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Waist Circumference Why you should know YOUR measurement

Health improvement through weight management and waist reduction

Introduction – The importance of waist circumference measurements Approximately 65% of adults in the UK are either overweight or obese. Excess body weight increases the risk of developing certain medical conditions and people who are fat around their waist are more likely to suffer health problems including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer. This is because fat stored around the waist indicates a larger amount of fat within the abdominal cavity. This fat is known as ‘visceral fat’ and is known to be particularly harmful to health. Assessment of body shape, and in particular measuring waist circumference, is an easy way to identify whether you are likely to have some of your excess bodyweight stored as harmful visceral fat. Doctors are now beginning to understand that an increased waist circumference measurement gives an indication of an increased risk of developing the health problems associated with storing excess visceral fat such as high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Understanding waist circumference measurements Women: For Caucasian and Asian women a waist circumference of more than 80cm (31.5”) indicates that your health may be at risk. Men: For Caucasian Men a waist circumference of more than 94 cm (37”) is associated with increased risk, whereas a measurement of over 90cm (35”) is associated with higher risk in Asian men. Healthy Waist Measurement

Increased Health Risk

Women: up to 80cm (31.5”)

Waist measurement over 80cm (31.5”)

Caucasian men: up to 94cm (37”)

Waist measurement over 94cm (37”)

Asian men: up to 90cm (35”)

Waist measurement over 90cm (35”)

How to measure your waist circumference Waist circumference is not the same as your belt size! In particular, men can have a relatively normal belt size, even though their waist circumference can be above average when measured above the belt line.

Waist circumference is not the same as belt size! Correct technique for waist measurement using an abdominal circumference tape measure.

A helpful hint to get things straight! Waist circumference is measured just above the hip bone at the widest part of the abdomen/tummy, ensuring that the tape remains horizontal and level with the floor.

You can measure your waist using the following standardised technique: • A constant-tension spring-loaded tape device (shown below) will help to ensure an accurate measurement. • Measure your waist circumference at a level just above your hip bone. At this level, you will be measuring the widest part of your tummy. • Hold the tape measure horizontally. • Ensure you have just finished breathing out and are relaxed; do not hold your stomach in! • Aim for the tape measure to have a snug but not too tight fit around your waist; do not make compressions in the skin with the tape measure.

A Cut the Waist constant-tension abdominal circumference tape measure

Another measuring tip - above the hip! When measuring your waist circumference DO NOT be tempted to measure around the narrower part of your tummy below the belly button. Taking the measurement at a level just above the hip bone will give the most reliable results.

Are you at risk? What to do next; If your waist measurement puts you at risk then you will benefit from losing weight.

The good news! If you lose weight the first place that you will lose it will be from the ‘high risk sites’, i.e. places where the body fat is doing you the most harm. This means that as soon as you start losing weight, your health will start to benefit. This is true even if you lose only a relatively small amount of weight.

Starting Weight

110kg (17st 5Ib)

Target Weight

105kg (16st 8Ib)

Starting Waist


Target Waist


Current Weight

108kg (17st 0Ib)

Current Waist


Relatively modest gradual weight loss of 5kg and waist reduction of 5cm as shown above can have dramatic health benefits

Did you know? Reducing body weight by just 4-5% as illustrated above can reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% in people who are at risk of developing this condition

Can I simply measure my weight instead of my waist circumference? Measuring waist circumference is the simplest way to assess your risk of health problems from internal fat stores. Your bodyweight alone does not provide any information about your body shape and will not confirm if you have harmful levels of body fat. You may have heard of Body Mass Index (BMI) which measures a person’s weight in relation to their height. The resulting measurement is used to put people into categories of ‘underweight’, ‘healthy weight’, ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’. Unfortunately this method is somewhat crude as it is unable to distinguish between the weight of a person’s muscle and the amount of body fat they carry. Importantly, BMI does not tell us where our body fat is stored. For example, an individual may have a BMI that puts them in the ‘healthy weight’ category. However, this individual may have low muscle weight due to thin arms and legs, and despite having a normal weight, this individual may still have a relatively large waist circumference which would put them at risk as a result of having an excess of abdominal body fat. Similarly, some healthy individuals may appear too heavy for their height and have a BMI that suggests they are obese. For these people it is the weight of their muscles that makes them appear too heavy. Their waist circumference would identify whether they had any health risks from internal body fat and may in fact reassure them that they have a healthy body shape despite an increased weight due to an increased muscle mass. Weight and BMI measurement therefore does have limitations. A useful method of monitoring progress is to be weighed every 1-2 weeks and to measure waist circumference every month or so to provide encouragement that high-risk body fat is being lost around the abdomen/tummy.

BMI: 24 (normal weight) but 'increased risk' waist circumference of 96cm (38")

BMI: 32 (obese) but healthy waist circumference of 92cm (36")

Fascinating fact! Pass it on! Reducing your waist circumference by 1cm is equivalent to losing approximately 1kg (2lb) of body fat!

What about liposuction? It is tempting to think that as liposuction can reduce waist circumference it would have health benefits. Unfortunately this is not the case as the procedure only takes away the ‘cosmetic’ subcutaneous (under the skin) fat, leaving behind the most harmful fat within the abdomen. The only way to successfully lose weight and reduce waist circumference to improve health is to follow this ‘tried and tested’ advice.

How to successfully lose weight and cut the waist! Aim to lose weight slowly and steadily The most successful way to lose weight is to lose weight slowly. Aim to lose between 0.5-1kg (1-2lb) per week. Slow and steady weight loss gives you the best chance of keeping the weight off long term. ‘Crash diets’ may offer good results in the short term, but are impossible to stick to. Such “faddy diets” are likely to result in more weight gain after an initially successful few weeks. A realistic target of achieving 5-10% weight loss at a rate of 0.5-1kg (1-2Ib) per week will help you to lose and avoid regaining the body fat that is most harmful to you. Aim to stabilise eating Weight management is more likely to be successful if eating behaviour is controlled. Being more conscious of eating patterns using a food diary and making sensible food choices will all help you to lose weight. Eating more slowly will enhance the experience of eating good food and will lead to an earlier feeling of fullness even if smaller portions are eaten. Remember that long term weight management success comes from making sensible changes to your diet that you can live with forever – not just for a few weeks!

A realistic target is an achievable target! Aim to lose weight at a rate of 0.5-1.0 kg (1-2lb) per week

Aim to increase your “everyday activity” Try to incorporate more “everyday activity” into your routine. This should include activities undertaken regularly and simply such as an increase your day to day walking and making an effort to use stairs rather than lifts and escalators wherever possible. Walking is a great way to lose weight and investing in a pedometer can be a great way to motivate you by allowing you to monitor how much ‘everyday activity’ you are undertaking. Find support for your efforts Your GP may be able to refer you to a fitness scheme run by your local gym if you prefer. Occasionally such schemes are subsidised by the local council. These schemes are an excellent way to obtain advice about appropriate activity and to start a programme to suit you. Find someone to support you in your efforts. You may have a friend that could also benefit from losing weight. Mutual support is always a great way to keep on track. Many people find that commercial slimming organisations can be useful for this kind of support too.

Important Point!! If you have a ‘bad day’ do not give up! Everyone has them from time to time and try not to let them undo all the good work you have achieved. Start afresh the next day, reminding yourself of the good results you have achieved so far.

Useful Resources •

Further information on weight loss For more information about the effects of weight on health please visit:

Re-Defining Success (RDS) calculator The RDS Calculator is a useful online tool used to calculate realistic 5% and 10% weight loss targets to be achieved within an appropriate timescale. The RDS Calculator can be valuable in helping plan a weight management strategy by producing a printed personalised weight management “change plan”.

The RDS calculator can be accessed at

Cut the waist website - The RDS Calculator

Lifestyle Change Plan and Weight Management Record Adequate preparation and making the decision to commit to small, achievable everyday activity and eating goals is the key to weight management success. Use the following record to agree a lifestyle change plan which you feel able to achieve, and then monitor your weight loss and waist reduction progress. Everyday activity/behaviour change goals Record here how you plan to improve your activity e.g. walk up stairs instead of using the lift, walk to the shops, etc. 1] 2] Stabilising eating behaviour/behaviour change goals Record here how you plan to stabilise your eating behaviour e.g. keeping a food diary, reducing your food portion size, eating food more slowly and planning meals in advance to reduce the need to eat processed supermarket meals or take-away food. 1] 2]

Weight Management Progress Record Try using this weekly weight and monthly waist circumference measurement record to monitor your progress following your commitment to your agreed change plan; Date


Waist Circ.

Week 1 - Start Date

Start Weight

Start Waist

Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8




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Waist Circumference - Why should know YOUR measurement  

A patient information booklet