Overweight – what does that actually mean?

Overweight is a bodyweight that is too high in relation to body size. Being overweight is not the same as obesity (obesity). The latter usually means too much fat, which harbors health risks. While fluctuations of up to ten percent above normal weight are still acceptable, more than twenty percent above this can already pose a health risk. Overweight and obesity are calculated using the Body Mass Index.

Overweight - what does that actually mean?

According to the WHO, overweight and obesity are independent diseases. About 30% of the adult population in Austria are overweight, at least 11% are obese (= obese). The trend for these diseases is increasing rapidly worldwide, especially in industrialized countries. But when is man overweight?

When are you overweight?

There are different definitions and forms of calculation, a strict, only valid formula would fall short, as these simple calculations have only limited informative value for some groups of people – the personal factors are too individual.

A common form of calculation is the body mass index (BMI, more about this in the 2nd paragraph). But the BMI does not apply, for example, to people who do intensive weight training. Since their trained muscle mass is heavier than adipose tissue, they can have an elevated BMI and be incorrectly classified as overweight. The body mass index also does not provide any information about the distribution of body fat, which influences the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Obesity is therefore not always overweight, especially when it comes to weight-related health risks. The most important thing is where the fat sits, i.e. what fat distribution type you belong to. But more on that later.

For now, we will present the most common calculation methods for ideal, normal and comfortable weight (Broca index) or healthy minimum or maximum weight (body mass index; BMI).

Methods for determining obesity: Broca method and body mass index (BMI)

There are essentially 4 methods for determining obesity or for measuring fat distribution:

  • Broca method

According to him, the ideal weight is “height in cm minus 100” kilograms. This formula applies to men. For women, 5-10% is usually deducted. In children, this method is used to determine the normal or. Target weight not. If your weight exceeds or falls below the calculated value by up to 10%, you are in the normal range. The Broca Index is now considered medically out of date.

  • Body mass index (BMI)

The body mass index or body mass index (BMI) is also calculated from body weight and height. More precisely from the quotient of body weight in kilograms and body height in meters squared, i.e., body weight (in kg) / body height2 (in m)

The formula is:

body mass indexification

The index calculated in this formula is interpreted using various tables. According to the WHO obesity classification, values ​​for normal-weight people are between 18.5 kg / m² and 24.9 kg / m², from a body mass of more than 30 kg / m², obese people, therefore, require treatment. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is divided into degrees:

– Normal weight: BMI 20 – 25
– Grade I: overweight BMI 25 – 30
– Grade II: obesity (obesity) BMI 30 – 40
– Grade III: severe obesity BMI over 40

On closer inspection, the differences between men and women and the age of the people, the type of professional and / or sporting activity, and the percentage of fat or muscle in the total weight must also be taken into account.

  • Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)

The determination of the body fat mass by the bioelectrical impedance analysis is based on the principle that different body tissues (body fat mass, muscles, bones) build up different resistances when current flows through them. The body fat mass can be determined from the resistance measurements and other variables. The current strengths used are harmless to health (attention: not recommended for patients with pacemakers), not noticeable and are now often performed in fitness centers.

  • Measurement of fat distribution (waist-hip circumference or waist-hip ratio)

All you need is a household tape measure with which you can determine the waist circumference (between the pelvis and the lowest rib) and the widest hip circumference. These two values ​​then have to be divided:


The waist-hip ratio should be less than 1.0 for men and less than 0.85 for women. This quotient increases slightly with age, but it should not exceed the stated limit values. It should also be noted that a waist circumference of over 100 cm, regardless of the hip circumference, is to be regarded as unfavorable.

Health Aspects of Obesity

Basically, there are two types of fat distribution when overweight:

  • “Apple type” (fat distribution in the abdominal area)
  • “Pear type” (pronounced fat depot on the bottom)

Diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and heart disease are just a few diseases that can be caused by being too heavy. Health complications as a result of being overweight do not depend solely on the extent of obesity.

Scientific studies show that gaining weight in the buttocks and thighs (= pear type) is far less dangerous than increasing fat in the abdomen (apple type). Visceral fat, this fat is hidden in the abdominal cavity, is considered particularly insidious. Since abdominal fat cells have a much stronger blood supply and are pervaded by nerve cells than fat cells from other regions, the fat in the abdominal fat cells can be released much more quickly, which is why the ‘apple type’ suffers more often from the health complications mentioned above than the ‘pear type’.

Possible causes of obesity:

  • Bad eating habits (you eat too much, too fat, too sweet, too low in fiber, drink too much alcohol)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Eating and drinking can be used as a substitute or as a sedative for boredom, stress, or fatigue.
  • Genetic factors
  • Obesity can also be due to illness (e.g., due to an underactive thyroid)
  • Obesity can also be trained: – Eating and drinking after precisely defined times,
    – Compulsion to eat,
    – Eating as a reward, etc. contribute to losing the “natural feeling of hunger and satiety.”

Weight loss – there is no miracle drug!

Long-term success can only be achieved through a permanent change in eating and drinking habits that are not perceived as “unnatural.” A balanced, energy-reduced mixed diet (e.g., Weight Watchers diet or Brigitte diet) is ideal for changing eating habits in the long term.

A constant imbalance between energy intake (food intake) and energy consumption (muscle work) results in obesity. Correct eating habits must be learned in collaboration with nutritionists (qualified dietitian & nutritional medical consultant, doctor) under constant supervision in order to be able to achieve long-term success in weight loss.

And of course: nothing works without movement!

If you don’t move, your metabolism is on the back burner. Sport consumes energy, and trained muscles prefer to burn fat – even when they are not moved. If you put on muscles, you increase your basal metabolic rate and burn more energy when nothing is being done. The optimal sporting activity for you depends on your individual constitution and is best to be clarified with your family doctor.

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