Measure for Measure: How Do We Gauge Obesity Today?

Obesity is one of the twentieth century blights that cannot be relegated only to the US anymore. Fingers are being pointed towards the UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark and a host of Eastern European countries where being overweight has become more the norm than the exception. In the 2010 World Health Organization survey concluded that obesity in Europe has reached epidemic proportion and 20% of today’s European children are overweight, while a third of these are obese or morbidly obese.

These are not surprising factoids in a world where convenience, speed, income inequality and lack of proper education on nutrition issues are major players. In light of these frightening developments, one should keep abreast especially of methods of flagging obesity and gauging overweight status in order to build better awareness of the phenomenon. Here are a few methods of determining whether you need a change of lifestyle beyond adding more veggies to your meals and being more active.

1. BMI Tools

The Body Mass Index is one of the more popular ways of measuring whether a person is overweight. It is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms with their squared height in cm for adults. For children and teens, athletes and bodybuildres a slightly different calculation based on the same system applies. A BMI of 24.9 and above is an indicator of being overweight, a BMI of over 29 indicates obesity, while a number under 18.5 means that the person is underweight. The BMI has been criticized because it doesn’t account for body shape and general fitness and neither does it conceptualize age very well. There’s a host of BMI calculators online, but one of the better ones can be found at

2. Body Fat Measuring

One of the blindspots of the BMI is that while it is a reliable general indicator, it is not particularly accurate when it comes to individual cases. Body fat is a good indicator of heart disease risk and actual obesity. Using special medical calipers measurements of skin and fat are taken from four body areas: the waist, the shoulder blades, the biceps and the triceps. These are then computed to tell you whether you have a healthy or unhealthy amount of body fat. Body fat measurements must be made by a licensed medical professional and under certain set conditions.


3. Underwater Weighing

One of the most exact ways of determining that your weight is in the healthy spectrum is being weighed underwater where measurements are more exact. Body fat can also be measured through this method by using a modified version of Archimedes’ principle.

4. ABSI Measurement

A Body Shape Index is the newest weight indicator out there. It is touted as an improved BMI because besides height and weight it also accounts for waist circumference which is a measure of body shape. The ABSI is calculated similarly to the BMI but it factors in the waist circumference as a main measure of obesity thus: weight circumference is divided by (BMI x 2/3)(height x ½).  If the result is 1, then your risk for problems associated with being overweight is negligible.


All of the above-listed methods of gauging obesity are tried and tested and will give you a pretty accurate assessment of whether or not you are in trouble. However, diagnosing a problem is far from curing it. As a society which is seriously impacted by this “epidemic”, we must make better efforts towards attaining clearer well-researched information on better nutrition practices and sustained physical education as these are indispensable weapons in the fight with obesity.

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