What your waist size says about your health according to an expert

-Dec 5, Hannah Hargrave, Health -

Scales feature heavily in most men and women’s quest for overall health and fitness, but a tape measure might be a more accurate way to gage your wellness and longevity. Fit4Mum’s Melissa Lorch tells Lumity why.

Stepping on the scales can be a demoralising mission, especially when you’ve been working hard to shift a few pesky pounds or putting in extra hours in the gym. But while your weight is obviously important your waist measurement may be equally, if not more so.  

Even if you aren’t overweight if you have a little extra tub around your tum it could be more than just annoying, it could be severely impacting your life span. 

Related: How to exercise your way to a healthy heart

What the weight around your middle might means

Whether it’s middle-age spread, overindulgence or lack of exercise that has left your trousers feeling a tad tighter around the waistline, the same health issues may arise because of it. 

A bigger midsection can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and risk of heart disease too. 

So even if your BMI – body mass index – is healthy, if you’re waist measurement is higher than it should be you should work on reducing it. 

How big is too big?

Perhaps you’ve been big around your middle your entire life or maybe your expanding waistline is a new thing. Alternatively you may have thought you had a healthy circumference, but now you’re starting to questioning it. 

So how do you know if you’re in the healthy zone or not?

“Measurements should be taken starting at your belly button, wrap the tape around the body and end at your belly button too. Not your trouser line,” Melissa explains to Lumity. 

“The guideline is that for women your abdominal circumference should be 80cm or less. Then, if it’s higher than 80cm, but less than 88cm you are high risk and if your measurement is above 88cm you are very high risk of heart disease or diabetes.”

For men it’s different.

“94cm is the limit for males. If it’s higher than that you’re at risk and more than 102cm you are very high risk.”

How to reduce your waist size

So let’s say you’ve dared to measure you’re waistline and the results have got you worried. What can you do to reduce your waist size?

“It’s really about lifestyle,” says Melissa. “Small changes can make a big difference, but you do need to be consistent.

“Firstly don’t leap into panic mode. You’re far from the only person dealing with this.”

She says regular exercise, “aim for 150 minutes a week minimum”. It doesn’t have to be vigorous but get your heart pumping and add more activity to your life and strength training is important too.

Secondly diet plays a big part.

“You need a balanced diet,” says Melissa, who insists too many people are lulled into fad diets which have short term results, but ultimately end with the person gaining all the weight again. 

“Portion control is one of the major reasons people put on the pounds,” she adds. “When you learn what a portion for your size really looks like you may be surprised. It’s all about editing your diet not cutting food groups out and simply being healthy.”

So she suggests keeping a food diary. “It can be easy to be dishonest with yourself about what you’re eating. So keep a true log.”

As hard as it is, cut down on processed foods and sugar and add more fruit and vegetables and whole grains to your diet. You’ll feel so much better for eating well and as you notice your mid section shrinking you’ll be more inclined to reach for the healthy stuff too. 

Related: What causes middle-aged spread and how you can fight it

Stress and weight gain

It’s not just food and lack of exercise linked to belly fat. stress is too.

When you’re consistently under a lot of pressure your body produces too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, which leads to a build up of belly fat.

Even if you can’t eliminate stress completely, it’s important to learn to manage it because this will alter your body’s response to it.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee shared his top tips for dealing with stress with Lumity and they include making ‘me-time’ and scheduling too.

Exercise can release happy endorphins and work wonders for mental health as well.

And remember when you lower your stress levels you’ll also be less inclined to snack on comforting sugary snacks. 

If you can feel the stress levels rising for the holidays you might like to learn how to beat the January blues and prioritise self care, and if you’re unsure how to fit me-time into your hectic schedule here are some tips too.

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