The Cleveland Clinic

Weight Loss:
Am I Overweight or Obese?

Doctors usually define "overweight" as a condition in which a person's weight is 10%-20% higher than "normal," as defined by a standard height/weight chart.

Obesity is usually defined as a condition in which a person's weight is 20% or more above normal weight. "Morbid obesity" means a person is either 50%-100% over normal weight, more than 100 pounds over normal weight, or sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with health or normal functioning.

Nearly 40 million Americans, more than one-quarter of all adults and about one in five children, are obese . Each year, obesity causes at least 300,000 excess deaths in the U.S. and costs the country more than $100 billion.

There are several tests that can be performed to determine if you are overweight or obese. But, measuring the exact amount of a person's body fat is not an easy task. Some tests are more accurate than others.

What Tests Are Available for Diagnosing Obesity?

  • Hydrostatic body fat test. This is the most accurate test given to assess body fat. During the test, you are submerged in water while your underwater weight is recorded.
  • Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). This is another very accurate way to assess body fat. During this test, the patient must lay supine for approximately 20-30 minutes while every section of their body is systematically X-rayed.