Overweight and Obesity: Health and Fitness Management
Overweight and Obesity: Health and Fitness Management

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Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (also called BMI) of 30 or above. This index is a measure of weight compared to height. Healthy weight is a BMI of less than 25. National experts estimate that about two-thirds, or every 2 out of 3, U.S. adults are overweight or obese. The incidence of obesity is much higher among African-American and Hispanic women than among Caucasian. By comparison, according to recent reports, the incidence of obesity is about the same in African-American and Caucasian men, and slightly higher in Hispanic men.

Nearly 50 percent of African-American, American Indian and Hispanic women are obese, and more and more increasing numbers of people in the U.S. are getting overweight or obese at increasingly younger ages. It is very important that obesity be prevented, and treated, because it is associated with excess death (or mortality) and a variety of serious diseases. The Obesity and Overweight Race & Ethnicity Tables in our Health Trends and Other Data section provide more detailed information.


Key Diseases Associated with Obesity
Controlling One’s Weight, Body Mass Index
Key Factors Contributing to Overweight and Obesity
Basic Steps and Approaches to Weight Control
Childhood and Teen Overweight and Obesity


Key Diseases Associated with Obesity:


hypertension (high blood pressure)
high blood cholesterol
heart disease
certain cancers

Although obesity increases one’s risk of developing the above and a number of other diseases, a lot can be done to avoid it, or decrease its severity.


Key Steps to Controlling One’s Weight:

1. Understand the “Energy Balance Equation” , and 

2. Adopt or continue a lifestyle which makes this formula work for you.

The Energy Equation is: Energy In minus Energy Out = Energy Balance

About Energy (or Calories) In: In general, if a person takes in more calories (or energy) daily than they burn off, they will gain weight. A variety of Tip Sheets in our Food and Fitness Channel provide helpful information on limiting energy (or calories) in through food management, or practices.

About Energy (or Calories) Out: Regularly burning calories off is very important, and is done through physical activity or exercise.

Be Consistent: Be sure to remember that it’s what we do daily about both of these lifestyles or practices, combined, which determines whether or not we are going to be overweight.


Body Mass Index (BMI)


The BMI is a single number which evaluates a person’s weight as compared to his or her height. It is generally used to indicate whether or not a person is developing, or already has, weight problems, and has a high relationship to how much body fat a person has.

A BMI table of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) makes it possible for a person to tell whether he or she is overweight or obese without having to do calculations. However, for those who are interested, the following mathematical formula is used to calculate the BMI:

A person’s body weight in kilograms (one kilogram = 2.2 pounds) is divided by his or her height squared.

Instead of having to do calculations, click here for the Body Mass Index Table on the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) web site.

To use the table, a person finds his or her height in the left-hand column marked Height, then moves across the table until they reach their weight in pounds. Then, by looking at the top of the table where the BMI values are given, the place on the BMI scale where the height and weight meet is the person’s BMI.

Please also notice on the table that the BMIs are separated into the following four categories:

  • Normal weight (first white area)
  • Overweight (first gray area)
  • Obese (second white area)
  • Extreme obesity (second gray area)


Key Factors Contributing to Overweight and Obesity


  • Individual energy being out of balance over a long period of time. Two other ways of saying this are:
    1. When the number of calories taken in is more than the number of calories burned up, or
    2. When individuals have a general pattern of eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity.
  • Individual Behavior – Choices related to food, cooking, eating, and activity (or lack of activity) have a great influence
  • Environment:
    • Being frequently exposed to attractive high calorie foods, especially those available at a reasonable cost such as fast foods
    • Having limited opportunities for physical activity, in and outside the home
  • Family History or genes
  • Metabolism (chemical reactions that occur in a living cell. They happen at different rates in different people.)
  • Culture – Different attitudes and beliefs about overweight and obesity in different racial and ethnic cultures
  • Socioeconomic Status –Low income groups are more likely to be overweight and obese. Generally, they experience more hurdles or barriers to both eating healthy, and having regular active physical activity, including understanding key controllable factors that contribute to overweight and obesity
Basic Steps and Approaches to Weight Control, Health & Fitness Management


It’s much easier to talk about weight control than to control one’s weight. On our website Food and Fitness Channel is a lot of information to help with the prevention and control of overweight and obesity, weight Control, such as:

Why and how to burn off calories, including:

Cooking Good and Eating Healthy, including:






Key Choices for daily physical activity – at work, at home and for recreation.


Preventing Childhood and Teen Overweight and Obesity

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The term childhood obesity generally also includes teen obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2003 comprehensive statement for pediatricians and adolescent care specialists in the journal Pediatrics also provides useful information for the general public.

10 Health Power tips on preventing childhood and teen obesity follow.

1. Work at being healthy yourself. Remember: experts say that a child who lives in the house with two obese parents has an 80 % percent risk of becoming overweight, and if he or she has only one parent who is obese, the risk is 70%. The risk drops to 7% if both parents are normal weight.

2. Cook at home. The more families eat at fast food restaurants, the greater the risk of being overweight.

3. Give up the soft drinks. They are high in calories and loaded with sugar.

4. Substitute healthy snacks for chips, cupcakes and other fattening, salty foods you buy for kids.

5. Buy more fresh fruits and vegetables. If you can’t get the freshest vegetables, move to frozen vegetables.

6. Reduce the amount of fatty meats you buy and cook.

7. Cut back on fried foods, such as chicken and fish. Those ‘french fries’, that children and adults love from the many fast food stores that crowd some communities, help to clog up the arteries and pack on the weight.

8. Control food portions. The portion sizes of meals has tripled. We are eating more food than we need. No need for seconds and thirds.

9. Get everybody moving. Turn off the television, go for walks, or go to the community center or Y to exercise.

10. Be an Advocate:

At your child’s school, push for outdoor recess, gym classes, and after-school athletics.

Ask your administrators about replacing soda and candy with healthy water, fruits and snacks

Tell your public officials that you want more safe places for kids to play in your area, and

Support Farmer’s Markets that help to provide fresh, affordable and accessible food to your community.

Other Sources of Information on Overweight and Obesity

Recommended Sources for More Information on the Prevention and Control of Obesity follow:

  1. National Weight-Control Information Network (WIN) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This site is an online resource for information on obesity, its causes, and health risks, and provides measurement tools and a variety of publications on obesity.
  2. Office of Minority Health Resource Center (OMC RC).