Weight Loss Tip: Measure Your Waist

waist circumferencewaist circumference

Measure You Waist Circumference

waist circumference

waist circumference

Measure Waist

Measure Waist

I have seen quite a few folks trying to lose weight that were very distressed by hitting a plateau.  Using only a scale is a terrible way to look at your progress.  They always report doing the right thing with their diet and exercise but are at the point where their weight loss slows or stops.  Waist circumference is the easiest and most common way to measure abdominal or central obesity[1].  This method measures extra fat found around the middle which is a major factor in health and a decent prognostic indicator of your risk for diabetes and heart disease.   Waist circumference is a measure of the circumference of the abdomen, and the measurement is taken at the narrowest point of the midsection.  I used a page from Harvard as a reference for this page[2].    

Strengths to using waist circumference:

  • Correlates with central obesity which is associated with disease  
  • Easy to measure
  • Equipment needed is inexpensive
  • Strongly correlated with body fat in adults

Weaknesses to using waist circumference:

  • Lack of proper reference values and normal range
  • Measurement process is not standardized so significant variance in measurements from person to person
  • May be difficult to measure and less accurate in individuals with a BMI of 35 or higher

 Your waistline or abdominal fat poses the greatest risk to your health.  Measuring your waist may produce a large degree of variance, but in general, it is an accurate indicator of body fat and weight loss[3].  Some studies validate the greater health dangers associated with a large waist or central obesity[4],[5]. In fact, waist circumference is superior to BMI in measuring health risk[6].  A waist measurement over 40 inches in men, or over 35 inches in women, puts you at increased risk for heart disease and diabetes type 2.  If you do not have a tape measure, use a pair of shorts that are just a bit too small.   I started in a size 42 waist and gradually have worked my way down to a 34.  I guess I will stop at a size 32 since that is the size I wore in high school and college.  

Footnotes
[1]Janssen et al., “Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference Independently Contribute to the Prediction of Nonabdominal, Abdominal Subcutaneous, and Visceral Fat.”
[2]“Measuring Obesity.”
[3]Flegal et al., “Comparisons of Percentage Body Fat, Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, and Waist-Stature Ratio in Adults.”
[4]Pouliot et al., “Waist Circumference and Abdominal Sagittal Diameter: Best Simple Anthropometric Indexes of Abdominal Visceral Adipose Tissue Accumulation and Related Cardiovascular Risk in Men and Women.”
[5]Lean, Han, and Morrison, “Waist Circumference as a Measure for Indicating Need for Weight Management.”
[6]Janssen, Katzmarzyk, and Ross, “Waist Circumference and Not Body Mass Index Explains Obesity-Related Health Risk.”
Flegal, KM, JA Shepherd, AC Looker, BI Graubard, LG Borrud, CL Ogden, TB Harris, JE Everhart, and N Schenker. “Comparisons of Percentage Body Fat, Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, and Waist-Stature Ratio in Adults.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89, no. 2 (February 1, 2009): 500–508. [PubMed]
Janssen, I, SB Heymsfield, DB Allison, DP Kotler, and R Ross. “Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference Independently Contribute to the Prediction of Nonabdominal, Abdominal Subcutaneous, and Visceral Fat.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 75, no. 4 (April 1, 2002): 683–88. [PubMed]
Janssen, I, PT Katzmarzyk, and R Ross. “Waist Circumference and Not Body Mass Index Explains Obesity-Related Health Risk.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79, no. 3 (March 1, 2004): 379–84. [PubMed]
Lean, M E J, T S Han, and C E Morrison. “Waist Circumference as a Measure for Indicating Need for Weight Management.” BMJ. BMJ, July 15, 1995. doi: 10.1136/bmj.311.6998.158
Pouliot, Marie-Christine, Jean-Pierre Després, Simone Lemieux, Sital Moorjani, Claude Bouchard, Angelo Tremblay, André Nadeau, and Paul J. Lupien. “Waist Circumference and Abdominal Sagittal Diameter: Best Simple Anthropometric Indexes of Abdominal Visceral Adipose Tissue Accumulation and Related Cardiovascular Risk in Men and Women.” The American Journal of Cardiology. Elsevier BV, March 1994. doi: 10.1016/0002-9149(94)90676-9 [Source]
“Measuring Obesity.” Harvard School of Public Health. Accessed January 28, 2017. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/how-to-measure-body-fatness/.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: