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Tagged with obesity? Get to know your Body Mass Index (BMI)

Tagged with obesity? Get to know your Body Mass Index (BMI)


Bothered when people call you plump, fat, heavy, well, don’t just take all the blame yet. What you may need is to start with understanding your BMI. BMI, which is Body Mass Index, is one of the scientific methods to measure obesity and evaluate obesity-related health risks. It is a simple DIY way to know if you are living with obesity so you can take appropriate health action.

There is an endless list of words that people may use to describe abnormal weight. Obesity, however, is a clinical term which identifies with abnormal weight and is now recognised as a medical condition that can be treated and prevented. When you weigh higher than what is considered healthy for a given height, you could be living with obesity.1 The more scientific way to understand if you are living with obesity is to measure your BMI.

What’s your BMI?
BMI (body mass index) is a measure of whether you have a healthy weight for your height.2 For most adults, BMI gives a good estimate of your weight-related health risks. BMI of more than 23 Kg/m2 for Asians, including Indians, is considered overweight and a BMI of more than 25 Kg/m2 is considered obese4. In case of the latter, your weight is definitely putting your health at risk. Assessment of obesity is important, as being overweight or obese significantly increases your risk of a variety of medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.4

How can you calculate your BMI?
The following formula can be used to  calculate one’s BMI, where kg is the person’s weight in kilograms and m2 is their height in metres squared.

BMI (Kg/m2) =Weight (kg)/ [Height (m)]2

You can check your BMI on the BMI Calculator on our homepage 

How to interpret BMI?

  • Anything between 18.5-22.9 Kg/m2 is considered healthy. A BMI above 25 Kg/m2 is defined as obesity.3 This measure is applicable for Indians which is different from the WHO classification which is followed by westerners.4
  • Asians and predominantly Indians have greater fat around the trunk and the abdomen, giving a characteristic apple shape.5 This indicates that we have higher total fat at a given level of BMI than the western population. This also explains why Indians may be more at risk of heart and metabolic diseases. These findings prompted health care professionals to alter the WHO cut-off BMI so that people at risk do not miss being diagnosed. Thus, Indians have a lower cut-off of BMI compared to the rest of the world.4  
  • If your BMI is below 18.5, then you are considered as underweight. That may be a sign that your weight is lower than the ideal range and you are not eating enough. It can also signify an underlying medical condition for which you may have to consult a doctor.6
  • BMI between 18.5 and 22.09 is considered normal and it is ideal to keep your weight within this range.6
  • BMI between 23-24.9 is considered overweight/pre-obesity. People in this category are at the risk of developing obesity, and are also at a risk of developing other health problems or having their current health problems worsen over time.  
  • People with a BMI of more than 25 are considered to be living with obesity – defined as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that may harm health. Today a number of health organisations recognise obesity as a chronic but manageable disease. It is recommended that people with this BMI consult a healthcare provider trained in obesity management for diagnosis, risk assessment and treatment of obesity and weight-related health complications. 

What are the risks associated with a high BMI?

  • Nearly 50% of Indians have a high BMI. Yes, you read it right. 1 in 2 persons are overweight and are at risk of being diagnosed with obesity. Obesity is most often a problem that does not come alone and is associated with increased risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, heart ailments and other serious health risks. This further burdens patients with increased chances of hospitalisations, and financial burden.4
  • The good news is that obesity is a medical condition which can be diagnosed and treated especially with newer advances in medications and surgery. For people above a healthy weight, losing five to ten percent of your weight can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and help protect against diabetes and cancer.7

 For whom BMI may not be most appropriate

  • BMI is considered a good estimator of body fat. This is because BMI does not take into account whether the weight is carried as muscle or fat. Those with a higher muscle mass, such as athletes, may have a high BMI but may not be at greater health risk. Those with a lower muscle mass, such as children who have not completed their growth or the elderly who may be losing some muscle mass, may have a lower BMI.8

Knowing your BMI can be the first step towards tackling obesity

  • However, it should not be the only measure for an individual to assess whether their weight is ideal or not. There are other ways of assessing obesity and therefore it is advisable to seek the advice of an obesity specialist. Get started, calculate your BMI. 


  1. Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021 [cited 17 August 2021]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html Gutin I. In BMI We Trust: Reframing the Body Mass Index as a Measure of Health. Soc Theory Health. 2018;16(3):256-271.  
  2. Gutin I. In BMI We Trust: Reframing the Body Mass Index as a Measure of Health. Soc Theory Health. 2018;16(3):256-271
  3. Lim JU, Lee JH, Kim JS, et al. Comparison of World Health Organization and Asia-Pacific body mass index classifications in COPD patients. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2017;12:2465-2475. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S141295. 
  4. Mahajan K, Batra A. Obesity in adult Asian Indians- the ideal BMI cut-off. Indian Heart J. 2018;70(1):195. doi: 10.1016/j.ihj.2017.11.020. 
  5. Williams R, Periasamy M. Genetic and Environmental Factors Contributing to Visceral Adiposity in Asian Populations. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2020 Dec;35(4):681-695. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2020.772. Epub 2020 Dec 23. PMID: 33397033; PMCID: PMC7803598. 
  6. Tools S. BMI Calculator [Internet]. Truthaboutweight.global. 2021 [cited 16 September 2021]. Available from: https://www.truthaboutweight.global/global/en/support/whats-your-body-mass-index-bmi.html
  7. Ryan DH, Yockey SR. Weight Loss and Improvement in Comorbidity: Differences at 5%, 10%, 15%, and Over. Curr Obes Rep. 2017 Jun;6(2):187-194. doi: 10.1007/s13679-017-0262-y. PMID: 28455679; PMCID: PMC5497590.
  8. Measuring Obesity [Internet]. Obesity Prevention Source. 2021 [cited 17 August 2021]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/how-to-measure-body-fatness/


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