Are you worried about your weight? Skinny celebrities, weight loss miracle drug commercials and even reality TV shows about weight loss are ubiquitous, making it impossible not to think about or even agonize over your weight. With so much talk in media about health and obesity, it’s understandable that you might wonder yourself, “Am I overweight?” This persisting question is becoming more and more common for adults across the globe.

Why?

Worldwide, obesity rates have more than doubled since 1980 according to the WHO. As of 2014, over 1.9 billion adults were overweight or obese. After this increment, it should come as no surprise that weight has become a hot topic across all demographics, finding its way into all areas of our lives. (1)

It’s clear that many more adults are now overweight or obese than in the past. But, how is being overweight or obese defined? There’s a difference between carrying a few extra pounds and being too fat. While the best way to know for sure if you’ve crossed the line is by discussing it with your doctor, you can still use some basic indicators to help you answer the question “Am I overweight?”

Read on to discover what the parameters for being overweight are, why people get too fat, what the risks are and how you can lose weight. Ultimately, being overweight can affect your health. So, in addition to helping you find the answer to your burning question, “Do I need to lose weight?”, this article will also help you find out how your weight may be affecting your health.

Am I Too Fat? Your BMI Will Tell You

The body mass index or BMI is a common measurement to determine whether or not an individual is too heavy. This can help give you a definitive answer to your question, “Am I overweight?”

How does it work?

Your BMI is calculated using your weight and height to give you a number that corresponds to a BMI category. These categories help determine if you’re underweight, have a normal weight, or are overweight or obese. The BMI number shows how many pounds of body tissue you have per meters squared, or your height.

Find out your BMI here:


Now, find out what your number means. BMI ranges for weight categories are typically divided as follows:

BMI Range Weight Category
Under 18.5 Underweight
18.5 to 25 Normal weight
25 to 30 Overweight
Over 30 Obese

How did you do?

No matter what number you got or what category you fall into, this number doesn’t tell you everything. Before you think you’ve gotten your answer to “Am I fat?”, read on to find out other influencing factors that may alter your BMI score.

BMI Isn’t Flawless

There are other considerations that may affect the BMI score you get. For example, BMI doesn’t differentiate between types of weight that a person may have. Fat and muscle are valued equally. Because of this, a very muscular person may be qualified as overweight. (2)

Another common issue is frame type. BMI doesn’t differentiate between bone mass and other body tissues either. For that reason, a person with a slight frame may appear to have a normal weight, but actually be overweight. On the contrary, a person with a large frame may appear to be overweight using the BMI as a measurement but actually, have a normal weight.

Some evidence has suggested that the standard BMI categories may not give an accurate picture of risks associated with being too heavy. For example, those who fall just below the cutoff for being overweight with a BMI between 23 and 24.9 face similar risks who lie in the lower range of overweight with a BMI between 25 and 27.4. (3)

What does all of this mean?

The bottom line is you can’t use your BMI score as your sole measure of health when considering your weight. And you certainly can’t assume that knowing your BMI will give you a definitive answer to your question “Do I need to lose weight?” Having a normal weight or even an overweight or obese BMI is only part of the story. Your health is more than a number, and deciding whether or not your weight is unhealthy requires more than a BMI score.

Edmonton Scale

The Edmonton Obesity Staging System is another way to help define not only if someone is overweight, but also if their body is showing other signs of weight taking a toll on the body.

Here are the standards:
  • Stage 0: Person has no obesity-related risks (normal blood pressure, glucose levels) or symptoms, psychopathy or limitations.
  • Stage 1: Subclinical risk factors related to obesity are present. For example, a person may have borderline hypertension. In addition, there may be mild physical symptoms (aches and pains), psychopathy and limitations.
  • Stage 2: The person has established obesity-related chronic diseases and moderate symptoms and limitations.
  • Stage 3: The person has damaged organs and experiences significant limitations.
  • Stage 4: The person has severe disabilities as a result of one or more obesity-related chronic diseases.

These stages help doctors determine how much of an effect being too heavy has on the body. While some people who are overweight or obese may be very healthy for years, others quickly begin to show signs of chronic illnesses associated with being overweight. (4)

Stage 0, for example, shows that a person can be overweight or obese with seemingly no adverse effects. If this is the case for you, you may know that the answer to your question “Am I overweight?” is “Yes!” But you may also be healthy. People in this unique situation are known to show metabolically healthy obesity. Although they may have high BMIs, their waist size is under 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman, they have normal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, show a normal sensitivity to insulin and exhibit good physical fitness, doctors say.

Although there’s no substitute for a doctor’s opinion, you can probably quickly decide where you fall. The tricky part is in stage 1, where you may be on the cusp of discovering that you’re heading towards acquiring a chronic illness such as diabetes or hypertension. This is also an important stage. Regular check-ups can help you catch potential health problems related to weight before they become serious and more difficult to manage.

But determining whether or not you’re too fat and its effects on your health gets even more complicated than searching for existing disease and tendencies.

Not All Fat is Equal

Answering the questions “Am I fat?” and finding out if it’s affecting your health also means finding out where you carry your fat. We’ve all seen different body types and have our own unique shape. What you probably didn’t know is that it affects your health.

What’s the trouble?

Apple-shaped bodies. This body type carries fat around the belly whereas other body shapes, such as pear-shaped bodies, carry weight lower in the body. Excess fat around your middle is more dangerous than excess fat in other areas of your body. Why?

Fat in your middle, or visceral fat, produces certain toxins that can affect your body’s functions. One of the chemicals created are cytokines, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Visceral fat is also related to other health troubles such as high cholesterol and insulin resistance which essentially puts you at risk for diabetes. (5)

So, even if your BMI points towards a normal weight, making you believe the answer to your question “Am I overweight?” is “no!”, check again. If you’re carrying excess weight around your stomach, you may have a higher risk of developing health problems in the future. This also applies to those who classify as too heavy.

Why Am I Overweight or Obese?

Everyone knows someone who can eat entire pizzas, gallons of ice cream and mountains of donuts, and still be skinny. Yet, others, who watch their diets, are heavier. It seems unfair that some are left to wonder “am I too fat?” while others never stop to think twice about it and eat whatever they please.

Here’s the deal: It all comes down to your caloric balance. If you eat more calories than what your body consumes, you’ll gain weight because your body stores the extra calories as fat. However, if you ingest the same number of calories as your body consumes, you’ll maintain your weight. And if you consume fewer calories than what your body uses, you’ll lose weight. (6)

As you may imagine, there are many factors here that can influence your calorie balance and your weight.

Here are the main factors that play into a person’s weight:

Metabolism. Many people explain weight differences with metabolisms, saying that thinner people have high metabolisms and heavier people have lower metabolisms. You may have wondered, “Am I fat because my metabolism is slow?” In reality, obesity is usually associated with a high metabolic rate. Why? The body must use up more calories to maintain the excess fat and muscle. So, the argument that having a low metabolism explains being overweight doesn’t hold in most cases. There are some rare conditions where a metabolism disorder may cause weight gain.

However, there is a more factor that may cause a slower metabolism resulting in weight gain. It is age. As you grow older, muscle mass decreases and this slows down your metabolism. This may explain why many people put on weight as they age. Perhaps they maintain the same lifestyle and eating habits, but the body’s needs for calories diminish, causing a calorie imbalance that results in weight gain.

Heredity. They can be a blessing, but also a curse. While genes don’t have the final word about whether you are overweight or obese or not, they do play a role. If you’re wondering “Am I fat because of my family history?”, here are some interesting findings:

  • Over 400 different genes may influence the development of overweight or obesity in humans. That’s a lot of genes! Scientists are still investigating exactly how genes may influence obesity.
  • One gene, known as the FTO, is associated with severe obesity in children and adults. Changes in the gene are associated with up to a 22% risk of obesity.
  • If both of your parents are obese, you very likely to develop obesity as well, the likelihood is as high as 80%.
  • One study suggests that while gene changes aren’t to blame for the current obesity epidemic, changes in lifestyle may cause the genes that were previously silent to influence weight gain.

Lifestyle. Everyone knows that lifestyle has a big influence on weight. If you don’t eat well or exercise, you’re more likely to gain weight. However, if you are conscious and make an effort with your diet and also exercise regularly, you can probably maintain a healthy weight.

Lifestyle is the one thing that researchers also cite as being responsible for the global increase in cases of overweight and obese individuals. Specifically, researchers note that an abundance of calorie-rich processed foods and sedentary lifestyles have caused increases in weight.

Here are the main lifestyle factors and how they influence weight:

Diet. How does diet affect weight? As discussed, those who eat more calories than their bodies consume become overweight. But, as you probably know, not all calories are equal when it comes to health. There are also some foods that help you avoid weight gain because they increase your sense of fullness. These foods include whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Proteins help you feel satiated as well. However, it’s best to choose poultry, fish, beans and nuts as red and processed meats are associated with heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer. (7)

Unfortunately, it seems as though keeping control of your diet is harder these days. Everywhere you go, there’s food available and it’s typically in the form of packaged snacks high in salt, sugar and fat content. Portion sizes at restaurants have also increased in the last 50 years or so. According to the CDC, Americans consume more calories than they did in 1971. For women, there was a 22% increase in calories consumed while for men, the increase was only 7%.

Exercise. There’s some good news for those who fear their genes may be influencing their weight. Researchers found that the FTO gene, while powerful, can be countered with physical activity. Adults with the risky FTO gene who exercise reduced the probability that they would become obese by 27%.

Sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to being overweight and obese. Some studies show that even children who have chronic short sleep times are more likely to be obese or become obese in the future.

Why?

Sleep affects our hormones and lifestyle choices. A lack of sleep may alter hormones that manage hunger. In addition, greater time spent awake gives you more time to eat. Another factor is that a lack of sleep seems to influence food choices and eating patterns that promote weight gain. (8)

Not only may sleep deprivation cause you to eat more, it may also cause you to expend less energy, causing an alteration of your calorie balance. One reason may be that you’re less likely to exercise or engage in physical activity when you’re tired. (8)

Stress. Have you ever binged on ice cream or potato chips when you’re stressed? Many people experience a desire to eat when stressed out or experiencing emotional turmoil. Researchers have also confirmed the link between perceived stress, poor eating habits, and obesity.

Social Influences. Weight may be contagious. According to a study done by Harvard Medical School and the University of California, when a person gains weight, their friends, siblings, spouse and other closely related people are much more likely to also gain weight. The relationship seemed to be closer in friends of the same sex than in friends of the opposite sex. (9)

What are the Effects of Being Overweight?

Being overweight or obese has been tied to many chronic illnesses and health conditions such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint pain
  • Diabetes
  • Cancers
  • Asthma
  • Kidney stones
  • Sleep apnea
  • Infertility
  • Depression

These illnesses and conditions can result in an overall reduced quality of life. So, if you answered “Am I overweight?” with a “Yes”, it’s time to find out how to lose weight, reduce your risk of health problems and improve your quality of life.

Losing Weight

There are many ways you can work on losing weight. A good place to start is by modifying your diet and beginning a regular exercise routine. Don’t forget that sleep deprivation and stress may also influence your weight. An overall healthy lifestyle that includes time for sleep and leisure is the path to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

The key and our best tip for weight loss?

Consistency. UCLA researchers have shown that while going on a diet may help you lose weight, it’s often temporary. What does work are general lifestyle changes that focus on eating in moderation and getting exercise. In addition, limiting TV time can help ensure the pounds you lose, stay off.

There’s good news for those who begin their weight loss journeys. The CDC reports that even small advances can have positive effects on your health and reduce your risk of developing chronic illness or disease.

Your Final Answer: Am I too Fat?

When you’re trying to answer the question “Am I overweight?” there are a lot of factors that come into play. But with your BMI as a baseline and also by measuring your waistline, you can come to a fairly clear conclusion. Use this checklist to help you decide:

  • Is your BMI over 25?
  • Is your waistline above 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman?
  • Do you have an apple-shaped body?

If you answered yes for any of these, you may be too heavy. If you answered yes for at least 2 of these, you are most likely overweight. It would be wise to speak to your doctor about the risks you face and make a plan to begin losing weight.

The good news? With a strong commitment to making lifestyle changes and consistently eating well and exercising, you will most likely be able to lose weight. For some people, genetics and other health conditions may continue to influence their weight and they may need additional medical help in order to lose weight and keep it off. Here are our top tips and suggestions for losing those extra pounds and staying healthy:

  • Eat at home. Plan your meals and keep only healthy foods in your house.
  • Incorporate whole grains, vegetables, fruits and healthy proteins into your diet.
  • Start exercising. Do a little bit every day and build up.
  • Get rest! Set a bedtime for yourself and keep it.
  • Try to keep stress to a minimum. Exercise and sleep can help.
  • Limit TV time.

The sooner you begin the better! Remember the benefits of losing weight kick in as soon as you begin. And even if you found out that you’re not overweight, it’s always recommendable to work towards healthy habits of eating well, exercising and getting the rest you need. Being healthy will help you look better and feel better!