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Am I Overweight?

See Also: Weight loss FAQs - Healthy weight loss - Popular weight loss products

Am I overweight?

Am I Overweight
Each one of us is different; because of this it is difficult to create an ideal weight system that is applicable to us all. There is no exact weight that each of us should be as there are many different factors that affect a person's mass.

The reason why we have this obsession with our weight is because weight is generally seen as an indicator of health. We assume that someone who is overweight is unhealthy and someone who is slim is healthy. This isn't necessarily true and it is important to bear in mind that there is a range of healthy body weights rather than any hard and fast rules.

Society puts too much emphasis upon body weight and this can cause us to harbour an inaccurate perception of what a healthy body should look like. If you feel that you are out of shape or you are unhappy with your body image, then there are several methods that can be used to determine if you are overweight. Comparing yourself to images and ideals represented in the media is simply not a good idea.


Body Mass Index, BMI for short, is perhaps the most commonly used method of determining if a person is a healthy weight. BMI is calculated by taking into account a person's height and weight. It is presented as a scale; generally, a healthy BMI is considered to be between 18 and 25, while a BMI of 25-30 is regarded as overweight. A BMI between 30-40 is considered obese and anything above 40 is considered seriously obese.

If you would like to know your BMI, we have a useful BMI calculator on our site that calculates both metric and imperial measurements.

BMI calculations don't differentiate between muscle and body fat, so BMI should only be regarded as a rough indication of your body's health. Muscular and athletic individuals may find themselves in a high BMI category even though they are in good physical shape.

There is question at the moment as to whether BMI is an accurate assessment of a persons health, as it doesn't take body fat content into consideration. For most of us though, it is a good, quick indicator of the state that we are in.

Waist circumference

Waist circumference is now being taken seriously as an indicator of future health risks. Sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets can lead to a build up of fat around the waist. An excess of such fat is associated with a higher risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. People carrying excess body fat around the waist are also at greater risk of high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels increase the risk of very serious health problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

A waist measurement should be taken from the narrowest point of the waist; this is just under the lower ribs and above the hips. It should be done after breathing out.

A waist measurement greater than 37" (94cm) for men and 32" (80cm) for women is considered overweight. This puts you at greater risk of the conditions mentioned earlier (heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol). Measurements greater than 40" (102 cm) for men and 35" (94cm) significantly increase this risk.

Body fat percentage

Measuring body fat and calculating body fat percentage is another common way of determining if someone is overweight.

Human beings require a certain amount of body fat to live; this fat is referred to as essential fat. Typically, the percentage of essential fat is 2-5% in adult men and 10-13% in adult women (women require more due to the demands of bearing children). As well as essential fat, the body also contains storage fat. This is fat contained in the adipose tissue; it also provides a valuable function towards our wellbeing. The essential fat percentage should not be confused with the total body fat percentage, as this is usually higher due to the presence of storage fat.

There are several methods with which to calculate a person's body fat percentage. Unfortunately it isn't as easy to calculate as BMI or waist circumference so you may need some professional assistance or equipment.

The skinfold technique is the one that you may be most familiar with. This requires measurements to be taken with a skinfold caliper at several predetermined points on the body, the idea being to pinch the skin, pull the fat away from the muscle tissue and then measure the thickness of the pinch. This method should, ideally, be carried out by a professional to get the most accurate results.

Measuring body fat via bioelectrical impedance is becoming an increasingly common method of assessing body fat percentage. The method works by sending a small electrical signal through the body. This signal travels much quicker through lean tissue (this has a higher percentage of water) than it does through tissue containing fat. Fat has a lower percentage of water and it is a poorer conductor of electricity. Tissue containing fat offers resistance to the current so, the greater the resistance, the higher your body fat percentage will be.

Specially designed scales and body fat monitors that provide this function are widely available for home use.

Waist-hip ratio

The waist-hip ratio, sometimes referred to as the waist-to-hip ratio, is considered to be a good indicator of both the health of a person and the risk of them developing serious health conditions.

In terms of body fat, people generally come in two shapes: apples and pears. The apple term is given to those of us who tend to store fat around the middle, whereas pears are those who tend to store fat around the hips and thighs. Unfortunately for the apple shaped of us, this extra body fat around the middle, known as central obesity, has recently been linked with a greater risk of developing health problems. This means that people with more weight around the waist are at greater risk from conditions associated with obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, than those who carry excess weight on the hips and thighs.

The waist-hip ratio, as the name suggests, measures both the waist and the hips. The waist measurement should be taken at the narrowest point, just below the lower ribs and above the hips. The hip measurement should be taken at their widest point; this is just around the buttocks in most cases. Now, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement; this is your waist-hip ratio.

A result greater than 1.0 for men and 0.85 for women indicates a significant risk of developing the health conditions mentioned above.

What to do next

If you have calculated your BMI, measured your waist circumference, or worked out you waist-hip ratio and had a less than favourable outcome, you are probably wondering what to do next. Our Weight Loss FAQs page has quick answers to questions such as, what is a healthy weight?, why should I lose weight?, what is the best way to lose weight? and is there a miracle weight loss treatment?

If you are determined to lose weight or get in shape then it is important that you do so in way that is right for you. Drastic measures are never, ever a good idea. The best way to lose weight is to lose weight healthily and in a sustainable manner. There are no miracle treatments or cures out there. There are, however, products and supplements that may help you achieve your weight loss goals if used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program. Our list of popular weight loss products is a good place to start. Top of the list is Alli; the first pharmacy-licensed and validated weight loss treatment to be sold over the counter in the UK. Also on the list are supplements such as green tea extract and flax seed oil, as well as helpful devices like a pedometer and goal weight scales.

We also have a weight loss supplements page. On this page you will find fat binders, appetite suppressants, metabolism boosters and multivitamin products.
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  • BMI


    Our Body Mass Index page expands on the BMI information above and gives you quick, convenient access to our BMI calculator page. Our BMI calculator works with both metric and imperial measurements (and even a mixture of the two) to give you fast, accurate results at the touch of a button.