Doctor’s Column

Answers to All Your Questions Regarding Weight Gain/Loss

Question: I am in my early 30’s and I have been gaining weight over the last 5 years. How do I know if I am obese or just overweight?
From J.B., Pasadena

Answer: We define obesity by using the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is essentially a measure of the distribution of a person’s weight over their body frame. The BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. A BMI of 18-24 is considered normal. A BMI of between 25 and 30 is consistent with being overweight and a BMI of over 30 is considered as obese, while a BMI of over 40 is considered as ‘morbidly obese’. Let’s use a few examples to make it clearer. A person with a height of 5′ 4″ with a weight of 140 lbs would have a BMI of 24, which is considered normal; however with the same height someone who weighed 175 lbs would have a BMI of 30 and be considered as obese.
Of course not everyone is the same, and some people are heavier than others. For example, a bodybuilder would have a high BMI without being obese. Muscle weighs more than body fat, and so muscular people tend to have a higher weight and BMI than someone who has more body fat. There is another way of looking at obesity and that is the Waist-Hip Ratio (WHR). This is the ratio between a person’s waist (measured midway between the bottom of the ribcage and the top of the pelvic bone) and their hip. In men the ratio should be 1.0 or less, while in women it should be 0.85 or less. Ratios higher than this indicate excess body fat (visceral obesity) and carry a higher risk of obesity associated medical conditions.

Dr. Sarkar MD is a Board-Certified physician in Pasadena, CA specializing in Weight Loss Medicine. You can e-mail your weight-loss questions to him at: drsomsarkar@gmail.com and he will answer them in this column.

June 14, 2012

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