Am I obese? What is obesity and how does it differ from being overweight?


Am I obese? I’m sure many overweight people are asking themselves this question. Obesity is not the same to being overweight. Being obese means you have way too much body fat which can affect your health in serious ways.

Of course, having extra pounds will always bring some discomfort. After all, your body is forced to carry additional weight all the time. However, obesity can also affect your heart, blood pressure, joints and pretty much any area in your body.

Obese people have a significant amount of fat cells which lead to inflammation but also hormonal changes that increase their chances of developing chronic medical conditions. If you’ve ever asked yourself “Am I obese?” then you’re probably considering a change of lifestyle so you can improve your health and life quality.

Before anything else, it’s a good idea to know where you stand.

Am I obese? How to tell the difference between obesity and being overweight

While this definition is very generic, obesity is usually defined using the body mass index, BMI for short. It’s a basic formula that relies on your height and weight. As a result, two people with the same weight but different heights will have different BMIs.

There are numerous BMI calculators online which you can use to calculate your body mass index. Here’s what the numbers mean:

  • <18.5 – Underweight
  • 18.5-24.9 – Normal
  • 25-29.9 – Overweight
  • >30 – Obese

A BMI over 30 means you’re obese, but there are also different levels of obesity:

  • 30-34.9 – Obesity level 1
  • 35-39.9 – Obesity level 2
  • >40 – Obesity level 3 (also known s “morbid” obesity)

Why BMI is not so reliable

BMI’s formula relies only on your height and weight. But the weight of each individual is composed of more than just fat – there’s also muscle, bone and other types of tissue.

For example, an athletic individual with well-developed muscles but low body fat might have a high BMI that would classify it as overweight or even obese even though that’s not the case.

You could also have a BMI in the normal range but when you look in the mirror you can see that you have a lot of extra fat which would normally place you in the overweight range.

My current BMI is 20.3, which is pretty good. If I were to gain 20 pounds, I would have a BMI of 23.8 which is still in the normal range. I can promise you that I would definitely be overweight – I may have never had so many extra pounds but I know my body and at that weight, I would be anything but “normal”.

Other measurements you should rely on

Am I obese

Some people tend to store most of the extra fat in certain problem areas. So we also have the problem of fat distribution. Of all places, belly fat is particularly dangerous. While height also matters, generally your waist should be less than 35 inches in diameter if you’re a woman and below 40 inches if you’re a man. Having a significant amount of belly fat is a serious health risk, even if you have a “normal” BMI.

Another way obesity experts use the BMI to analyze your health is using the Edmonton obesity staging system. It has five stages:

Stage 0: You don’t have any weight-related health problems.

Stage 1: You have mild health problems related to your weight such as minor aches and pains, and slightly elevated blood pressure.

Stage 2: You’ve developed a weight-related chronic disease as well as other smaller problems that affect your life quality.

Stage 3 – You’ve had one or more critical weight-related problems such as stroke and heart attack, for example.

Stage 4 – This is the last and most severe level of chronic health conditions related to obesity.

Final words

I’m sure that guilt is a common feeling among obese and overweight people because they feel like they’re 100% responsible for their weight gain. It’s not that simple though. There are a lot of external factors that affect us: the habits of our friends and family, our jobs, stress, lack of sleep, lack of time (particularly the one needed to exercise regularly) and so on.

That’s why you should stop feeling guilty about your current weight and state of health, and focus on taking the necessary steps to improve it. Even losing just a few pounds can significantly reduce discomfort and health problems, improving your life quality – there’s no motivator more powerful than this!