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What’s the Difference Between Overweight and Obesity?

Written by:

Wafaa Amjad Dar


Dr. Bradley Noon



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The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.Read more
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.

According to World Health Organization [1*] estimates, over 1.9 billion adults worldwide were overweight in 2019, with over 650 million considered obese. To distinguish between overweight and obesity, it’s important to understand each of these health concerns separately. Let’s delve into their specifics ahead, including the underlying risk factors and strategies for their management.

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What Are Obesity and Overweight?

The terms obesity and overweight refer to an excess of body weight in relation to a person’s height. If you’re wondering “Are overweight and obese the same thing?”, they are not, despite being used interchangeably quite often. The difference of obese and overweight is mostly in the body weight and body mass index, but let’s explore all factors below.

Overweight vs Obese

A person with a body mass index (BMI) between 25-29.9 kg/m2 is considered overweight. In this case, an individual’s weight falls above the healthy range but is below the threshold for obesity. Obesity, on the other hand, is the next stage of excess body weight or body fatness on the BMI scale. It can be diagnosed when a BMI reaches 30 kg/m2 or higher (along with other criteria).

An overweight person might have a higher risk of certain health issues, but it depends on many other factors, so this BMI is generally considered a moderate level of excess weight. A comprehensive analysis conducted in 2019 [2*] indicated that overweight and obesity contributed to approximately 5 million deaths, due to conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, neurological disorders, chronic respiratory disorders, and digestive disorders. This highlights the high health risks strongly associated with obesity.

Calculating Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index [3*] is the most common screening tool based on assessing the height-to-weight ratio. You can calculate BMI using weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. Based on body mass index, a person’s weight can be divided into the following categories:




Less than 18.5

Healthy weight

Between 18.5 to <25 


Between 25.0 to <30


30.0 or higher

What Causes Overweight and Obesity?

The most prominent causes of overweight and obesity are the following:

  • Genetics: Studies show that 40-70% [4*] of obesity cases are influenced by genetic factors, making it evident that genetic variations and family history play an important role.
  • Physical Activity: A lack of regular exercise is a significant contributor to obesity since it hinders calorie expenditure and affects metabolic health. 
  • Dietary Habits: An unbalanced and unhealthy diet, excessive consumption of low-nutrition or high-calorie foods, processed foods, fat-rich foods, and sugar drinks create an imbalance in energy intake and expenditure, contributing to obesity. 
  • Psychological Issues: Stressed or depressed [5*] people may resort to overeating as a way to cope with unpleasant feelings and emotions, which may lead to weight gain. 
  • Medical Conditions: Hypothyroidism [6*] , polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS [7*] ), and hormonal imbalances interfere with metabolism, impacting weight. Also, some medicines [8*] like antidepressants, corticosteroids, and antipsychotics, may be associated with weight gain as a side effect.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Factors including income, education, and access to healthcare, can influence lifestyle choices and contribute to obesity. For example, limited resources may hinder access to fresh, nutritious foods and opportunities for physical activity.
Are you concerned about your weight? Book an online consultation with our medical specialists and receive personalized recommendations.

Health Risks of Being Overweight or Obese

An overweight or obese person has significant [9*] health risks [10*] , and understanding them is crucial for promoting awareness and prevention. Some key overweight and obesity effects are:

While all obese individuals face some level of above mentioned risk, the exact nature and severity of these risks can vary greatly depending on age, genetics, lifestyle, existing health conditions, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. These factors can interact, leading to increased risks.

How to Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About Weight Concerns

If you have any concerns about your weight or health risks associated with obesity, initiate open and honest communication with your healthcare provider. During the initial appointment, they will ask for a detailed medical history, personal details, weight, height, and previous weight loss attempts. Besides calculating BMI, they may recommend taking additional tests, for example, evaluating your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other relevant factors to identify any underlying contributors to your weight concerns.

A comprehensive overview of your health enables your doctor to devise a weight management plan tailored to your needs. Remember to attend follow-up appointments to monitor progress and adjust the plan as needed to achieve your ideal weight.

Treatment and Management Strategies

A supportive environment as well as a healthy and motivated mindset can help maintain a healthy weight range. Seek personalized guidance and support from healthcare providers specializing in weight management. Their recommendations may include the following:

  • Dietary Changes: Adopt a balanced and nutritious diet [19*] that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and grains. Monitor portion size and consider switching to eating multiple small meals at intervals rather than having larger meals at once.
  • Regular Physical Activity: Exercises [20*] such as walking, running, swimming, or cycling help burn off excess fat. To have sound physical health, it is recommended to exercise 150 minutes weekly.
  • Stress Management: Stress can contribute to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain. Practice mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, or other stress management techniques [21*] .
  • Set Realistic Goals: Define achievable, realistic weight loss goals and implement gradual, sustainable changes.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT [22*] ) can help identify and change unhealthy eating habits and develop beneficial coping strategies.
  • Medications: In some cases, pharmaceutical interventions [23*] may be necessary for severely obese people or obesity-related health complications. Various prescription medications such as semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy), liraglutide (Saxenda), and phentermine (Adipex) can help to lose weight.
  • Surgical Interventions: In extreme cases, when lifestyle changes and medications have not been successful, bariatric surgery may be considered.


By exploring definitions of overweight and obesity, their causes, health risks, and management strategies, you can make informed decisions about your well-being. Make sure you use a comprehensive approach to weight loss, starting from identifying the root causes to promoting a healthier lifestyle for long-lasting results. Remember, the journey toward a healthy weight is not just about the destination but the steps you take along the way.

See a healthcare professional specializing in weight management from the comfort of your home.


Overweight and pre-obese are often used interchangeably. Pre-obese [24*] BMI range is 25-29.9, which basically shows a person is overweight but not obese. It is mainly an alerting indication that one must start to adopt lifestyle changes in their routine in order to prevent entering the obese BMI range which is greater than 30.

BMI is not a direct indicator of a person’s general health, instead, it is a general screening method. While a high BMI is often associated with the risk of various health problems, it is one of many factors and does not always imply poor health.
Chubby is an everyday term without a precise medical definition. It means one has a bit more body fat than average but is not an indicator of a specific weight or BMI.
While both overweight and obesity pose health risks, being overweight is considered less risky than obesity. However, individual health outcomes vary. It’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals for risk assessment and personalized guidance.
When you compare the terms overweight and obesity, the main difference is severity. Overweight people have a BMI of 25 to 29.9, while morbid obesity or extreme obesity is characterized by a BMI of 40 or higher. Morbid obesity is a major risk factor for health issues.


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Written by:

Wafaa Amjad Dar


Dr. Bradley Noon



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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.