Waist management

People contemplating a weight-loss program should examine their body shapes and pay particular attention to where the excess fat is located. This can be best done by determining the waist-hip ratio. Evidence has proven that a pear-shaped body is an indicator of good health.

Where you carry fat counts more than what you weigh

Standing on the bathroom scale is an activity that can send chills down many a spine. But before you resolve to start yet another diet, consider carefully whether you really need to lose weight. While it’s true that excess poundage is linked to disease risk, it’s where the pounds are stored that determines the impact on health. The latest research suggests than an apple shape, with extra padding around the midsection, as opposed to a pear shape, with the excess on the hips and buttocks, is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers as well as heart disease. Using a tape measure to assess body fat might be wiser than simply stopping on the scale.

To determine which fruit you most resemble, divide your waist measurement (at the narrowest point) by your hip measurement (at the widest point). The ideal reading is 0.8, which means your hips are proportionately larger than your waist.

Women tend to be naturally pear-shaped through their childbearing years. But as estrogen levels decrease with the onset of menopause, the picture changes and fat is more likely to accumulate around the middle. As women age, weight distribution tends to become more similar to men’s, along with the risk for various lifestyle-related diseases.

Abdominal fat has been associated with lower levels of the beneficial HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol along with increased levels of the artery-clogging type, like LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and triglycerides. High blood pressure, along with abnormal blood sugar regulation and diabetes, also seem to go hand in hand with this excess fat. And elevated hormone levels in apple-shaped women may be responsible for the greater incidence of breast and endometrial cancer these women experience. A study of more than 40,000 Iowa women found that breast-cancer rates after menopause doubled for women with abdominal fat, even when other risk factors, such as family history, were controlled. Researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia, after reviewing the literature on body-fat distribution back to the mid-1950s, suggested that your waist-hip ratio may be one of the best predictors of many lifestyle-related diseases.

And here’s some weighty advice for men who take pride in the fact that the numbers on the scale haven’t crept up over the years. Chances are the weight has shifted, resulting in a larger belly. If so, it’s time for a waist-management program.

Now, for some good news. For some, losing only five pounds can improve the waist-hip ratio substantially. When you consider that a pound of body fat resembles a pound of butter, it’s easy to see how just a few pounds can begin to pare down that apple shape.

If you’re a well-rounded apple, or an extremely large pear, consider these belly-busting tactics:

* Be active. Numerous studies have shown that lower waist-hip ratios are found in those who exercise regularly. Walk, run, cycle or swim – do whatever you enjoy and fits into life. If you never seem to have time, start making fitness appointments with yourself. At the beginning of each week, plan for 20 minutes of exercise at least every second day.

* Eat regularly. Instead of skimping on calories, eat throughout the day in order to lose weight. Opt for lower-fat fare while keeping portions in check. Contrary to what many people think, even fat-free food can prevent weight loss if you eat too much of it.

* Don’t be a yo-yo. Aim for a weight loss of no more than one-half to one pound per week to avoid the return of unwanted pounds as soon as you stop dieting.

* Quit smoking. Although many women smoke cigarettes as a diet aid, research shows that the weed is linked to a higher level of abdominal fat. Smoking then results in an increased risk for cardiovascular disease from both the habit itself and the associated weight distribution.

* Drink less alcohol. It’s not called a beer belly for nothing. Studies show that as alcohol consumption rises, so do waist-hip ratios.

How do you measure up?

Waist-hip ratio = Waist measurement (inches or centimetres)/Hip measurement (inches or centimetres)

For example:

Female No. 1

Waist – 33[inches]/Hip – 35[inches] = Waist-hip ratio of 0.94

Female No. 2

Waist – 25 [inches]/Hip – 38[inches] = Waist-hip ratio of 0.66

Female No. 2 may not be thrilled with her pear shape, but she’s at a lower risk for most diseases than female No. 1.

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