It is no secret that obesity has spread throughout Kern County at a rate much higher than other surrounding areas.

Kern County ranks 57 out of 58 counties in California in obesity, which means we are among the worst counties in the state in terms of obesity prevalence. Obesity is a significant risk factor for the development of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Kern County also has the highest rate of deaths due to diabetes and is the third-worst county in the state for deaths from heart disease.

Questions often arise about how obesity is measured. This is calculated using a formula called body mass index, or BMI. This formula is calculated by taking your weight (kg) and dividing it by your height in meters.

Weight (kg)/Height (m)² = BMI or Weight (lbs)/height(in)² x 703

But once your BMI is calculated, do you know what it means?

The scale ranges from underweight (<18.5), normal (18.5 to 25), overweight (25 to 30) and obese (>30).

In 2016, more than 42 percent of Kern County adults were obese. This is an astoundingly high number, which is actually down from 2014 when it was roughly 50 percent. Furthermore, more than 30 percent of Kern County adults were overweight during this same time period. This means that more than 72 percent of Kern County adults are either overweight or obese.

An alternative method for evaluating body composition and how it relates to health is the waist-to-height ratio, which compares your waist measurement to your height. The goal is that your waist circumference be less than half your height.

Though there are strengths and weaknesses to every measurement, calculations such as the BMI are great references to use when evaluating weight-related health risks.

Once you find out what your BMI number is, it is important to realize that you can improve this number with lifestyle choices and healthy diet. Regular exercise can help you to shed excess fat and strengthen your body against weight-related chronic conditions.

Also, incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet can vastly improve your health and weight status. Ensure that your breads and pastas are whole grain, which can benefit you by increasing your energy levels throughout the day and allowing you to lead an active life.

Finally, avoiding sugary beverages and sweets can decrease daily calories and contribute to weight loss. Because sugary beverages such as soda, juice and energy drinks have become such an easy and accessible item, they are widely consumed more often than they should be. These types of beverages add additional calories to your diet because they are not filling and are generally consumed in addition to regular meals. Because of this, they are a prime contributor to excess calorie counts in many people’s lives that lead to weight gain.

Now that you know how to calculate your BMI, what the different BMI categories are and what that means for you and your health, know your BMI number. Visit your doctor and ask for your BMI. 

(1) comment

Jay Wiener

Great article, if it had been written in 1968. Fifty years later, we know better. The BMI is a miserable metric. It is slightly more accurate than your astrological sign. For example, if a lean, muscular football player and his obese, alcoholic, chain-smoking, couch potato grandmother are the same height and weight, they will have the same BMI. Ignore it.

I'm a mathematician who has specialized in obesity for over ten years. I wrote an algorithm that is far more accurate, using 25 variables, not just height and weight. It's at a site called and you are welcome to use it. You can also write to me from there if you have a question.

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