of 40 or higher or if she is more than one hundred pounds overweight. Approximately five to ten million Americans meet the criteria for morbidly obese.

Those people who are morbidly obese significantly increase the potential for obesity-related health conditions that can result in physical disabilities and perhaps even death. Such medical problems include high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Morbid obesity is recognized as a chronic disease.

Predictors for Obesity-Related Diseases

BMI is but one of the predictors for obesity-related diseases. Another is the waist circumference of an individual because abdominal fat is a good predictor for obesity-related diseases. A third indicator is the presence of other risk factors associated with diseases that can be caused by obesity such as high blood pressure.

In addition, a person is more likely to develop obesity-related health problems if excess weight is around the middle rather than around the hips.

If a person has symptoms of obesity-related health issues, she should not delay in seeking treatment.

References:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention - http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html  - accessed 8/18/12
DifferenceBetween.net - http://www.differencebetween.net/science/health/difference-between-overweight-and-obesity/  - accessed 8/18/12
Medical Ciollege of Wisconsin - http://www.mcw.edu/Nephrology/ClinicalServices/OverweightorObese.htm  - accessed 8/18/12
Symptom Find - http://www.symptomfind.com/health/difference-between-overweight-and-obesity/  - accessed 8/18/12
WebMD - http://men.webmd.com/weight-loss-bmi  - accessed 8/18/12
Weighing In - http://blog.foothillsweightloss.com/2010/05/27/understanding-the-difference-between-obesity-and-morbid-obesity/  - accessed 8/18/12

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