Here Are 5 Ways to Tell If You’re Overweight
BMI readings aren’t necessarily an accurate measure of whether you’re overweight or obese. Here’s some other signals you might be carrying too many pounds.
Body image activists promote a message of acceptance and self-love.
On social media, where this appreciation and affection for one’s self can wane with the better-than-perfect images so many people present, these activists fight back with hashtag campaigns such as #loveyourbody and #positivebodyimage.
The idea is to help promote appreciation for the skin you’re in, to learn to love yourself exactly as you are.
The message is optimistic and uplifting, but it carries with it several possible negative consequences.
Two of these concerns are the “healthy obesity ” and “fat but fit” monikers that researchers say do overweight and obese individuals a disservice for their health and future.
A British study found that less than 10 percent or less of obese people in Britain know they are overweight.
Participants in the study were asked to self-report their height and weight and classify where these factors put them in a weight category. Options included very underweight, underweight, about right, overweight, very overweight, and obese.
At most, only 10 percent of people who were clinically obese put themselves into that category.
Additionally, only around 5-12 percent of people in the study knew what the low end of the body mass index (BMI) range for obese was. People with obesity who did know their BMI, the researchers said, were more likely to classify themselves as obese.
The researchers also noted concern that many people with obesity aren’t aware of the health risks associated with this condition.
Do people not know they are overweight or obese? Or are they in denial about a problem that feels too overwhelming to tackle?
Researchers in this study concluded both possibilities are likely.
Many people who have problems managing their weight may be in denial about what their scale number really means. Likewise, they may have difficulty grasping what a weight issue looks or feels like because reliable indicators are few and far between.
“I have dealt with many individuals who are in denial about their state of health,” Mitchell Zandes, MS, RD, CSCS, a clinical dietitian and personal trainer, told Healthline.
“I find this to be particularly true when patients compare themselves to their family members and friends, who may also be overweight or obese.”
The findings of this study point to a larger problem that doctors and weight-loss experts continue to struggle with when caring for their patients. The measurements and markers for knowing who is overweight or has obesity are difficult to understand, even for people with years of experience.
BMI has been the gold standard for weight measurements for decades, but it has come under fire in recent years as experts look for a more recognizable way to understand a person’s weight status.
“Not even the most qualified experts truly understand obesity,” said Chris Shuff, RDN, LDN, a certified specialist of obesity and weight management. “So, patients certainly don’t. It’s an issue with millions of variables that’s so complex and winds through every facet of someone’s life.”
5 ways to know if you’re overweight
These five methods may be easier to use and understand than a BMI reading.
The experts Healthline interviewed say they hope these methods encourage more individuals to seek help with their weight issues and have an honest discussion with their doctor.
The best way to tell if you’re at a healthy weight is from your waist size, says Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDE, CDN, the owner of Entirely Nourished, a nutrition counseling and consulting private practice.
“A waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women and greater than 40 inches in men could not only determine overweight status but put a hard-and-fast number on one’s health,” she told Healthline.
“Waist circumference above these numbers indicates excessive belly fat, a dangerous type of fat surrounding vital organs, which increases one’s risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the metabolic syndrome.”
It’s also an easy-to-understand tool, Zandes says.
“The advantage of this tool is that it is quick to perform and is a rather reliable predictor of risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease,” he told Healthline.
To measure your waist circumference, Routhenstein says all you need is a measuring tape.
“Place it on the top of your hip bone, bringing it around your body and level with your belly button,” she said.
Resist the temptation to suck in and don’t make the tape too snug. An inaccurate reading only hurts you.
“If your partner, best friend, or even you notice excessive snoring and you wake up restless, it may be a good reason to check your weight,” Routhenstein said. “If you snore frequently and rarely get a good night’s sleep, you may suffer from sleep apnea.”
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes your breathing to repeatedly stop and start again when you’re sleeping. It can cause loss of oxygen and extreme fatigue during waking hours. Most people with this condition tend to snore due to airway obstruction.
“When your body stores fat around the neck, it may narrow the airway causing shallow breathing or pauses in breathing,” Routhenstein said.
Changes in your body weight, even slight ones, can lead to more acid reflux, Shuff says.
More than one-third of overweight and obese individuals experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Some research suggests there’s a connection between being obese and developing GERD.
Other symptoms of this condition include belching, nausea, a bitter taste in your mouth, and abdominal pain.
Obesity is a risk factor for osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a disabling disorder that leads to joint deterioration, pain, decreased joint mobility, and a reduced quality of life.
Carrying around extra weight applies more pressure on all of your joints, and as you gain weight, the pressure increases.
If you have achy knees or hips, or chronic back pain, you may be experiencing signs of a weight problem.
Excess weight puts additional pressure on your organs, including your lungs.
If simple tasks, such as tying your shoes or cleaning a room, lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, you may have a weight problem.
Likewise, overweight and obese individuals have a greater risk of developing asthma.
People with weight problems may experience chronic inflammation because of the excess weight. This may lead to inflammation in airways and can make breathing more difficult.
The problem with BMI for measuring body fat
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one-third (31.8 percent) of U.S. adults aged 20 and over are overweight.
Additionally, over one-third (39.8 percent) of U.S. adults aged 20 and above have obesity.
That means over two-thirds (71.6 percent) of American adults are at least overweight.
These classifications are set by BMI measurements. A BMI number is designed to give you an idea of how much body fat you have as a ratio of your weight to height.
It’s measured by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your height in meters squared.
A reading at or over 30 means you’re obese. A reading at or over 40 is severe obesity.
Confused yet? You’re not alone.
“BMI can be a difficult way for the common person to know their degree of overweight or obesity,” Shuff told Healthline.
Additionally, BMI can’t take into account muscle you might be carrying, which means false readings are possible.
“BMI is not useful to measure an individual’s health,” said Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a weight loss expert who is board certified in obesity medicine and certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a clinical exercise specialist.
“By BMI standards, most NFL running backs are obese. In addition, I have found that doctors come off as judgmental when they say things like, ‘Well, your BMI says you’re obese.’”