Are you Overweight or OverFat?: What is Healthy

“Am I overweight?”

...a question I get asked repeatedly. My answer surprises most people. “You’re not overweight, you are overfat.” I explain further, “Weight is irrelevant. The Dictionary defines weight as the heaviness of a person. Weight is composed of fat mass, muscle mass, organs, bones, etc. If you took your body weight (200lbs for example) and divide your body weight by 6, 33.2lbs is how much you would weigh on the moon. The difference in weight is due to the difference in gravitational pull. Your weight has changed, however, your body fat % has not.

Even BMI (Body Mass Index) is flawed when determining body fat %. It doesn’t track actual amount of body fat. The NIH (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) explains that BMI measures body fat % based on a height and weight mathematical formula when applied to adult men and women. Body fat % only measures body fat. Once your body fat is at a healthy body fat %, your waist circumference will be optimal as well. Therefore you will be healthier and not overfat.” When comparing weight, BMI, and body fat %, body fat % is the only relevant number you should care about. It’s amazing how much better you feel once you get your body fat % optimal.

When people say, “I am overweight”, they are saying, “I am overfat”.

What is an optimal body fat %?

Under 10% for men and under 16% for women is the recommendation of Charles Poliquin. Charles Poliquin is a world renowned Personal Trainer. Here is a little about Charles. While working on his Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology, Poliquin began a career as strength coach, and has since trained numerous Olympic and professional athletes. Many personal trainers, including myself, have attended his seminars to utilize his wealth of knowledge and experience in the field.

According to Poliquin, if an adult male is over 10% or over, he is overfat. If an adult female is 16% or over, she is overfat. When we are over fat, it’s as if we have a type of sepsis in our body…and there is no such thing as a good sepsis in our body.

What is Sepsis?

MayoClinic defines a sepsis as a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight an infection, trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. The CDC explains that a sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. It is difficult to predict, diagnose, and treat. Patients who develop sepsis have an increased risk of complications and death and face higher healthcare costs and longer treatment.

Fat is living tissue. The American Chemical Society writes, “Scientists are reporting new evidence that fat tissue in those spare tires and lower belly pooches — far from being a dormant storage depot for surplus calories — is an active organ that sends chemical signals to other parts of the body, perhaps increasing the risk of heart attacks, cancer, and other diseases. They are reporting discovery of 20 new hormones and other substances not previously known to be secreted into the blood by human fat cells and verification that fat secretes dozens of hormones and other chemical messengers.”

What does this mean?

When someone is overfat, their body’s fat tissue is producing a plethora of hormones and chemicals which in turn is causing the body to become more inflamed. The inflammation will cause chemicals to be released in the body creating systemic reaction which is sepsis-like. When someone is “overfat”, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that person is at a significantly higher risk of Coronary Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, Abdominal Blood Fats, Metabolic Syndrome, Cancer, Sleep Apnea, Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome, Reproductive Problems, Gallstones, among others. (Take a note that High Blood Pressure and Abdominal Blood Fats are direct quantifiable measures we use to measure one’s immediate health).

In the following chart, I have combined guidelines from A.C.E. (American Council on Exercise) and Charles Poliquin.

DESCRIPTION                WOMEN                               MEN                      SEPSIS-like


  • Optimal                <16% body fat                     <10%                      none
  • Slight                     16-20% body fat                   11-14%                 low-grade
  • Middle                    20-31% body fat                   15-24%                 mid-grade
  • Obese                    32%+ body fat                      25%+                   high-grade


While the CDC (Center for Disease Control) does not have parameters for optimal waist circumference, they do have numbers for obesity. The CDC writes, “Excessive abdominal fat may be serious because it places you at greater risk for developing obesity-related conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. 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 or a non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches.”

When you get your body fat % to optimal, your waist circumference will also decrease and waist circumference will no longer be a health issue. Having an optimal body fat % will significantly reduce the risk of obesity-related conditions.

What are you to do?

Understand that fat is living tissue. Fat is an active organ that produces hormones, chemicals, and other substances in the blood stream. Having excessive fat (16% + for women and 10% + for men) will produce inflammation which in turn puts the body in a sepsis like condition. The CDC states a sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight an infection, trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. The sepsis-like “grade” is based on how much or little body fat your body currently has. The lower the body fat %, the lower grade sepsis like condition you have, if at all. Don’t rely on weight as your indicator of how healthy you are. Weight is composed of fat mass, muscle mass, organs, bones, etc. BMI is not reliable when determining body fat % either. BMI measures body fat % based on a height and weight mathematical formula when applied to adult men and women. When you are evaluating what your goals for health or even your workouts, have getting an optimal body fat % as your #1 priority. Remember, it’s not that you are overweight, you are overfat.


Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified