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PsychNotes Index

More PsychNotes: Weight Control and Body Image

April 28, 2016       
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Is Being Overweight Healthy?
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

weight scale
You may have heard about research indicating that those who are overweight are less likely to die than normal-weight people of the same age and gender. Dr. Carl Lavie has written about this in his book “The Obesity Paradox.” However, be cautious about taking this research as permission to overeat and not care about your weight as there are some issues to consider.

First, it is necessary to understand the medical definition of “overweight.” The lay public will often use the term when referring to any level of being over normal weight including those who would be in the category of “severely obese.” However, the medical definition is tied to the body mass index (BMI) and refers to someone who has a BMI in the range of 25 to 25.9 but not those who are above 30 BMI (which is considered obese).

So this research does not indicate that any degree of being overweight is healthy but a very specific range that may be equivalent to 25 or 30 pounds overweight (depending on your height). Generally, the higher mortality risk is associated with a BMI above 35 (more than 60 pounds over normal weight).

In addition, a very critical factor is the level of fitness. Thus, this research indicates that those who are in the overweight category and are physically fit may be healthier than those in the normal-weight category. This shows that exercise and healthy eating may be more important than the number on the scale (within limits). This also indicates that those of normal weight need to consider physical fitness. Normal weight without fitness does not necessarily equal health.

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