The internet is crawling with write-ups detailing the adverse effects of being overweight. While there is truth to their claims, I can’t help but wonder if there are benefits to being overweight.
A healthy amount of fat offers several health benefits for energy storage, warmth, protection from physical trauma, and absorption of vitamins A, E, K, and D. Overweight individuals can have normal blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and lipid profiles.
If an overweight person is relatively fit and physically active, they might be healthier than a lean unfit individual.
There’s a thin line between being overweight and obese. So let’s look at the differences and how you can know where you fall.
Does being overweight mean you are unhealthy?
According to academics in Germany and the US, being overweight doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy. This is a truth that sports fans have known for a long time – elite athletes come in different body sizes.
Athletes with extreme body sizes like large NFL players and tiny gymnasts are equally in good physical shape by training for high performance.
Recent studies further validate that overweight people have a 50% risk of having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Although these appear to be good, they aren’t as good as individuals within normal weight ranges. They have a 75% chance of registering normal blood sugar and cholesterol values.
On the other hand, obese people only have a 33.33% of having healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
What is the difference between being overweight and being obese?
Overweight refers to a person that weighs a little more than the recommended weight for their weight. Obesity refers to a person who has excessive body fat.
How do I know if I’m overweight or obese?
If your body mass index (BMI) is under 18.5, you are underweight. If it’s between 18.5 and 25, you are considered healthy, and if it’s between 25 and 29.9, you are overweight. But if it’s 30 and above, you are obese. Obese persons are categorized into three classes, as in the chart below.
How Is BMI Calculated?
BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. Since weight is often measured in centimeters, divide it by 100 to convert to meters. The formula is the same for adults and children. However, in children, you have to consider age.
For pounds and inches, use the following formula for adults:
= weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703
For example, if you weigh 150 lbs and are 60 inches tall, the calculation is:
[150 ÷ (60)2] x 703 = 29.29, which puts you in the overweight category.
BMI is calculated differently in teens and children because they are still growing.
Also, girls and boys mature at different rates. The teen’s or child’s weight and height are considered against their growth chart, which factors their sex and age. The results place them in a BMI for age percentile, which compares girls and boys of the same age.
- Those in the 85th to <95th percentile are overweight
- Those >95th percentiles are obese
Why is BMI not an accurate measure of a person’s health?
A clump of muscle weighs 18% more than a clump of fat. As such, BMI calculations will place a sprinter in the overweight range and a sedentary individual in the normal/healthy range. But this is because BMI only considers weight and not the elements of fat or muscle concentration.
Moreover, BMI is not a reliable method to determine the health of elderly adults who have lost a considerable amount of bone mass and muscle mass. In their case, their BMI could be within the healthy range when, in fact, they may be overweight.
Waist to Hip Ratio
To determine a healthy and normal weight, use the waist to hip ratio method. First, measure your waist and hips with a tape measure and divide the waist measurement with the hip measurement.
- 0.9 – 0.99: points to moderate risk of health issues due to weight
- 1+: points to high-risk health issues due to weight
- 0.8 – 0.89: moderate risk of health issues due to weight
- 0.9+: high risk of health issues due to weight
Speaking of health issues, what are the health consequences of obesity in adults?
An obese individual is at a higher risk of developing numerous health conditions, including:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart attack
- Chronic inflammation
- High cholesterol
- Kidney disease
- Type 2 diabetes
If you are overweight, you can maintain a normal weight by regularly working out and watching what you eat. This will preserve the fat benefits and prevent you from getting obese.
Remember, easy does it. Take it a day at a time and stay away from fad diets and programs.
Speaking of fad diets, it helps to consult with a doctor before you embark on your weight loss journey. The doctor will instruct you on the food to eat and the type of exercise to focus on. Ultimately, this will ensure you shed excess weight safely.