Waist does matter

We all know that it’s better to be at the right weight for our height.  Many people work very hard to try to manage their weight and tend to worry about the number on the scale. That number isn’t always a good indicator of whether we’re healthy.  What’s a better indicator for our health?  Let’s look at our shape.


Research shows if our body is apple-shaped we hold more fat around our waist and have more fat permeating our organs.  This means we are at greater risk of developing chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers.  It is also one of the indicators for developing insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes.

Where we store our fat is largely determined by hormones and our genetics.  Look at the shape of your relatives – do you have similar body shapes?  Men typically store fat around their waist.  Young women store fat primarily on their hips and thighs which is a healthier place to store fat.  As we age the change in hormones at menopause in women results in fat being stored around our waists.

What waist measurement is healthy?

So what is a healthy waistline? Measure your waist circumference half way between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bone, keeping the measuring tape straight – either do it in front of a mirror or ask someone to assist you. Then check the table below. People with different ethnicity have slightly different target waist circumferences.

For women Risk
Caucasian, Europid Indian (South Asian), Chinese, Japanese Maori, Pacific Islander
80-88cm Less than 80cm Less than 88cm Normal
More than 88cm More than 80cm More than 88cm Higher
For men Risk
Caucasian, Europid Indian (South Asian), Chinese, Japanese Maori, Pacific Islander
94-102cm Less than 90cm Less than 102cm Normal
More than 102cm More than 90cm More than 102cm Higher

How do we reduce our waistline?  Ideally, we lose fat.  It’s not easy and requires perseverance.  Cutting back on some of those over processed not very nutritious foods while doing a little bit more exercise is a good way to go.Now you’ve measured your waist and understand your risk it might be time to do something about it.

Ask your GP for a referral to an Accredited Practising Dietitian and an Exercise Physiologist for hints on what you could be doing.

By Dale Cooke

Accredited Practising Dietitian

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