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What are the Different Levels of Obesity?

K.C. Bruning
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are five different levels of obesity, which are determined by measuring the body mass index (BMI). BMI calculators are readily available through an Internet search. The five obesity levels include obese, severely obese, morbidly obese, super obese and super-super obese. Medical professionals emphasize that these levels should only be viewed as a guide for the majority of people. In order to obtain a completely accurate diagnosis, obesity also needs to be assessed according to the health history and waist circumference of each individual.

The lowest of the levels of obesity is the obese class. It encompasses a 30 to 34.9 BMI range. A person in this range would be at least 20 percent higher than the ideal body weight. In comparison, a healthy adult BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. Severely obese, which is a BMI of 35 to 45 is the next level of obesity. People at both of these levels of obesity tend to be able to make significant health improvements with even a small amount of daily effort, such as regular, moderate exercise.

There are more serious health consequences associated with the next two levels of obesity. The morbidly obese have a BMI range of 45 to 50, while the super obese are in the 50 to 60 range. Individuals at this level require a more concentrated effort to reduce their weight. While the lower levels concentrate on improving quality of life, people at this level are more focused on sustaining life.

Super-super obese is the highest level of obesity and poses the most severe health risk. This level encompasses any BMI higher than 60. An individual at this level must make immediate and permanent life changes in order to avoid death.

Obesity is, in essence, an excessive amount of body fat. In addition to measuring BMI, the condition is diagnosed by measuring the circumference of the waist. Any BMI higher than 25 warrants medical attention. Women with a waist circumference larger than 35 inches (about 88.9 centimeters) and men with waists measuring more than 40 inches (about 101.6 centimeters) are also at a high health risk.

It is not only the amount of extra fat an individual has, but also where the weight is distributed that helps determine if a person is obese. If excess weight is carried in the mid-section and the stomach in particular, there is a higher chance of health risks. Excess weight in the lower part of the body, such as in the thighs or hips, is not as serious.

In addition to determining weight and waist measurements, doctors also exam each patient’s personal and family health histories when making a diagnosis. Factors such as heart disease; lifestyle; and consumption of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes can be factors in determining the severity of the health risk as well. Understanding these factors can also help a doctor devise an effective plan for treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
K.C. Bruning
By K.C. Bruning , Former Writer
Kendahl Cruver Bruning, a versatile writer and editor, creates engaging content for a wide range of publications and platforms, including The Health Board. With a degree in English, she crafts compelling blog posts, web copy, resumes, and articles that resonate with readers. Bruning also showcases her passion for writing and learning through her own review site and podcast, offering unique perspectives on various topics.

Discussion Comments

By AnswerMan — On Jan 31, 2014

I thought I was headed towards morbid obesity back when I worked full-time at a country buffet restaurant. I ate as much heavy Southern food as I wanted every day. I went to one of those scales that calculates BMI, and I was shocked to learn I was only in the obese range, not morbid. I thought I was dangerously overweight, but my BMI was 32. Of course I went on a diet after seeing the numbers, but I wasn't having any mobility issues or heart problems.

By pollick — On Jan 30, 2014

I had no idea there were obesity levels higher than morbid. Those must be the people you see on TV who haven't been out of their beds in years and have to be cut out of their houses to get to the hospital for treatment. I've always felt sorry for these super obese people, because I wonder how their families could just sit by and watch it happen without intervening. Some of their relatives actually help by providing all that excess food. I always thought morbid obesity started when a person had serious mobility issues.

K.C. Bruning

K.C. Bruning

Former Writer

Kendahl Cruver Bruning, a versatile writer and editor, creates engaging content for a wide range of publications and...
Learn more
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