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80% of women are “overfat”—but what does that mean?


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Photo: Stocksy/Trinette Reed

Last week, Time made the grand declaration that “overfat” is the new obesity. Is that a good thing? Or does it mean more Americans than ever are facing health risks? And what does “overfat” actually mean?

According to Time—and a study in Frontiers in Public Health—it’s time to start talking more openly about weight loss, the numbers on the scale, and body mass index (BMI). For so long, talking about weight has been a bit taboo, particularly for women (right up there with money and sex). But new research says it may be time to get real—for the sake of your health.

“The fat around your midsection or organs is the most concerning for your health.”

The study says that rather than being concerned with your BMI—that famously rough measure of health—adults should be concerned about whether or not they fall into the 80 percent of women or 90 percent of men in the US, New Zealand, Greece, and Ireland who fall into the “overfat” category. Researchers define overfat as the presence of excess body fat that can impair health, even for normal weight, non-obese individuals, and it mostly has to do with belly fat.

“Being overfat increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and many other diseases,” says Elizabeth Boham, MD. “It also decreases your metabolism and results in more weight gain over the years.” She adds that, “The fat around your midsection or organs is the most concerning for your health.”

Dr. Boham and the authors of the study say the easiest way to figure out if you’re at risk of becoming—or are already—overfat has to do with your waist measurements. People usually qualify as overfat when their waists are larger than their hips, or if their waist circumference is more than half their height.

So if you ever needed another reason to toss your scale, this is it (but you probably want to keep that tape measure on hand).

Weight can be a finicky and confusing thing. Here’s what to know about how your microbiome could be sabotaging your weight goals, why calorie counting may be useless, and why exercise doesn’t exactly cause weight loss