According to data from the National Health and Nutrition 1
• More than 1 in 3 adults were considered to be overweight.
• More than 2 in 3 adults were considered to be overweight or have obesity.
• More than 1 in 3 adults were considered to have obesity.
• About 1 in 13 adults were considered to have extreme obesity.
• About 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 were considered to have obesity.
More than 1 in 3 Americans is obese and obesity is a risk factor for many diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. These health issues stem from a range of underlying metabolic abnormalities that affect the liver, pancreas, muscle, fat, and other tissues.
Step 1: Understand the basics. Those health issues are serious and can be deadly – 1 in 3 Americans are obese? That’s a lot of people with their health at risk. So what does obese mean anyway?
Let’s face it, no one likes the term ‘obese’ and I would venture to say that most overweight people would consider themselves pudgy or stocky but not obese. I know one woman who is avoiding her doctor until she loses some weight because he offended her by saying she was obese during her last visit. Who wants to hear that? Besides, to look at her you would think she was slightly overweight, but wouldn’t call her obese. So, what exactly does obese mean?
Defining Overweight and Obesity
• A person whose weight is higher than what is considered as a normal weight adjusted for height is described as being overweight or having obesity. 2
• Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health. It is defined by body mass index (BMI) and further evaluated in terms of fat distribution via the waist – hip ratio and total cardiovascular risk factors. 3
Step 2: Understand what category we are in. By now we know what the word obese means, let’s see how we can determine what category we are in.
Using Body Mass Index (BMI) to Estimate Overweight and Obesity
BMI is the tool most commonly used to estimate and screen for overweight and obesity. BMI is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. For most people, BMI is related to the amount of fat in their bodies, which can raise the risk of many health problems. 4 A health care professional can determine if your health is at risk because of your weight.
The tables below show BMI ranges for overweight and obesity.
|BMI of Adults Ages 20 and Older|
|18.5 to 24.9||Normal weight|
|25 to 29.9||Overweight|
|30+||Obesity (including extreme obesity)|
An online tool for gauging the BMIs of adults can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov
How to tell if your weight is normal?
As mentioned above, your body mass index (BMI) is one way to tell whether you are at a normal weight, overweight, or obese. The BMI measures your weight in relation to your height.
The BMI table NIDDK for the Body Mass Index Table will help you to find your BMI score. Find your height in inches in the left column labeled “Height.” Move across the row to your weight. The number at the top of the column is the BMI for that height and weight. Pounds are rounded off. You may also go to the tools section at the end of this page for a link to an online tool for calculating your BMI.
A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is in the normal range. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and someone with a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese.
Note: BMI doesn’t measure actual body fat, a person who is very muscular, like a bodybuilder, may have a high BMI without having a lot of body fat. Please review your findings with your health care provider if your BMI is outside of the normal range.
Step 3: Understand what that means to our health. If you checked out the BMI Tables and have done the calculations, you know your approximate BMI. And now let’s learn why 5% is beneficial. Read on…
This article is intended as motivation to consult your doctor for more information and the best course of action for you.
In a study led by Dr. Samuel Klein at Washington University School of Medicine and supported in part by NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), set out to characterize the metabolic benefits when people with obesity lose 5% and more of their weight.
• Most treatment guidelines recommend that people who are overweight or obese aim to lose 5% to 10% of their weight to achieve improvements in health.
• People with obesity who reduced their weight by 5% had improvements in metabolic function in many tissues, including fat, liver, and muscle.
• Further weight loss of 10 to 15% resulted in some additional improvements.
The scientists randomly assigned 40 sedentary people with obesity to maintain their body weight or to go on a diet to lose 5% of their body weight, followed by targets of 10% and 15%. Participants averaged 44 years of age with a body mass index (BMI) of 38 (average weight of about 235 pounds). The participants didn’t smoke or have diabetes. The findings appeared online on February 22, 2016, in Cell Metabolism.
People in the weight loss group consumed a low-calorie diet with 50-55% of energy as carbohydrate, 30% as fat, and 15-20% as protein. They were provided with weekly diet and behavioral education sessions.
Nineteen participants achieved the initial target of 5% weight loss (average of 12 pounds) after about 3.5 months. The researchers found that these people had significantly decreased body fat, including abdominal fat and fat in the liver. They had decreased plasma levels of glucose, insulin, triglycerides, and leptin, which are risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. They also showed improved function of insulin-secreting β cells, as well as the ability of fat, liver, and muscle tissue to respond to insulin…
…“Our findings demonstrate that you get the biggest bang for your buck with 5% weight loss,” Klein says. “If you weigh 200 pounds, you will be doing yourself a favor if you can lose 10 pounds and keep it off. You don’t have to lose 50 pounds to get important health benefits.”
The study wasn’t designed to determine whether these effects are sustained for longer periods of time. Further research will also be needed to determine whether people with diabetes have the same types and patterns of metabolic adaptations following progressive weight loss.
Phew, we’re done with the first 3 steps and you’ve learned a lot. You now know:
- the difference between overweight and obesity
- which category you fall into – Normal, Overweight, Obese or Extremely Obese
- the results of an important study showing how just 5% weight loss has great health benefits.
Great! Now let’s understand just a little more of the health implications before we get to the really important part – what we can do about it?
Causes and Health Consequences of Overweight and Obesity
When we eat more calories than we burn, our bodies store this extra energy as fat. While a few extra pounds may not seem like a big deal, they can increase your chances of having high blood pressure and high blood sugar. These conditions may lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
Factors that may contribute to weight gain among adults and youth include genes, eating habits, physical inactivity, TV, computer, phone, and other screen time, sleep habits, medical conditions or medications, and where and how people live, including their access to healthy foods and safe places to be active.
Overweight and obesity are risk factors for many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems, and gallstones, among other conditions.
For more information on the causes and health consequences of overweight and obesity, please visit NIDDK’s webpages on Understanding Adult Overweight and Obesity.
Step 4: What we can do about it. Now we know of the health implications and what’s in it for us if we lose weight and we’re ready for the really important part – what we can do about it?
Modify your behavior so you can achieve a 5% weight loss for great health benefits.
Healthy behaviors include a healthy diet pattern and regular physical activity. Energy balance of the number of calories consumed from foods and beverages with the number of calories your body uses for activity plays a role in preventing excess weight gain.5,6
A healthy diet pattern follows the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which emphasizes eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, and drinking water.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, or a combination of both, along with 2 days of strength training per week.
Having a healthy diet pattern and regular physical activity is also important for long term health benefits and prevention of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
For more information, see Healthy Weight – Finding a Balance.
While knowing your BMI number is important, being overweight or obese is really about the amount of fat on your body. If you fall into the category of being overweight or obese, don’t focus on those words, but do focus on a combination of healthy eating and exercise (discuss with your Doctor before starting a diet or exercise routine) to lessen the amount of fat you have. Focus on the 5% loss we discussed and you may be surprised at how much better you feel and look (smaller clothes size too), even if you don’t lose as much weight as you thought you would. Remember, overweight and obese is about your percentage of fat, not just your weight.
We hope you found this information helpful – please be sure to utilize NIH, they have a wealth of information to help with fitness challenges. If you’d like to share, let us know if this helped you and if so, about your progress.
Thank you for visiting with us today. Wishing you the best of health!
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overweight and 0besity. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/index.html . Accessed July 25, 2017.
 Google: what does ‘having obesity’ mean?
 DHHS, AIM for a Healthy Weight, page 5. Available online[PDF-2.17MB]
 Hall KD, Sacks G, Chandramohan D, Chow CC, Wang YC, Gortmaker SL, Swinburn BA.Lancet. 2011 Aug 27;378(9793):826-37.