Dr. Edward Pullen

We all know obesity is a problem.

As much as 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. And yet, two recent studies show that many people overlook or underestimate their own extra pounds, thinking that obesity applies to someone else.

In one study, researchers at Columbia University found that 82 percent of obese women and 43 percent of overweight women underestimated their weight. What's more, 48 percent of mothers with obese or overweight children thought their kids were of normal weight. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that 8 percent of obese people thought their weight was just fine and did not believe they needed to lose weight.

What's going on here? With three out of five Americans obese or overweight, we may be so used to seeing chubby people around us that extra pounds look normal. This is concerning because obesity is associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of some cancers. Indeed, obesity may have passed smoking as the leading preventable cause of death in America.

Are You Fat or Fit?

So how do you find out if you're fatter than you think you are and need to lose weight? A good place to start is your BMI (body mass index). Just be aware that BMI is a quick-and-easy indicator, not a definitive answer. For example, since muscle weighs more than fat, athletes with lots of muscle could end up with BMI scores in the "overweight" category even though they're not.

Finally, it's important to be honest and accurate about your measurements. Don't guess; use a ruler and scale. Then, plug those numbers into a BMI calculator, such as the one provided by the CDC.

BMI For Adults Widget
BMI For Adults. Flash Player 9 is required.
BMI For Adults.
Flash Player 9 is required.


Now, consider your results:

Less than 25:

It's very unlikely that you need to lose weight.

25 to 28:

Check with your doctor. You might benefit from shedding a few pounds.

28 to 35:

Talk to your doctor. You would likely benefit from losing weight.

Over 35:

It's very likely you need to lose weight to reduce your health risks.

Obesity is an epidemic in America. What we see in the mirror is real, and we need to face the reality that many of us are just too fat. In my practice, I see so many overweight and obese patients whose weight is the primary cause of their diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis or sleep apnea. If you're overweight or obese, accept this fact and make a plan to get fit and to lose weight -- your doctor can help. Your health and well- being depend on it.


Dr. Edward Pullen is a board-certified family physician practicing in Puyallup, Wash. In addition to practicing full-service family medicine since 1983, he writes the medical blog DrPullen.com.

Available at Amazon.com:

The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life

Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements

The Power of Champions


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Health - Are You Fatter Than You Think?