Comparing your waist circumference to your height is one method for assessing obesity.

Obesity is now a disease. That is the much publicized conclusion reached by the American Medical Association during its June 2013 annual meeting. While this doesn’t change how registered dietitians manage their clients seeking or needing weight loss, it may allow more physicians to refer their patients for nutritional counseling sooner and perhaps encourage more health insurers to cover nutritional consultations.

Some critics argue that labeling obesity as a disease may take the onus off individuals to alter lifestyle habits, such as improving eating choices and increasing physical activity level. Proponents of the obesity designation counter with the fact that other conditions like diabetes and heart disease are indeed diseases, despite them being better managed with lifestyle changes.

Obesity is now generally classified by relying on body mass index (BMI) – a calculation based on weight in relation to height. Thirty or higher is considered obese. An optimal BMI is between 18.5 to 24.9. Yet BMI is not foolproof. It may overestimate body fat in athletes and those individuals who are very muscular and it may underestimate body fat in older people and those who have lost muscle mass. Nonetheless, for a quick gauge, check our BMI calculator.

Another measure, in addition to BMI, that may be more accurate is waistline size. Health risk rises with a waist size of greater than 35 inches for women (and 40 inches for men). Others contend a person’s ideal waist size can be determined by halving your height in inches. For example, if height is 5’4” (64 inches), then waist size should be no greater than 32 inches. To accurately measure your waist circumference, place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hip bones.

Whatever measure is used or whether obesity is a disease or a risk factor for other diseases, the bottom line is that you should strive to maintain a healthy weight – being sure not to gain or lose too many pounds.

If you’re looking for a health-conscious snack to make, try this Sicilian Style Couscous Salad.

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