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The #1 Sign You're Getting Obese, Say Experts

This is a better tracking method than stepping on a scale.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
woman in sports bra touching back fat

How do you know if your weight is getting out of control and perhaps becoming dangerous? Many health warnings involve whether you're experiencing obesity, meaning that you've exceeded a certain BMI. But if you're like many of us, you've avoided stepping onto a scale, much less calculating a BMI, during much of the pandemic. Although BMI officially calculates obesity, there is another way that you can know your weight has reached a level of concern. Read on.

What is obesity?

The Mayo Clinic defines obesity as "a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat." This can lead to a wide spectrum of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

According to the World Health Organization, overweight and obesity are defined as "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health." A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. 

However, the Mayo Clinic notes, "BMI doesn't directly measure body fat, so some people, such as muscular athletes, may have a BMI in the obesity category even though they don't have excess body fat."

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So how do you know if you're becoming obese?

"The best measure of that is changing waist size," says JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of preventive medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. 

Experts like Manson don't recommend that people weigh themselves regularly. It's a better idea to stay alert to how your clothes fit, particularly around the waist. "People will notice if their clothes are fitting differently, if their waist seems to be larger," says Manson, who details the latest science on healthy eating habits in the new documentary Better. "We often recommend that people—maybe once every month or so—take a tape measure around their waist and monitor circumference, because that is such a good measure of whether they're gaining weight."

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What to do if you fear you're becoming obese?

According to the NHS, obesity is caused "by eating too much and moving too little … If you consume high amounts of energy, particularly fat and sugars, but do not burn off the energy through exercise and physical activity, much of the surplus energy will be stored by the body as fat."

The converse would be to change your eating patterns and move more. But if you're concerned about your weight, it's always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider, who can recommend healthy-eating and weight-loss strategies that fit your medical history and current status. 

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