Difference between Overweight and Obese

May 4, 2016 by Editorial Team

Often confused as the same thing, these two terms actually are two different health conditions that may mean seeking a doctor’s advice, or simply having to go on a diet. Either way, it is best that you know their differences to avoid confusion.

Definitions

A chart of body shapes in relation to their BMI

Overweight – It is a health condition wherein a person has more body fat than it should. Take note however, it doesn’t mean that being overweight means you’re sick, it simply means that your weight is not appropriate to your height. With a measurement called BMI (Body Mass Index), a person can be categorized as overweight if that person has a BMI of 25 Kg/m2 or more. You can check a person’s BMI with the equations below.

BMI equation

While the BMI measurement is typically used to determine if one is overweight or not, several other methods can also be used to measure the amount of adiposity or fat present in an individual’s body.

  • Body Volume Index – It measures the human body for obesity, and is used as an alternative to the BMI.
  • Simple Weighing – The easiest and most common method, a person’s weight is measured and simply compared to his/her estimated ideal weight. Since it only measures an individual’s weight, it is considered to be less accurate.
  • Skinfold Calipers “Pinch Test” – Several specific points on the body are pinched. The thickness of the folds is then measured. This does not however apply to all individuals as each person has different fat distribution patterns on their body.
  • Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis – This method uses a small electric current to pass through the body. It then measures its electrical resistance in order to provide the measurement of body fat percentage.
  • Hydrostatic Weighing – Considered to be a more accurate method: a person is submerged in water with special equipment to measure their weight. It is then compared with the ‘dry weight’ (weight outside the water) to determine body density. (Fat is less dense than muscle).
  • Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry – also called DEXA, this method uses the density of various body tissues to identify which portions are made of fat. While it is a very accurate method, it is also an expensive one that uses a great deal of expensive medical equipment and requires trained professionals to perform.

Causes: Alcoholism, poor nutrition, eating disorders, hormonal imbalances, genetic predisposition, insufficient sleep, limited physical exercise, overeating, metabolic disorders, smoking cessation, psychotropic medication, and stress.

Treatment: Diet, physical exercise

Obese – it is a medical condition in which a person has excess body fat that may have a negative effect on that person’s health. Generally, a person is considered obese when their BMI is over 30 Kg/m2. In other countries however, one can be considered obese at a lower BMI. While obesity is a preventable health condition, it still is one of the world’s leading causes of death. This is because obesity can increase the risk of many physical and mental conditions, and these include diabetes mellitus type 2, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol.

Obesity is usually caused by a combination of overeating, inadequate physical activity, and genetic susceptibility. It is preventable through a combination of personal choices and social changes. It can be treated through diet, exercise, and medication. If somehow these methods aren’t effective, a gastric balloon or other surgery may be performed.

Causes: Excessive food energy intake, lack of physical activity, stress, depression, hormonal imbalance, sedentary lifestyle, metabolic disorders.

Treatment: Diet, physical exercise, medication, gastric balloon, and surgery.

Comparison

While both may mean having a BMI of over 25, one is a more serious health condition that will require a doctor’s help.

Starting with their BMI, to be classified as overweight a person has to have a BMI of 25 Kg/m2 or more. Once it surpasses 29.9 Kg/m2, he will then be considered obese. While the numbers may not seem significantly different, it may mean higher risks on an individual’s health condition.

Causes of both being overweight and obesity are almost the same, but risk factors are a different matter. Being overweight can lead to depression and high blood pressure, while obesity can lead to coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension and even cancer. That being said, obesity has a higher mortality risk.

Regarding their treatment, both can be treated through exercise and diet, but obesity may require medication or surgery in extreme cases.

As a final thought, remember that you can avoid these health conditions by simply following a healthy lifestyle. Make healthy food choices, be physically active, reduce screen time (TV, computer, videogames, etc.), and keep track of your BMI.

Comparison Chart

OverweightObese
Having a BMI of 25 to 29.9 Kg/m2Having a BMI of 30 Kg/m2 or more
Caused by alcoholism, poor nutrition, eating disorders, hormonal imbalances, genetic predisposition, insufficient sleep, limited physical exercise, overeating, metabolic disorders, smoking cessation, psychotropic medication, and stress.Caused by excessive food energy intake, lack of physical activity, stress, depression, hormonal imbalance, sedentary lifestyle, metabolic disorders.
Risk factors include depression and high blood pressureRisk factors include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension and cancer
Preventable by making healthy food choices, be physically active, reducing screen time, and keeping track of your BMIPreventable by making healthy food choices, be physically active, reducing screen time, and keeping track of your BMI

Video

Here is a short video explaining the differences of overweight and obese.