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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Where do you draw the line between being overweight and obese?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    One method you can determine if you are overweight or obese is by using the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated by the following ofrmula:
    BMI = weight (in kilograms) \ height (in metres) squred

    For example if you weigh 70 kg and are 1.7 metres tall your BMI os 70 / (1.7)squared = 24

    BMI categories
    25-29.9 is overweight
    30 to 40 is obese
    Over 40 is morbidly obese

  • Samantha Ling

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Samantha is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD), consultant and food and nutrition enthusiast. Samantha works in a private practice on the Central Coast, NSW, Rostant … View Profile

    The most popular method is using the BMI (body mass index) which gives an indication of how in proportion your weight is to your height.

    The formula used is:
                                     your current weight (in kg) / height squared (in metres)

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the BMI categories are:
    The healthy weight range is a BMI between 18.5kg/m2 - 24.99kg/m2
    An Overweight BMI is between 25kg/m2 - 29.99kg/m2
    An Obese Category 1 BMI is between 30kg/m2 - 34.99kg/m2
    An Obese Category 2 BMI is between 35kg/m2 - 39.99kg/m2
    An Obese Category 3 BMI is 40kg/m2 and over

    Asian/Indian/South American populations have different cut-offs based on their cultural influences which can also be obtained from the WHO website.

    For example, if you are 180cm tall and 92kg your BMI would be:
    92 / 1.8 (squared) = 28kg/m2 (a BMI of 28, overweight)

    Please note though, BMI does not take into account bone density, muscle mass or body shape. A Rugby player may have a BMI of 45 but this does not mean he is obese - he would have a large amount of muscle!

    Another method is your waist circumference - this is a good indicator along with your BMI as to how much fat is being stored around your organs (visceral fat) and therefore your overall health risk for heart disease, diabetes etc
    Generally, a male wants to be at or below 94cm and 80cm for a female.

    It doesn't always have to be about your weight either - I've had clients within the healthy weight range with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They are just as much at risk of a heart attack as an ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ individual. Get regular check-ups with your GP and use your tests as another indicator of your health. Is your Blood pressure within normal limits? How is your cholesterol levels? Are your liver enzymes at normal levels? How are your blood sugar levels?

    For more information go to the Australian Better Health Initiative website www.measureup.gov.au

  • Eric Rosario

    Exercise Physiologist

    Master of Applied Science by Research into the Effects of Strength Training on Postmenopausal women. I have been involved in strength training for 67 years … View Profile

    I agree with Samantha, although BMI is  used extensivel it is a very poor method of assessing Obesity.It does not take body composition into consideration. I remeber reading a paper about three body builders which said that they were obese and later on said that they had a body composition of about 3%. It is well known that muscle weighs more than fat so most muscular people are overweight A person can have skinny limbs and a large abdomen and yet be the right BMI. Although waist measurement gives and idea of where the fat is located a perxon's height must also be taken into consideration. I feel that a waist over hip ratio is the best of rather inaccurate measurements. I would like to see the waist measured sagitally with calipers. Perhaps standing stripped in front of a mirror is as good a measure as any. .

  • Anonymous

    In addition, aged people (e.g. greater than 65yo) has  different healthy weight range cut-off too. The current healthy BMI range for them is 22-26.9Kg/m2 (N.B. the upper range may increase further based on some current research). Such a range is developed in order to prevent the risk of underweight related health issues (e.g. malnutrition, osteoporosis, fall).

  • Julie Wilson

    Psychologist

    Psychologist, Family Therapist and Dog Therapy handler who is passionate about working with individuals, families and couples of all ages who are experiencing disordered eating. … View Profile

    While BMI is an appropriate and a recognised medical indication of the difference between being overweight and obese, I think that the difference is more importantly about quality of life.
    It's about knowing what you can't do anymore because your physical health wont allow you to do it, and how that impacts on your life. It's about not being able to do the things with your firends and family that you want to do, but can't, because your body can't do it. It's about missing out on what you want to do…..and a wish to do it again 

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