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Your Questions — 3 minutes

Am I overweight or obese?

Biron

According to the World Health Organization, obesity has nearly tripled globally since 1975. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.

So what’s the difference?

Health Canada classifies various weight categories and their risks according to Body Mass Index (BMI), a basic calculation of your weight relating to your height [1]. It is not a direct measure of body fat, but a simple and standard means of classification. You can calculate your BMI using this calculator from the US Centre for Disease Control.

For example, a 6-foot person weighing 200 lb would have a BMI of 27.1. This would put them in the “excess weight” category, carrying a higher risk but not yet the elevated risks of obesity. A 5’4” person weighing the same amount would have a BMI of 34.3, putting them at the high end of the Class I classification of obesity.

These classifications do not apply to people under the age of 18 or over the age of 65, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Classification BMI category Risk of developing health problems
Insufficient weight < 18.5 Higher
Normal weight 18.5 to 24.9 Less
Excess weight 25.0 to 29.9 Higher
Obesity, Class I 30.0 to 34.9 Elevated
Obesity, Class II 35.0 to 39.9 Very high
Obesity, Class III > 40.0 Extremely high

You can also have someone measure your waist circumference as an indicator of risks associated with excess abdominal fat, a factor BMI does not consider. Have a friend stand beside you, and measure at the part of the torso located midway between the lowest rib and the top of pelvic bone. Don’t let the tape compress any soft tissue, and don’t tuck in your belly!

The cutoff points of waiste circumference for increased health risk, according to the World Health Organisation and Health Canada, are:

  • Men: 102 cm/40 in
  • Women: 88 cm/35 in

Weight issues are not all the same. If you are concerned that these measurements indicate that you are in a risk category, consult a physician or other healthcare professional for a complete assessment of your weight and the risks to your health. Discuss what your BMI and waist circumference mean to you.

Read more: Fasting to lose weight – is it safe?

What causes obesity? What are the risks?

To find out more about the causes of obesity and the risks of various weight problems, as well as how you can address them, read our Neat Little Guide.

  1. “Body Mass Index (BMI) Nomogram.” Canada.ca. Health Canada, December 21, 2018. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/healthy-weights/canadian-guidelines-body-weight-classification-adults/body-mass-index-nomogram.html.