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SCHOOL DELAYS

How to judge if you, or a loved one, is overweight

In theory, people should be able to glance in a mirror and see they're packing extra pounds. But 30 percent of overweight Americans think they're at a normal weight, according to a recent poll from Harris Interactive/HealthDay. Here's how to take a more honest look:

Don't compare yourself to others. So many Americans are overweight now that you may get a skewed sense of what's healthy. "The normal reaction is to say, 'my child may be a little chunky, but they aren't as big as that kid over there,'" says Babs Benson, a registered nurse and manager of the "Healthy You" weight management program at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, Va.

Figure out your BMI. That's body mass index, a measurement that considers both height and weight. To find easy-to-use programs and result analyses, type "BMI Calculator" into an online search engine.

Measure your waistline. Abdominal fat is most dangerous because it raises the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Wrap a tape measure around the smallest area between your ribcage and belly button. Men should measure no more than 40 inches, while women should be 35 inches or less.

Consider your waist-to-hip ratio. It's better to have big hips and a smaller waist than vice versa. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. Ideally, woman's result should be 0.8 inches or less and a man's 0.95 inches or less.

Work with a doctor. Medical professionals can take accurate body fat measurements and plot BMI readings on a detailed graph. "It puts the whole thing into perspective," Benson says.

Look at pictures of yourself. Many people first realize they're too heavy when they see themselves in recent photographs.

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