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

More like this

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 bbcgoodfood.com 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

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post