We are all familiar with the phrase ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and, in many ways, a similar phrase can be applied to weight. Just what do we mean when we say somebody is overweight?
As far as the medical profession is concerned a person’s ideal weight is the weight at which the body functions at its best. As we start to gain weight the excess fat that we are carrying begins to affect the way that the body functions. A little excess weight will not place any great strain on the body but there comes a point at which health problems begin to develop and at this point we are said to be obese. If we continue to gain weight these health problems become increasingly severe until we reach the point at which our weight is likely to give rise to health problems that could literally be a threat to our lives. We have now reached morbid obesity.
But how do we know when we’re overweight, obese or morbidly obese?
The commonly used measure of obesity is known as body mass index, or BMI, and is calculated simply as a ratio of your weight to your height. If having plugged your weight and height into the equation you come out with a number between 18.5 and 24.9 you are said to have a normal weight. However, if you come out with a number between 25.0 and 29.9 you are overweight and between 30.0 and 39.9 you are obese. Once you reach 40 or more you are morbidly obese.
In other words, obesity is simply a function of your weight and height.
Unfortunately, while this is a fairly good way of getting a quick indication of whether or not you are overweight or obese, it’s not entirely accurate and there are a number of factors including age, sex, race, ethnicity and others which are also important in the determination of obesity and which the BMI calculation simply doesn’t take into account.
To get a true measure of obesity a number of factors have to be determined such as those already mentioned as well as you waist measurement, waist to hip ratio, percentage of body fat and a few others and these can only be determined by your doctor in a clinical setting.
In other words you can get a good idea of whether or not you might be obese by calculating your BMI, but you’ll need your doctor to tell you whether or not you are really obese – in other words, clinically obese.