The weight problem afflicting the majority of Australians is about more than tight clothes. Professor Kerryn Phelps explains how to tell exactly how many kilograms you need to lose.
With more than half of Australia's adult population now considered overweight or obese, this is truly one of the "weighty" health issues of our time.
We are hearing of the diabetes "tsunami" expected to overwhelm health services in the generations to come, but there are other health time bombs related to obesity.
They include heart disease, sleep apnoea, back pain, reduced fertility, osteoarthritis and cancers of the uterus, breast, colon and oesophagus.
The risk can be averted if we take the epidemic of obesity seriously, right now. The sooner we take action, the better. Why? Because 80 per cent of obese adolescents go on to be obese adults.
How do you know if you are overweight or obese? The first clue is what I call the "eyeball test".
You look in the mirror and you can see if you are overweight. That is the visual cue. If you have gained weight since last season, the clothes that used to fit you feel tighter than usual.
If you suspect that all of your clothes have shrunk in the dryer, you might need some more concrete evidence.
Grab a set of scales and a tape measure. Measure your body weight in kilograms and your height in metres. Then put the tape measure around your waist and measure at the level of your navel.
Now, let's work out what to do with these numbers.
We are going to work out your Body Mass Index or BMI. The formula for adults looks like this:
Multiply your height by itself. So, for example, if you are 1.70m, then 1.70 x 1.70 = 2.89. Divide your weight by that number. Let's say you weigh 70kg, you would do this: 70/2.89 = 24.22
So, 24.22 is your BMI. With some exceptions, a healthy BMI is between
20 and 25. If your BMI is:
- Under 18: Very underweight and possibly malnourished.
- Under 20: Underweight and could gain a little weight.
- Between 20 and 25: Healthy weight range for young and middle-aged adults.
- 26 to 30: You are overweight
- Over 30: You are obese
What a waist!
From a health perspective, the main problem area for women is fat around the waist.
Depending on your age, you might refer to it as a "muffin top" or "middle- aged spread".
Waist measurement is also taken into consideration when we assess health risk. If you have a waist measurement above 94cm for men and 80cm for women you may be
at risk of serious chronic disease.
As we get older, the hormones governing muscle mass and body metabolism shift and our energy needs are less. This fat distribution is more common in people who drink alcohol regularly. However, this increase in waist size is not an inevitable part of ageing.
Read more of this story in the November issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.
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