Do I Need to Lose Weight?

Web Resource Last Updated: 27-05-2020


Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement that uses your height and weight to find out if your weight is putting your health at risk.

To work out your BMI:

  1. Measure your height (in metres)
  2. Measure your weight (in kilograms)
  3. Your BMI is your weight (in kg) divided by your height (in metres) squared, i.e. weight (kg) ÷ (height (m) x height (m))

For example:

  1. Height = 1.65 metres
  2. Weight = 87 kilograms
  3. BMI = 87 ÷ (1.65 x 1.65) = 31.9
  4. Your BMI = 31.9

You can also use a Height/weight chart.

Using this chart, find your height and draw a line across, and then find your weight and draw a line down. The point where the two lines meet shows whether or not you are in a healthy weight range.

Alternatively, try the BMI healthy weight calculator to find out your BMI.

As Table 1 below shows, the BMI can be split into four different categories.

Table 1: BMI categories


Implication to health

BMI of European adult

BMI of South Asian adult*


May need to gain weight

Less than 18.4

Less than 18.4

Healthy weight

Aim to stay this weight




Increased risk to health




High risk to health

Greater than 30

Greater than 27.5


Limitations of the BMI

The BMI is a useful measure, but it is only a guide and does have some limitations:

  • It can only be used for adults over the age of 18.
  • It does not apply to pregnant women.
  • It is not a good indicator of body fat percentage. A very muscular person, such as a professional athlete, may have a high BMI when their body fat is actually at a healthy level, because muscle is more dense than fat.

How do I get in shape?

People who carry weight around their middle (‘apple shaped’) have greater health risks than those who carry weight around their hips (‘pear shaped’), even if both are overweight. As well as checking your BMI it is also important to measure your waist size, as this can tell you if you are at increased risk.

To measure your waist:

  • Find the bottom of your ribs and top of your hips.
  • Wrap a tape measure around your body midway between these points.
  • Breathe out naturally before taking the measurement.

You may find this video useful when measuring your waist.

Waist circumference classifications

Table 2 shows the different categories of risk associated with your ethnicity and waist measurement.


Increased risk

Severe risk

Men (European, White)

Greater than 94 cm (37 in)

Greater than 102 cm (40 in)

Men (African-Caribbean, South Asian, Black African, Chinese, Middle Eastern)*


Greater than 90 cm (35.5 in)

Women (European, White)

Greater than 80 cm (32 in)

Greater than 88 cm (35 in)

Women (African-Caribbean, South Asian, Black African, Chinese, Middle Eastern)*


Greater than 80 cm (32 in)

*There are different healthy ranges in both BMI and waist circumference for different ethnicities as research shows that if you are South Asian, African-Caribbean, Black African, Chinese or Middle Eastern, or are from two or more different ethnic groups, you are at an increased risk of certain health conditions at lower thresholds when compared to people from white European backgrounds. 

Useful resources

More information and support to help with weight management can be found by clicking on the following links:

The NHS has developed a free 12-week weight-loss guide  which combines advice on healthy eating and physical activity:

The British Heart Foundation has produced a detailed information leaflet to support weight loss:

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