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.
This isn’t just a question based in vanity. Being overweight can have significant impacts on your health, so losing weight isn’t just about boosting your self-esteem and looking better in those skinny jeans. From heart health to the development of chronic conditions like diabetes, the data shows being obese can drastically reduce both your lifespan and quality of life.
Another reason so many people are wondering if they’re overweight: A lot of them are.
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.
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.
Am I Too Fat? Your BMI Will Tell You The Answer
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 on whether you are overweight or not.
How does BMI 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. It is important to note, however, that BMI can be skewed depending on muscle composition and other factors. Regardless, calculating your BMI can help you and your doctor get an idea of your current weight status.
Find out your BMI here (BMI Calculator):
Now, find out what your number means. BMI ranges for weight categories are typically divided as follows:
BODY MASS INDEX (BMI) VALUE
|Less than or equal to 18.5||Underweight|
|18.5 to 24.9||Normal|
|25 to 29.9||Overweight|
|30 to 34.9||Obesity (Class I)|
|35 to 39.9||Obesity (Class II)|
|40 and above||Extreme Obesity (Class III)|
How do your numbers add up?
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 small 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).
If you’re like most people, you’re looking for a clear cut answer. 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.
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.
Person has no obesity-related risks (normal blood pressure, glucose levels) or symptoms, psychopathy or limitations.
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.
The person has established obesity-related chronic diseases and moderate symptoms and limitations.
The person has damaged organs and experiences significant limitations.
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 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, these types of people also have the following healthy characteristics:
- Their waist circumference is less than 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman
- They have normal blood pressure and cholesterol
- They have normal blood sugar and sensitivity to insulin
- They exhibit good physical fitness
Although there’s no substitute for a doctor’s opinion, you can probably quickly determine 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 a critical stage. Even weight loss of 5 to 10% of your current body weight may help reduce the risk of chronic disease. So, if you’re in stage 1, some weight loss can kick you into stage 0.
How can I make sure that I’m healthy?
Regular check-ups can help you catch potential health problems related to weight before they become serious and more difficult to manage. That being said, however, 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: Know and Find Out Which Type You Have
Answering the question, “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.
Why Does My Shape Matter?
Android Obesity (Apple-Shaped Body)
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).
Gynoid Obesity (Pear-Shaped Body)
The alternative type of obesity is called gynoid obesity. This type of shape is very common in women, who carry most of their weight in their hips and thighs. While excessive weight can be harmful to your health, gynoid obesity may actually be protective, especially if you are a child bearing woman. According the research, gynoid obesity is less harmful to your health than android obesity.
How to Analyze Your Shape
So, even if your BMI points towards a normal weight, making you believe the answer to your question is “No!”, check again. The shape of your body and where you carry your excess fat is just as important as the amount of fat you need to lose.
If you’re carrying excess weight around your stomach, you may have a higher risk of developing health problems in the future. Talk to your doctor about your obesity type if you are uncertain.
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. Lucky! Yet, others, who watch their diets day after day, continue to be overweight. 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 needs for daily living, 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 needs, you’ll maintain your weight. And if you consume fewer calories than what your body needs, you’ll lose weight (6).
As you may imagine, there are many factors here that can influence your calorie balance and your weight.
Many people explain weight differences via metabolism, saying that thinner people have high metabolisms and heavier people have lower metabolisms. You may have wondered, “Am I over weight 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 is the reason for 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 prominent factor that may cause a slower metabolism resulting in weight gain. It is age. As you grow older, muscle mass decreases and 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 need for calories decrease, causing a calorie imbalance that results in weight gain.
Heredity can be a blessing, but also a curse. While genes don’t have the final word about whether you are overweight or obese, they do play a role. If you’re wondering that you’re overweight because of 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.
Everyone knows that lifestyle has a big influence on weight. In fact, it may have the most influence. 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. Even though lifestyle has a huge influence on weight, that means that healthy lifestyle changes can be really effective for successful weight loss. For a complete weight loss guide, click here.
You’re not the only one asking this question. Globally, there’s a trend towards weight gain. 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:
How does diet affect weight? As discussed, those who eat more calories than their bodies need 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. 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 that are 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%. No wonder we’re all asking whether we are overweight or not.
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 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.
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).
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.
What’s worse, we tend to reach for foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories when we are stressed. Researchers have also confirmed the link between perceived stress, poor eating habits, and obesity. In today’s stressful world, it makes sense so many people are worrying and wondering about their weight.
Weight may be contagious. Say what? 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.
There have been several studies that examined the interpersonal relationship with food. Generally, if the people around you eat more, you are more likely to eat more.
On the other hand, friends and groups who eat less during meals tend to spread the calorie-controlling habit to everyone at the table.
The relationship seemed to be closer in friends of the same sex than in friends of the opposite sex (10). The more people who answer “yes” to the question, the more people will be eventually asking the same question!
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
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Joint pain
- Kidney stones
- Sleep apnea
These illnesses and conditions can result in an overall reduced quality of life. So, if you answered the question 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.
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 whether you are overweight or not, there are a lot of factors that come into play. But by using 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?
If “Yes,” then you are classified in the overweight or obese category. Jump up to the BMI table above to determine exactly which weight class you fall into.
Is your waistline above 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman?
Take a measurement. Wear a thin shirt for the most accurate reading. Using a tape measure, wrap the tape measure around your waist, just above your hips. Make sure that the tape measure is even and level all the way around your waist. Also, make sure your tape measure is not twisted. Exhale and take the measurement. If “Yes,” then you may be at increased risk for overweight and chronic disease.
What type of body shape do you have?
If you feel you have android obesity, which is apple-shaped, you may be overweight and at an increased risk for chronic disease.
So, if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be too heavy. If you answered yes for at least 2 of these, your answer to the question is still most likely yes. It would be wise to speak to your doctor about the risks you face and make a plan to begin losing weight. If you only answered “yes” to one of these questions, you should still keep your weight on your radar. Consult a doctor or registered dietitian even if you said “yes” to one of these items.
I May be Overweight and Need Some Good News
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. If you have an underlying condition, you may need additional medical help in order to lose weight and keep it off.
Regardless, 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. On average, we consume fewer calories when we eat at home versus when we eat out.
Eat a well-rounded diet.
Emphasize lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. These types of foods give you lots of nutrition and efficient calories. Protein and fiber from fruits and vegetables can also help you stay full for several hours.
Incorporate whole grains.
Whole grains are filled with fiber for long term fullness. They also have complex carbohydrates for long-lasting energy, which may be what you need to hit it hard at the gym! When looking at the ingredients label on your grains, make sure the first ingredient is “whole grain flour.”
Do a little bit every day and build up. Buy the CIZE Dance Workout program for easy, guided exercise at home. According to the American Heart Association, adults who are trying to lose weight should exercise at least 300 minutes per week. Are you getting that?
Drink enough water.
We often mistake thirst for hunger, and thus we reach for food. Before every meal, drink a glass of water so that you know you are hydrated. Doing this will also fill up your stomach so that you may eat less at the meal. Hydration will help all of your organ systems so that everything is working correctly.
Set a bedtime for yourself and keep it. Most adults do well with at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Limit screen usage at least an hour before bed in order to wind down for the night (and you’ll sleep better). Rejuvenate and recharge your metabolism for an active day ahead.
Try to keep stress to a minimum.
Exercise and sleep can help. Also, consider practicing mindfulness and/or meditation to help control your emotions and anxiety during the day. To identify stressors in your life, talk to family, friends or a professional. If your stress is possibly too much for you to handle, seek help. Focusing on mental and emotional health will help you manage your physical health.
Limit TV time.
If you do watch TV, try walking in place or doing some basic exercises while you watch. You can still enjoy your favorite activities, just try to make them more active. More activity equals a greater calorie burn.
Make daily activities more active.
Along with working out while watching TV, you could also burn extra calories by taking the stairs, parking far away, or converting your work desk into a standing desk. For an extra daily calorie burn, consider buying an under-the-desk compact elliptical to ride while you work! The next time you have to clean the house, put on some music and dance around while you clean. That can make cleaning both fun and a good workout!
Starting Your Weight Loss Journey
The sooner you begin your journey to weight loss, the better! Remember, the benefits of losing weight kick in as soon as you begin. Even losing 5 to 10% of your body weight can improve your overall health. Check out our weight loss quotes to help you keep going.
For those of you who discovered you are not overweight, it’s always recommended to work towards healthy habits of eating well, exercising and getting the rest you need. Just because you are at a normal weight now, does not mean that your needs and weight status cannot change in the future! Being at a normal weight and being healthy will help you look better and feel better!
Did you learn something new about your weight status? Which of the overweight indicator(s) do you possess? What will you do to manage your weight? Let us know in the comments below.
- Obesity and Overweight. World Health Organization, 9 June 2021.
- Skerrett, Patrick J. Overweight and healthy: the concept of metabolically healthy obesity. Harvard Health Publishing, 24 September 2013.
- Flegal, Katherine M., Brian K. Kit, and Barry I. Graubard. Body Mass Index Categories in Observational Studies of Weight and Risk of Death. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1 August 2014.
- AM Sharma and RF Kushner. A proposed clinical staging system for obesity. National Library of Medicine, March 2009.
- Abdominal fat and what to do about it. Harvard Health Publishing, 25 June 2019.
- Balancing Food and Activity for a Healthy Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Obesity Prevention Source: Food and Diet. Harvard School of Public Health.
- Obesity Prevention Source: Sleep. Harvard School of Public Health.
BMI calculators are really helpful for checking out your weight. You really don’t have to need scared or worried about am extra weight. Sometimes it’s healthy and sometimes it won’t take long for you to get rid of it. Just need sure you engage in activities your body would not break under.
This is really me. I’m always worried about gaining extra weight and I always ask my friends if I’m overweight. Well, this may be because I just shed some extra fats after years of struggling. I really wish to maintain my current shape and this is quite helpful to say the least.
So glad you found this helpful!
Yes, the BMI calculator is a good tool. Thanks for reading!
My BMI was 10.2…
Hi Anon_E_Miss, Oh that’s quite low! Are you sure your height and weight are correct? You may want to see a doctor about your low weight.
My goodness. Nearly double the obese mark at 52.51. I knew I was big, but……….
Don’t EVER go by BMI if you are on the muscular side. BMI does not distinguish between fat and muscle. Muscle weighs a lot more than fat. So if you are muscular and workout, your BMI will be impacted more negatively compared to the measure of your true health. When I say muscular I don’t mean like a body builder. Even a woman, if she is “solid” and firm will not receive an accurate measurement using BMI.
Results? I work out in a pro boxing gym… 5 of us all calculated our BMI one day for fun. 4 of us came out “overweight” and one was borderline obese. All of us are between 13% and 17% body fat as we have to measure this regularly, so those BMI results are ridiculous.
If you want an accurate measurement, find out what your body fat % is… not BMI.
My BMI was 24.5, I’m a Type 0 but I’m pretty much an apple shape, lol. I’ve been skinny my whole life and actually, you couldn’t tell that I’ve got a belly coz it’s normal for me to wear baggy shirts. I don’t really carry fat anywhere else, so that’s interesting. I do have some hereditary concerns to look out for, most of which is diabetes… so, this is definitely a concern of mine. This article was pretty much an eye opener because I did actually thought that obesity or being overweight was mostly just being really big – but there’s obviously more factors in being unhealthy. Do you think sleeping can help remove depression? I tend to do that whenever I get depressed and it feels like a comfort for me. I enjoy it, but it could be a result of being unhealthy… I don’t know. Should more or less sleep be incorporated into my plan to improve myself and achieve healthier living?
Yes there are many factors that contribute to our overall health! Even someone who is “skinny” can actually be unhealthy in a variety of ways. While mental health and sleep patterns are out of my scope (I’m a Registered Dietitian), I do know that having healthy sleeping habits is important for mood, energy, metabolism and well-being. I have always been told that adults should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. However, if you find depression causes you fatigue, depression may be negatively impacting your life. I would suggest seeing a mental health specialist if depression interrupts your daily functioning and the ability to get things done.
This article is really useful. I just have one question. My BMI is 25.8 so technically I am overweight. However that’s not so far over the line. I have a bit of a pot belly and all but do I really need to lose weight or will I be ok to remain slightly overweight?
I’m like exactly 5foot and it said i HAD to have an “inch” to fully calculate my results, so i just put 1. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, i tried putting 4foot 11 an it said i was overweight, i put 5foot 1 it said i was normal. So i don’t know if I’m overweight or normal because my weight is in between.
I was surprised when you said that being overweight is linked to chronic health conditions like high blood pressure and even cancer. I weighed myself this morning and didn’t expect how much weight I’ve gained from quarantine and staying at home all the time. Maybe I’ll do some research about rapid weight loss programs since I’m feeling motivated to make the change as quickly as possible!