Skip to content

I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You are Obese

Doctor explains what it means to have obesity and what the signs are.

Obesity is a health issue that affects 42.4 percent of adults in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 4 million people die each year due to obesity, the World Health Organization states. "Obesity is one side of the double burden of malnutrition, and today more people are obese than underweight in every region except sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. The vast majority of overweight or obese children live in developing countries, where the rate of increase has been more than 30% higher than that of developed countries," WHO says. To get a better understanding about obesity, Eat This, Not That! Health talked with Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, aka "The VibrantDoc," a recognized leader in functional medicine and author of the new self-care book Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Reverse Aging, and Glow who revealed signs of obesity. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


A BMI of 30 or Higher

Doctor holding a tape measure in her hands which shows 40 inches as abdominal circumference.

Dr. Stephenson says, "The BMI, or body mass index, is an imperfect determiner of a healthy weight, but it's the best we have right now and in most cases it is pretty accurate in determining whether someone has excessive body fat. BMI is determined by dividing body weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. But you don't have to do all that math. There are many BMI calculators online, including my own Vibrant BMI calculator. The general rule according to the CDC is that a BMI of between 18.5 to 24.9 is a healthy weight range. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered the range for having obesity. By the way, a BMI less than 18.5 is considered underweight, and that is also associated with health risks."  

RELATED: This Kind of Fat is Most Dangerous, Say Experts


A Waist Circumference of More than 35 inches for Women or 40 Inches for Men

Doctor measuring obese man waist body fat.

According to Dr. Stephenson, "Waist circumference is a good general measure of excessive weight, especially in the abdomen, which can indicate excessive visceral fat. This is the most dangerous type of fat. Women with a waist circumference over 35 and men with a waist circumference over 40 are at a greater risk of chronic diseases related to obesity, including type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure. While it is possible to have a waist circumference indicating chronic disease risk and be of normal weight (this is still a risk, despite body weight), a study of 489 healthy adults between 20 and 75 years of age showed that waist circumference was a reliable indicator of an elevated BMI."

RELATED: Expert Shares Tips for Reversing Your Diabetes


Osteoarthritis Especially in the Knees and Feet, Sleep Apnea, Chronic Pain

older woman on couch with knee pain
Shutterstock / fizkes

Dr. Stephenson explains, "While anyone can get osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and chronic pain, these three uncomfortable conditions are heavily associated with obesity. The excess weight puts too much pressure on knee and foot joints—multiple studies have shown that obesity is a risk factor of osteoarthritis due to not just excessive weight but altered biomechanical movement patterns caused by excessive weight. Interestingly, obesity is associated with osteoarthritis in weight-bearing and also in non-weight-bearing joints, possibly due to hormonal and inflammatory changes related to excess body fat.  

Obesity also increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea, which is in itself raises the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, systemic inflammation, visceral fat deposition, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Excess body fat can compress the airway during sleep, leading to sleep disruption and a possibly dangerous lack of oxygen during sleep. 

Finally, excessive body fat releases inflammatory mediators that lead to oxidative stress and increase the risk of many different chronic diseases, from heart disease and diabetes to depression and kidney disease. This increased inflammation as well as the biomechanical difficulties, sleep issues, and possible depression, can lead to chronic pain conditions, which is common in people with obesity."

RELATED: Expert Shares Tips For Reversing Your Arthritis


What's Considered Obese?

Doctor talking with an obese woman and measuring her.

"First of all, I don't like to say someone is obese," Dr. Stephenson states. "Obesity isn't something you are. It's something you have. It is a metabolic disorder. If you have obesity, what that means in medical terms is that your body mass index is 30 or above."

RELATED: This Common Habit Makes Your Dementia Risk Soar


Negative Health Effects of Obesity


Dr. Stephenson explains, "Obesity has many medical risks, confirmed by multiple high-quality research studies. These risks include primarily cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but also cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, kidney disease, gallbladder disease, acute pancreatitis, osteoarthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, and depression. Obesity also has a substantial economic impact, as well as a significant impact on lifespan and quality of life." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather