Monday, May 17, 2010

Waist to Height Ratio

I was reading an article on about the new determinant of health risk - waist to height ratio.  The quick summary is that we've long been using BMI (Body Mass Index) to determine an individual's health, which is the ratio of weight to height.  But new studies have suggested that a more accurate measure of health is actually the waist to height ratio.

This is surprisingly simplistic thought.  But the best things in life are the simplest!  This result just makes good sense.  I've never been a fan of the BMI because it's a widely known fact that muscles weigh 3 times more than fat.  So an athlete with more muscle mass is going to weigh more than a pudgier person with more fat.  But BMI could suggest that the person with more body fat is actually healthier than the lean person since he/she weighs less (until you touch them and they are all soft and gooey!).

I've read numerous studies that have shown that belly fat is the most dangerous - it has a higher risk of causing heart diseases and diabetes.  That's why evolution makes us naturally attracted to the 6 pack stomach right?  It's actually an indicator that the individual is in good health and able to pass on good genes to their offspring, rather than just aesthetics.  For me, I know that for sure my tummy area is the first to add on pounds and last to take off.  I guess it all makes sense then that the waist to height ratio is more suggestive of health than the BMI, as simple as it is.

The waist to height ratio is calculated by dividing waist size by height, in inches.  As an example, a male with a 32 inch waist who is 5'10" (70 inches) would divide 32 by 70, to get a waist to height ratio of 45.7 percent, which is in the "healthy" range.

This is the chart of the waist to height ratio ranges:

• Ratio less than 35: Abnormally Slim to Underweight
• Ratio 35 to 42: Extremely Slim
• Ratio 42 to 46: Healthy
• Ratio 46 to 49: Healthy
• Ratio 49 to 54: Overweight
• Ratio 54 to 58: Seriously Overweight
• Ratio over 58: Highly Obese

• Ratio less than 35: Abnormally Slim to Underweight
• Ratio 35 to 43: Extremely slim
• Ratio 43 to 46: Healthy
• Ratio 46 to 53: Healthy, Normal Weight
• Ratio 53 to 58: Overweight
• Ratio 58 to 63: Extremely Overweight/Obese
• Ratio over 63: Highly Obese

So according to this, I'm at 42 or 43 depending on rounding.  But I really want it to get down to 38 or 40, so that means I have to lose an inch or so around my waist.  This all falls in line with my nutritionist's theory as well that we should always aim to lose body fat rather than weight.  She always says that losing inches is typically a sign of losing body fat even if the number on the scale remains constant.  It's a little hard to accept though just because of our obsession with weight that the society imposes on us.  But I know that I personally have met people who appeared very lean and fit, but their weight was 30 or more pounds heavier than I would have thought.

My nutritionist, who is also a competitive body builder and personal trainer, has also told me that another misconception that people have is they think they have to do stomach exercises everyday, and if they do, they will have a kick ass belly.  While in reality, if you don't get your diet right and start to lose body fat, you can be doing thousands of crunches a day and not seeing any result.  Oh boy do I know this!  Especially for us women (who aren't blessed with crazy awesome genes), it is so hard to get the muscles to show.  The best I've done is a faint 4 pack.  Now I just have two shadows of lines down each side and no pack lol.  These lines are a sign of very very early stages of any "pack" developing so I'm sort of getting there...?!?  Only if I could stop eating the junk stuff that I so enjoy once in a while (as indicated by my previous 5 or so posts...).  I know the only way to get there is to be very strict for a month or two - with my nutritionist's meal plan I can probably do it more like in a month if I don't cheat because she's amazing like that.  But sometimes it really just comes down to how much I really want it.  I mean, I'm healthy and fit, do I really care that my awesome stomach muscles are hiding under a thin layer of fat?  Lol...... hmmm something to chew on for a while....

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