Am I overweight? How to check your weight is healthy

Obesity is booming in the UK, and apparently we’re oblivious to our growing waistlines. We explore the effect this is having on our health and society, and explain how you can tell if you’re a healthy weight...

Feet standing on scales

Obesity, its prevalence and the pressure an overweight nation puts on our creaking health system have all been making their way to the top of health agendas in the last few years - and the latest research is set to do nothing to dim the spotlight.

An expanding nation – One in four of us is now obese

There are some big health concerns coming to the fore and The National Obesity Forum highlight some big facts in their 2015 report. One in three adults in England has pre-diabetes, obesity cost the UK about £44.7 billion in 2012 and only 56% of us engage in enough physical activity to be considered healthy. However, the most resonating stat has to be that, today, one in four adults in the UK can be considered obese – putting us second only to Hungary in the EU.

Overweight person with measuring tape

Why are we growing?

The National Obesity Forum named a lack of support from health care professionals and the increasing costs of ‘healthy’ food among key reasons for our growing waistlines. They also warn another glaring contributor is our own lack of understanding - while 25% of us are now classed as obese, only 6% of the nation consider themselves to be so. If you’re concerned your weight may be affecting your health read our expert tips to find out if you need to take action…

Am I a healthy weight?

Stepping on the scales can help us keep track of fluctuating pounds, but it’s not always clear whether that extra half a stone has put you at an unhealthy weight.

BMI vs waist-to-hip ratio

Body Mass Index (BMI) has long been the go-to tool for determining a healthy weight. It’s a simple and quick way to check and is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. You can check yours using the NHS online calculator.  

However, many health practitioners now use the waist-to-hip ratio method in addition. This is because BMI doesn’t take into account a person's body frame or muscle mass.  It’s also a more accurate assessment of body fat distribution and disease risk. 

Waist-to-hip ratio – how to measure yourself at home

Yellow tape measure
Waist measurement
You’ll just need a flexible tape measure. Your waist is halfway between your hip bone and your bottom rib, so feel for these markers and then place the tape measure evenly around your waist (a mirror may help you get the tape straight and parallel to the ground.) Note down the result in centimetres.

Hip measurement
Place your tape measure around the widest point of your buttocks – the position of this will vary from person to person. Note down the result in centimeters.

The results
Divide your waist number by your hip number to get your ratio. According to a number of studies, you are at an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, many types of cancer and abnormal cholesterol if your numbers are above:

Women – a ratio equal to or greater than 0.85
Men – a ratio equal to or greater than 1.00

How to maintain a healthy weight

Person writing a meal plan with food
If you’re looking to lose weight, your best chance of shifting pounds and keeping them off is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Our guides can help you do this, offering tailored, expert advice for men, women, vegetarians, vegans and expectant mothers.

We also have free diet plans to help you get in the habit of eating healthily, ranging from three-day kick-starts to month-long meal plans:
Three-day Cheap & Healthy Diet Plan
Three-day Clean & Lean Diet Plan
Nine-day Summer Diet Plan
28-day Healthy Diet Plan

We can also help you get fit, eat right and learn to cook healthy meals from scratch – visit our health & nutrition hub for more recipes, tips and expert help.

*Statistics and analysis from The National Obesity Forum.

This article was last reviewed on 18 February 2018 by nutritionist Kerry Torrens.

A nutritionist (MBANT) Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

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15th Feb, 2015
I have tried weighing myself at different times during the day and I get different reading.Do l weigh myself immediately I wokeup or after I exercise. John From
21st Jan, 2015
It has been commonly believed that consumption of foods containing high amounts of saturated fatty acids (including meat fats, milk fat, butter, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil) is potentially less healthy than consuming fats with a lower proportion of saturated fatty acids. Sources of lower saturated fat but higher proportions of unsaturated fatty acids include olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, safflower, corn, sunflower, soy, and cottonseed oils
20th Jan, 2015
I completely agree with you, Sannus. I'm just in the overweight catagory (according to my BMI) my self but when i was living in the UK, I was the "skinny" one. I too was surprised to see the amount of sweets children and grownups were eating. Crisps in their packed lunches, chocolate and biscuits all the time. People looked at ME when i was shopping groceries at Morrisons.. I swear that one guy at the till didn't know what a beetroot was :) I was the only adult with a bicycel on my street and probably the only one USING it on a daily basis in the entire town.. It is definitely a huge problem in the UK eating the wrong food and not exercising at all. Good luck BBC Good Food. :)
12th Jan, 2015
I am from the European mainland and have a normal weight, but I feel very thin in the UK. On thing I have noticed early on here is that cakes and sweets, and breakfasts in general (except bacon and egg of course), are very sweet, even specific products such as Nutella are sweeter here than in other countries. Another is that walking and cycling appear odd - people just need and are expected to have cars. One social upside here is that people tend not to judge others by their weight, whereas in other countries people can be rather cruel. Let me correct one point. The obesity is not just a lack of support from health care professionals, as in lower-rated countries it is not the doctors and nurses who keep general public in shape! It is much more of a general attitude problem and I am glad BBC Good Food educates people with these articles.
17th Feb, 2017
Why government don't try to tax bad foods and solve definitely this problem ? I follow gluten free program since 5 years wit and i am all right today. It's like selling drugs free and making campaign against drug.
Nanny Jean
12th Feb, 2015
I know for a fact that I am overweight, but was wondering if a Mediterranean diet will allow me to lose weight?
goodfoodteam's picture
17th Feb, 2015
Hi there, thanks for your question. A healthy balanced diet coupled with physical activity is key to losing weight and keeping it off. The main components of a Mediterranean diet are fruit and vegetables, oily fish, wholegrains, beans, pulses, white meat and some dairy products making it a healthy, balanced approach to eating. The key is balancing your energy intake with your energy output, try these tips for losing weight the healthy way and keeping it off.Many thanks,The Good Food team
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