This post will discuss the basics of how obesity is measured and categorized.
Weight loss is a multi-million, if not billion-dollar industry. Books, articles, and blogs are published regularly advising us on how to take weight off and keep it off. Even the medical industry has weight loss specialist who work with individuals who fall into the moderate to severely obese categories.
In America today, more than half the population is considered obese and at risk for all the medical complications that go with it. Heart disease, hypertension, type II - AODM, and joint problems are just a few of the common problems overweight individuals routinely develop.
So, how is weight measured and categorized? Well, the ability to measure the weight of an object is as old as the recorded record can be traced back. It began with the measuring of wheat and grains with counter balancing "Stones" on rudimentary scales. These "Stones" eventually morphed into "kettle bells" that are now used in fitness centers as training tools. Today we are all familiar with the traditional bathroom scale or up right scales commonly seen in medical offices. These type scales give an accurate measure of the downward pull of gravity on your body. So, the more mass you have in terms of bone, muscle, fat, and water the more you will weight.
Weight alone though is a poor indicator of overall health or fitness. Someone 6 feet tall is going to weight more than someone 5 feet tall. However, someone who is 6 feet tall and weighs as much as someone 5 feet tall is clearly underweight. By flipping the scales so to speak, if a 5-foot-tall person weighs as much as a healthy 6-foot-tall person, clearly there is a weight problem for the five-foot-tall individual.
So, how can weight be used more effectively as an indicator of health. Well, using the above example, one can calculate the Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms (or pounds) divided by the square of height in meters (or feet). A high BMI can, but not always indicate high body fatness. BMI screens for weight categories that may lead to health problems, but it does not calculate the percent body fat or health of an individual. Calculate your BMI by clicking this link BMI
BMI is stratified as follows and where your BMI falls in these categories is an indication of your relative risk for medical conditions associated with being overweight or obese.
Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
Yet BMI alone is not a good indicator of health. It is used mainly because it's easy to calculate and doesn't require any sophisticated equipment to calculate. So how can BMI be misleading? Well, if someone is 6 feet tall and weighs 235 pounds with a BMI of 31.5, they are by definition obese. But if they exercise 4 to 5 days a week, eat correctly, and have a body fat percentage of 10 percent it's hard to classify them as obese. Ergo the dilemma.
In Part Three we will discuss calculating Body Fat Percentage and its relation to BMI and health. STAY TUNED