Overweight vs. Obesity: What is the actual Difference?

Did you know, according to the World Health Organization, the number of adults affected by obesity worldwide was 650 million in 2016? And the number goes as high as 1.9 Billion when it comes to being overweight; that’s insane when you think about it!

However, you might be curious about these health conditions. Like, what exactly is the difference between overweight and obesity.

To put it simply, overweight is just a term for someone who has more weight than what’s considered healthy. But, on the other hand, obesity is a medical condition that often leads to serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Let’s take a closer look at what overweight and obesity are and the difference between them.

What is Obesity? by simpleshow foundation


An overweight person has a weight that is more than what is known as an optimal weight for their body type. The specific measure used to determine whether someone is overweight depends on various factors such as height and age.

For example, an overweight person would be one whose body mass index (BMI) exceeds 25 kilograms per square meter. Where BMI is a measure of weight-related to the square of their height.

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To be specific, overweight is defined as having a BMI equal to or greater than 25.0 and less than 30.0.


Obesity is a medical condition where people have too much fat that may cause health problems. A person is normally known as obese when his/her BMI  or body mass index is over 30 kg per square meter.

A person is obese when fatty tissue has accrued to such a level that it has begun to harm their health. This includes any significant accumulation of excess body fat that impairs health or leads to mobility problems.

BMI Chart

Body Mass Index (BMI)Health ConditionObjective
<18.5UnderweightGain some weight
25-29.9OverweightLose some weight
30-40ObeseLose weight or visit a doctor
40<Severe ObeseVisit a doctor and take steps accordingly

Overweight vs. Obese

People sometimes use “overweight” and “obese” as synonyms. They are different conditions, though. The first is when someone’s weight is more significant than what is healthy or optimal. And the second refers to an excessive amount of body fat. In both cases, there can be some sort of health risks related to carrying extra body weight.

DefinitionA person who is overweight weighs more than what is considered a good weight for their body type.A person is obese when he has too much body fat. 
Difficulty to controlCan be controlled with some effortNeeds more effort to control
Visit doctorNo need (most of the cases)Might need a visit
DietShould be controlled properlyShould be controlled strictly
ExerciseCardiovascular or light workoutsWeight loss program
Affected worldwide (in 2016)1.9 Billion650 Million
Percentage worldwide (in 2016)39%13%

What causes Obesity

Weight gain occurs when an individual eats more calories than they use. One pound of fat equals roughly 3500kcals (this value can differ depending on several factors).

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Therefore, to lose one pound of fat, an individual must burn 3500kcals more than they consume. This means that to lose one pound a week, an individual has to be in a 500 kcals/week deficit.

Some people will say that it is easy to lose weight if all you have to do is consume less and exercise more and that it is not that simple. 

The liver has a limited storage capacity for glycogen. So when we consume too many carbohydrates, they convert to fat and are stored in adipose tissue (fat cells).

These fat cells will release energy as needed by the body. The addition of excess glucose as fat causes weight gain throughout the body.

Overweight vs. obesity health risks

Basically, being overweight is the extreme condition of average weight, and obesity is the severe condition. So, the health risks related to Overweight and Obesity kind of related to each other with a few differences.

However, the health risks associated with these conditions depend on numerous factors. Like genetics and body structure. But here’s some common health risk related to excess weight.

Overweight health risks

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Potential Diabetes
  • Potential Heart Disease
  • Potential Metabolic syndrome

Obesity Health Risks

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Stroke
  • Fatty liver diseases
  • Kidney disease
  • Pregnancy problems
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Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you be obese without being overweight?

It is likely to be obese without being overweight. Obese people can have normal weight levels and with or without underweight body fat percentage. And obesity does not always equal overweight.

An obese person’s BMI may say they are “normal,” but with a belly measuring at 100lbs (45kg) (a short amount of abdominal fat). That would make them technically underweight. Especially if you account for all the surrounding muscle tissue around the fat.

What’s a skinny fat person?

A “skinny fat” person has a relatively high fraction of body fat and a low volume of muscle mass. Or simply, they’re skinny on the outside but not on the inside. A characteristic that often goes hand in hand with certain nature that may be harmful to one’s health is emotional eating. As a result, these individuals are often more at risk for these conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (aka – obesity).

Can you be fat but normal weight?

You can have a normal weight, but you may be considered obese. With the BMI, you measure your height and weight to see if you are healthy or unhealthy.

For males, anything over 24.9 is considered overweight according to WHO standards, and anything over 30 is obese.


The word “overweight” is a term that applies to someone who has more weight than what’s considered healthy. But that doesn’t have the same dire health consequences as obesity. There’s definitely a slight difference between overweight and obesity.

Obesity can lead to serious health risks like diabetes and heart disease. Suppose you’re struggling with your weight or know somebody else who does.

Make sure you consult your doctor or other healthcare professional for advice on how best to proceed. You may avoid some of these adverse effects by changing your lifestyle, like eating better and getting exercise!

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