Did you know that it is possible to have a normal weight while still having a high body fat percentage and an increased risk of developing chronic disease? An excess of fat, especially around the stomach, is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, fatty liver, sleep apnea and cancers. Heart conditions are the second cause of death in Canada. What’s more, it’s estimated that in the Canadian population, around one in every ten deaths is due to diabetes.
If you use ordinary scales to weigh yourself, it is impossible to know whether weigh loss or weight gain is due to a change in your body fat, muscle mass, or body water. Body Mass Index (BMI) indicates whether a person’s weight is proportionate to their height. However, this calculation doesn’t enable us to determine if someone has adequate body fat. For example, athletes can have a high BMI because they have a lot of muscle mass. In the same way, a sedentary person may have a normal BMI but still have too much body fat if they don’t have much muscle. That is why measuring waist circumference is useful. A change in waist measurement most likely indicates a change in body fat. Often, when people start a weight loss and exercise program, their weight can stay the same while their waist size diminishes, which indicates a gain in muscle and a loss of fat.
Did you know that not every obese person has an elevated risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases? That’s right, research clearly shows that an excess of fat around the stomach increases your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, regardless of whether you are overweight or have a normal weight. That’s because abdominal fat is an indicator of visceral fat—the fat that accumulates around organs like the heart and liver. This type of fat also causes inflammation. A waist size reduction of just 4cm in people with abdominal obesity comes with a 60% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Waist size is measured at belly button level. A measurement of over 102cm (40 inches) in men and 88cm (35 inches) in women is considered high and has associated health risks. Measure your waist under the same conditions, ideally when you wake-up, after having been to the toilet and before eating. Make sure to breathe normally and not to hold your breath.