News & Events

How much fat is too much?

Celeste Hebets, P.T.

If you've been thinking about your current weight, it may be because you've noticed a change in how your clothes fit. Or maybe you've been told by a healthcare professional that you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and that excessive weight could be a contributing factor. The first step is to assess whether or not your current weight is healthy.

How can I tell if I'm at a healthy weight?

Body Mass Index: One way to begin to determine whether your weight is a healthy one is to calculate your "body mass index" (BMI). For most people, BMI is a reliable indicator of their body fat. It is calculated based on your height and weight. To find your BMI, visit

• BMI values less than 18.5 are considered under-weight.
• BMI values from 18.5 to 25 are normal.
• Over-weight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 30.
• Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30-35.
• Severe obesity is defined as a BMI of 35-40.
• Morbid obesity is defined as a BMI of 40 or greater.

Under-weight, normal, over-weight and obese are terms used for ranges of weight. Obese and over-weight describe ranges of weight that are greater than what is considered healthy for a given height. Under-weight describes a weight that is lower than what is considered healthy. If your BMI falls outside of the normal or healthy-weight range, you may want to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about how you might achieve a healthier body weight.

Waist Circumference: Another way to assess your weight is to measure your waist size. Your waistline may be telling you that you have a higher risk of developing obesity-related conditions if you are:

• A man whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches
• A non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches

Excessive abdominal fat is serious because it places you at greater risk for developing obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. Individuals who have excessive abdominal fat should consult with their physicians or other health care providers to develop a plan for losing weight.

When diet and exercise is not enough

For those who are morbidly obese, research shows conventional diets including weight-loss medications, result in less than 10-percent reduction in body weight with less than a 1-percent chance of keeping the weight off long term. For someone weighing 300 pounds, this means losing 30 pounds. However, roughly only one out of 100 people are able to maintain that 30-pound weight loss. For the morbidly obese, even the best diet and exercise programs usually are not effective. Weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) typically is the most effective treatment for these individuals. And recent scientific research suggests this may be equally true for severely obese individuals as well. 

The argument in favor of weight loss surgery has been strengthened by recent scientific studies and articles, which demonstrate weight loss surgery in qualified individuals may improve or cure certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Is weight loss surgery the right option for me? 

Weight loss surgery is major surgery, not to be taken lightly. It is not a “magic bullet” but is considered a tool to be coupled with dietary and lifestyle modifications. Flagstaff Medical Center’s Bariatric Surgical Weight Loss Center helps patients prepare well in advance of their surgery. The team at FMC guides patients to make behavioral changes before and after surgery such as exercise, eating habits, and fluid and vitamin intake. Surgery also is not a guarantee. The success of each patient’s surgery always depends on the commitment of the patient to a lifetime change in eating and exercise behaviors.

If you are considering weight loss surgery, you are invited to attend a free information session prior to making an appointment with our surgical staff. Information sessions are from 6 – 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Northern Arizona Healthcare Education Center, 1000 N. Humphreys (Fort Valley Shopping Center, just south of Flagstaff Medical Center, off Beaver Street). The session includes a presentation by surgical staff about the causes and complications of morbid obesity and the types of surgeries available, with time for questions and answers following the presentation. No registration is required for this session.

For more information on weight loss surgery, call 928 214-3737 or visit

Celeste Hebets, P.T., is a physical therapist and coordinator of FMC’s Bariatric Surgical Weight Loss Center.