Waist Circumference: Why You Should Start Measuring
By Alicia Olsen, RD CDN
Just as there are many ways of measuring weight loss success (pounds lost, inches lost, clothes fitting better, etc.) there seem to be just as many ways to assess body composition (Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference, body fat percentage, ideal body weight, etc.). Which numbers do we use and how do we use them? While each is important, together they provide a picture that individually they cannot.
Waist circumference is just one tool to use. The waist should be measured with a measuring tape around the middle, just above the hip bones. The tape should lay horizontally and be snug to the skin but not digging in. The person should be standing straight, not hunched over. Resist the temptation to suck in your abdomen while measuring, relax the abdominal muscles. It is important to note that this is not the same number as your belt or pants size, which usually sits lower than the waist.
The CDC, center for disease control state that men with a waist circumference >40 inches and non-pregnant women with a waist circumference >35 inches is considered at higher risk for weight related co- morbidities.
Obesity increases the risk for co-morbidities including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, sleep apnea, and even some cancers. Fat deposits around the abdomen, is an indicator of visceral fat (fat around the organs) that can add to increased insulin resistance and increased risk for co-morbidities. The terms apple and pear shaped body types comes to mind here. Someone who is “apple shaped”, has more central obesity and an increased risk. Someone who is “pear shaped”, means fat is more located in the hips and lower extremities, this is a lower risk of obesity related diseases.
If you find that your waist circumference is putting you at higher risk for disease, talk with your bariatric program staff about healthier changes that you can make to help reduce your waist circumference.