Obese Vs. Overweight: How to Tell the Difference

Medical experts explain the differences between being obese and overweight, and ways to evaluate at home.

To be obese is to be overweight, but to be overweight doesn't necessarily make you obese. A bulky weight trainer, whose muscle mass may take up a high percentage of their weight, could have the same BMI as a dormant couch potato.
 A BMI (body mass index) is a universal measurement that many health professionals use to compare body weight to height.

"Obese is defined as a BMI of > 30," says Dr. Robert L. Richard of FACS. "This is significant because at this BMI, the individual is at a higher risk of risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as coronary artery disease. Being overweight is defined as a BMI of between 25 and 29.”  


Here are a few ways to help you determine whether you are overweight, obese or average. 


1. Regulate your body's blood sugar and blood pressure levels. High levels of both are a result of bad eating habits and a lack of exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the recommended blood pressure is 120/80 or less. Blood glucose levels should be between 70 and 140 mg/dL before meals.   


2. Pay attention to small signs. Frequent headaches, gas after meals or difficulties waking up in the morning are issues you should make note of. Judy Stone, a certified nutritionist and director of the Center for Functional Nutrition, says to be worried when you get a collection of symptoms. "Little things that people wouldn't pay attention to," Stone says, "are indications that something is wrong with your body."  


3. Evaluate the types of groceries you buy. "If you have more things that don't need to go in the refrigerator than items that do, you should reevaluate your grocery choices," Stone says. The best foods to eat are ones without a nutrition label, including fresh vegetables, poultry and fruits.  


For more on obesity, healthy eating and weight loss, visit


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