Am I Overweight or Obese? (and What to Do About it)

Busy lifestyle, sedentary jobs, stressful living, all of us are sailing in the same boat. This mechanical lifestyle is pushing us towards food habits which are unhealthy and leading us to obesity. We are not even sure what we are eating as we are eating just for the hack of our appetite. Obesity is a global health issue growing day by day at an alarming rate in all the regions of the world including Asians who are traditionally lean.  In this article you will know if you, what is obesity, are you overweight, what are the side effects of being overweight, causes of obesity and simple tips and healthier food alternatives to deal with the problem. This article also informs about the relation between excess weight and other health conditions which can happen. It also explains how important it is to reach and maintain an ideal body weight, and how it may help you to stay healthier as you grow older.

Apparently most of us are oblivious to our growing waistlines. Feeling stuffed and bulky around our waist after having food is something we all can totally relate to.

Just because you are conscious about your bloated belly doesn’t really mean that you are obese and have a need to shed weight. Most women feel that they are fat and eat less.

According to Women’s Health Research Institute, most women judge themselves as overweight.

BMI is what defines our body’s fat. BMI is a tool that helps you know if you are healthy, overweight or obese. You can check your BMI using the calculator below.

The BMI reads below:

  • +Less Than 18.5 – Underweight
  • 5-24.9 – Healthy Normal
  • 25-29.9 – Overweight
  • 30 or Above 30: Obese

In case your BMI is above 30, your doctor will talk about the different categories of obesity:

  • Obesity Grade l: BMI of 30-34.9
  • Obesity Grade ll: BMI of 35-39.9
  • Obesity Grade lll: BMI of 40 or higher, which is also referred to as “morbid” obesity and can be fatal.

In case you are an athlete with a higher percentage of muscle mass, BMI may not work well for you.

For athletes, or individuals with thick bone structure and higher muscle mass, consider body fat percentage  to assess your health status. Unlike BMI, body fat percentage measures your whole body composition. It measure the percentage of fat your body is made up of. Body fat percentage gives more accurate representation of health and fitness of an individual with athletic built.

According to Harvard School of Public Health, there are different ways to measure body fat percentage:

  • Callipers
  • Bioelectric Impedance (BIA)
  • Under Water Weighing (Densitometry)
  • Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)

What does obesity do to your body?

Obesity is not just an extra weight on your body, it also puts weight on your shoulders, heart, liver and joints. The number of side effects and diseases go up with the increase in BMI. Being overweight or obese negatively effect your body as overweight or obese people are at much greater risk of developing serious health conditions. The risk factors that lead to obesity are a complex combination of various conditions like genetic factors, metabolic factors, socioeconomic factors and lifestyle choices. Sometimes endocrine disorders, few diseases and drugs can also increase the weight.

Health Risks Caused by Obesity

Life Expectancy is shorter: When compared to people of normal healthy weight, obese people have 50% to 100% increased risk of premature death.

Obese people are more prone to the listed health issues:

  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
  • Coronary Heart Diseases
  • Stroke
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Hormone Imbalance (e.g. PCOS)
  • Bone Issues (e.g. Osteoarthritis)
  • Joint Issues (e.g. Arthritis)
  • Gallbladder Problems
  • Cancer (breast, uterine, colon, liver)
  • Digestive System Disorders (e.g. gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Liver Disorders (e.g. Fatty Liver)
  • Breathing Difficulties (e.g., sleep apnea, asthma)
  • Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome
  • Psychological issues such as low self esteem and depression
  • Infertility in both males and females
  • Urinary Incontinence

Risks to Social and Psychological Well-being

  • Negative self-image
  • Low Self esteem
  • Low confidence levels
  • Social isolation
  • Self Discrimination

How Does One Become Overweight or Obese:

Superficially the cause of obesity seems very simple, if you consume extra calories than you need to burn those calories as energy through physical workout, if you don’t workout then those calories would convert into fat and you will gain weight. But such simple explanations are often incomplete and misleading. Causes of obesity are many, some are the consequences of our own actions and some are not at all under our control. Sometimes medical issues like Cushing’s syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome or other diseases and conditions also leads to Obesity although these conditions are uncommon and, predominantly, the primary causes of obesity are listed below:

  • Genetics: The genes you inherited from your parents may be a cause of you being overweight. Risk is obesity is 2-8 times higher for an individual with a family history of obesity in comparison to a person with no family history of obesity.
  • Body’s Metabolism: Every human being has different BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), how well your body converts food into energy may differ from how someone else might. Thus metabolism again can dictate your chances of being overweight.
  • Lifestyle: Your eating pattern, your workout routine and a sedentary lifestyle do impacts a lot of your health. If you are hogging on fast food and doing no physical activity it is likely that your weight would increase.
  • Your Environment: The kind of surroundings you stay in impact your health status too. If you belong to a circle who party every day it is likely you eat out, consume alcohol and gain extra pounds.
  • Psychological factors: Psychological factors like stress, depression causes hormones to drift in our body which can increase the body weight over a period of time.
  • Medical Problems: Certain medical issues like PCOS, Hypothyroid can lead to weight gain. So one need to understand the root cause of gaining weight.
  • Medications: Antidepressants, medicines used for treating seizers and bipolar disorder are also known to increase weight when taken regularly.
  • Use of Steroids: Certain medical conditions like asthma, arthritis are treated with corticosteroids. Over a period of time the regular use of these corticosteroid tablets may increase the appetite of the patient leading them to overweight and gain weight.
  • Treatment of Diabetes: Diabetics who are on insulin generally gain weight, as they end up eating more food in order to avert themselves from hypoglycaemia. This overeating leads to weight gain.

Simple Tips to Reduce Weight: You must have tried many options to lose weight earlier, you know it’s much easily said than done. It’s not just about determination and willpower or eating less. And there is no quick-fix. The weight loss solutions go way beyond counting calories and fat, or carbohydrates. Bringing a few simple lifestyle modifications can bring a big change in the weight over a period of time. It is always advised to take a long term approach and lose steadily, this way the weight loss is slow but steady and the chances of maintaining the weight loss is higher.

Here are Some Simple Tips That Will Help You Combat the Issue:

Lifestyle Makeover: You will require a complete makeover of your meal habits, your snacking time, activities and sleeping pattern

  • Sleep early and rise early so that your metabolism works properly.
  • Workout everyday at least for 30-40 minutes. Early morning walks or jogging are a great way to start with.
  • Eat in moderation and eat healthy.
  • Do not skip meals. Skipping meals often slows down the metabolism and the body ends up into a conservation mode making you gain more weight.
  • Meditate often.
  • Do not eat while you watch your favourite TV Show.
  • Do not eat in haste, chew slowly and eat small morsels of food.

Watch Your Eating Habits: You are what you eat, the more you eat the fatter you become.

  • The thumb rule is to eat in moderation. Eat everything – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibres in moderation do not overeat anything.
  • Plan your meals in advance. This will reduce your chances to grab on that fast food which you are forced to eat when you do not carry your lunch box to the work.
  • Opt for healthier options. Every-time going to a Subway and grabbing a sandwich is not a good option, instead go for salads sometimes. Eat enough fibre in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables. Have at least 2-3 servings of fresh fruits everyday.
  • Restrict the intake of refined carbohydrates which are present in baked foods like cakes, muffins, breads. Instead choose healthier options like whole wheat pancakes, whole wheat/multi-grain breads.
  • Limit the intake of synthetic beverages like sodas, coke, flavoured soft drinks as they contain excess of sugar. Instead prepare a home based light beverage with natural ingredients like lemon, honey or rose water.
  • Avoid Diet foods and Diet Drinks, they are misleading and offer more hidden calories and artificial sweeteners. Do not give in to the myths.
  • Detox your body once a week to cleanse it from toxins.
  • Replace regular tea/coffee with green tea as green tea is known to boost the body’s metabolism.
  • Minimize the intake of packaged and tinned food as it contains, more sugars and salt for preservation purpose. Rather stick to home made fresh foods.
  • Read the labels always and go for food that contain fewer preservatives and additives.
  • Instead of fried preparations, opt for baked, grilled, boiled, steamed or sautéed options.
  • Limit your intake of table salt. Instead use pepper and other herbs.
  • Finish your dinners early, as late dinners are another major cause of weight gain.
  • Move around and do not sit or lie down at least for 30 minutes after having your meals.

As a Nutrition Expert, I do not suggest a cut-down on food or following a fad diet, instead I recommend a replacement of an unhealthy food item with a healthier substitute. There are many ways to replace that cheesy burger with a healthier option like a baked patty burger. You can always make your food healthier without sacrificing on the flavour if you know the trick to choose the right food.

Here are few healthy alternatives to the regular foods that we eat everyday:

Regular Food Healthier Alternative
White Rice Brown Rice
White Breads Whole Wheat Breads, Multi-grain Breads, Pita Breads
Regular Pasta Whole Wheat Pasta
White Sauce Pasta Red Sauce Pasta
Mayonnaise for Sandwich Dressing Home made Hung Curd Dressing, mashed avocados, hummus
Fried Foods Baked, Grilled, Boiled, Steamed, Sautéed foods
Biscuits and Cakes Home-made low fat cookies, whole wheat muffins
Sugar Honey, Jaggery or Stevia
Regular Tea/Coffee Green Tea
Sodas, Soft Drinks, Fruit Juice Plain Water, Detox Water
White Bread Pizza Crust Whole Wheat Thin Crust Pizza
Burger with Cheese slice and Cheese Spread Burger without Cheese
Candies Fresh Fruits with Honey dressing
Salt Herbs
Dairy Milk Almond Milk
Cashew-nuts Almonds and Walnuts
Beer Red Wine, Vodka
Sour Cream Greek Yoghurt
Ice Creams Non Cream Frozen Yoghurt
Ground Beef Lean ground Turkey
Packaged Chips Pop Corns
Chocolate Shakes Fruit Smoothies
Milk Chocolate Dark Chocolate
Couscous Quinoa
Cream Coconut Milk
Full Cream Milk Skimmed Milk
Butter Olive Oil
Red Meat Fish, Tofu or Chicken
Fruit Juice Whole Fruit
Omelet Poached or Boiled Egg
Oil Salad Dressing Lemon Salad Dressing
Regular Hot Dogs or Sausage Fat Free Hot Dogs and Turkey Sausages


Not everyone has similar body type, or no two people are alike, so its is important to create a customised weight loss plan that caters to individual requirement. Regardless of what weight loss plan you follow, the right way to lose weight is slowly gradually and steadily, as it will be effective and healthy for a long term. Rapid weight loss is temporary and tendency of rebound is more. So right combination of exercise, healthy-balanced diet and an active lifestyle can help you achieve your goal of weight, lower your blood pressure, control your lipids, and improve the way your body functions on a regular basis.