Obesity is the number one health epidemic in the United States today and quickly becoming a world-wide epidemic. Obesity directly leads to many other health conditions including cardiovascular disease. Are you overweight? How does one know? There are several methods for answering this question. A fairly good method is the body mass index (BMI). BMI is a number calculated from your weight and height. It provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories which may lead to health problems. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat, such as underwater weighing. It will give you a reasonable idea if you are overweight. It allows you to compare your own weight status to that of the general population. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703 (BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2x 703). With the metric system, the formula for BMI is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (weight (kg) / [height (m)]2). An easy way to figure out your BMI is to use an online calculator from the NHLBI (http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bminojs.htm). Normal is 18.5-24.9. Overweight is 25-29.9. Over 30 is considered obese. Over 40 is morbidly obese. Many people are shocked at their BMI and associated category. BMI can be used as a guide for setting weight loss goals. A good initial goal is a BMI less than 30. A good long term goal is less than 25. Reducing your BMI can reduce your chances of type II diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and an early death. Use your current BMI as motivation to lose weight. You can do it! On the other hand, an even better method for figuring out if you are overweight is your weight circumference. Belly fat is bad! A high waist circumference means you have too much abdominal fat which puts you at high risk for many diseases including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke. It means you need to lose weight! By measuring your waist circumference, you can track your body composition over time. A high-risk waist circumference in men is a waist measurement over 40 inches (102 cm). A high-risk waist circumference in women is a waist measurement over 35 inches (88 cm). To measure your waist circumference, use a tape measure. Start at the top of the hip bone, then bring it all the way around (it will be level with your navel). Make sure it’s not too tight and that it is parallel with the floor. Don’t hold your breath while measuring it. Remember that these numbers (BMI and waist circumference) are only guidelines and not absolutes. Use them as a general idea of where you currently stand and what your long term goals should be. Start today. Make a goal and stick to it. Be consistent! Do not give up!