In the past months there has been a lot of talk about the growing epidemic of Obesity around the world, and the impact it is having on millions of peoples lives every day.

The word obese has lost a lot of its impact thanks to the amount it has been used in the media over the last few years.

What does it mean when we a person is classified as Obese?

Simply put, obesity is an excess of body fat that can result in a significant impairment of health.

Being overweight and obese are known to increase the risk of:

  • diabetes
  • coronary heart disease
  • high blood cholesterol
  • stroke
  • hypertension
  • gallbladder disease
  • osteoarthritis (degeneration of cartilage and bone of joints)
  • sleep apnea and other breathing problems
  • some forms of cancer (breast, colorectal, endometrial, and kidney
There are various ways to determine whether an individual should be classified as obese or not:
  1. Body Mass Index (BMI)
  2. Wasit-to-Hip ratio (WHR)
  3. Body Fat Percentage (%BF)
We will have a look at each one individually, and show you how to measure it for yourself.

1: BMI:

BMI is a fairly crude index of an individuals total body fatness.

1: BMI:

BMI is a fairly crude index of an individuals total body fatness.

It is determined by taking your body mass (in Kilograms*)/Height(m**)2

The result is presented as kg/m2.

Depending on your classification, if you fall into the obese categories, you are at increased risk of:

* Hypertension
* Type II Diabetes
* Hyper Lipidemia
* Cornonary Heart Disese
* Premature death.

* To convert Pounds to Kilograms, divide your mass by 2.2
** To convert your height in fett and inches to meters, 1 Inch = 2.54cm and 12 Inches = 1 foot.

2: WHR:

Is an acceptable indicator and index of body fat distribution of the body.

It is easily determined by measuring the circumference of the waist (in centimeters) and dividing it by the circumference of the hips (in centimeters).

Waist circumference / Hip circumferenece.

Waist Circumference is measured at the belly button .
Hip circumference is the greatest circumference around the buttocks (don't cheat!)

It is simple to see where you are at:

Men - 0.85-0.90 - means you are at increased risk
Women - 0.75 - 0.80 - means you are at increased risk.

You might be wondering at increased risk for what?
  • Hypertension
  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
Why would having an increased amount of abdominal, visceral fat lead to this increased risk?

The theory is that it is in the direct path of blood flow to the liver and the fat stores in the Abdominal region release Free Fatty Acids into this blood flow and upon arriving at the liver, these FFA get used to synthesize Cholesterol.

3: %BF:

The BMI looks at Total Body Fatness while the WHR looks at Body Fat Distribution.

Body Fat measurement look at the distribution of Body Fat throughout the entire body, and this obviously also can be used to identify individuals at higher risk than others.

My last posting looked at the difference between Fat Mass and Muscle Mass, and how knowing your body composition can play an important part in maintaining a healthy weight.

These values not only help us it identify Obesity, but also assist us to identify indivuals who are high risk.

Here are a few more shocking statistics recently released in the US related to the obesity epidemic:
  • It is now estimated that 63% of American citizens have a BMI > 25.
  • More than 25% exceed a BMI of 30
  • Childhood Obesity has more than tripled in 20 years.
  • 3.8 million Americans carry over 300 pounds
  • With the average adult woman weighing in at a staggering 163!
  • Perhaps the most shocking statistics underscoring obesity in the United States is that 400,000 Americans (mostly men) fall into a super-massive 400+ pound categor.
Food for thought!

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
blog comments powered by Disqus