The Most Important Body Measurement (and it’s probably NOT what you think!)

CoachMel Answers 3 Comments

Apple, pear, hourglass, tube…

Whatever body shape you have, it’s really just a matter of living with what you’ve been blessed with, right?

It’s true, each of us are more predisposed to one particular body shape than another.

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But, simply accepting your lot may not be the very best solution for improving longevity.

No, there is much more to this than mere aesthetics — the shape of your body could be putting your health at risk, even if your BMI reads ‘normal.’

Let me explain…

Heart Failure and Waist Size: The Link

Research suggests waist size is a much more accurate way of predicting your chance of dying from a heart attack than using weight alone.

What you may not realize is, that even if you have a so-called normal BMI, yet you carry weight around your mid-section, you are also at risk.

The researchers found that heart patients with a large waist circumference were 70 percent more likely to die than those with smaller waists.

Not surprisingly, the combination of a large mid-section coupled with a high BMI, increased the risk of premature death even more.

When the researchers looked at the numbers they found:

  • In women with a BMI of 25 (normal range), a 10cm increase in their waist measurement was associated with a 15 percent higher heart failure rate.
  • In men, a BMI of 25 and a 10cm increase in waist circumference was associated with a 16 percent higher heart failure rate.
  • In men, each one-unit increase in BMI was associated with a 4 percent higher heart failure rate, no matter what the man’s waist size.

The results of this study confirm the absolute importance of a healthy waist size, and that where you carry your fat is more important than the amount of fat, in terms of measuring health risks.

So, why is a large mid-section so unhealthy?

Well, when you have a large waist circumference, the chances are you’ll also have a build-up of visceral fat around your internal organs.

This is really bad news.

Types of Body Fat

I’ve talked about how to get rid of belly fat before. But here’s a recap on the different types of fat in the body:

Your body stores fat in 2 forms;

1. Subcutaneous fat

  • Stored directly under the skin (the kind removed by liposuction).
  • This is the fat you measure using skin-fold calipers to estimate total body fat.
  • Subcutaneous fat may not be as dangerous as deep visceral fat.

2. Visceral fat (adipose tissue)

  • Visceral fat is stored around your internal organs.
  • People with large waists or protruding belles most likely have visceral fat.
  • Visceral fat is extremely unhealthy, increasing your risk of having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, vascular disease, insulin sensitivity, and atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries).

So, both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat are serious risk factors, but it is the excessive visceral fat that is even more dangerous.

In fact, even if you are thin, you could still have dangerous visceral fat around your organs, particularly if you rarely exercise.

What is a Healthy Waist Size?

It’s actually very easy to figure out if you are in the healthy range, or not.

Just take a tape measure and measure the area below your rib cage and above your belly button:

  • For men, between 37 and 40 inches is overweight. More than 40 inches is obese.
  • For women, 31.5-34.6 inches is overweight. More than 34.6 inches is obese.

If your waist circumference is in the danger zone, you need to do something about it right now to reduce your health risk…

4 Tips For a Healthy Heart

1. Eat Better

“Please realize that about 80 percent of your ability to achieve your ideal body is related to your food choices.” – Tweet this

I have numerous articles on eating a healthy diet, so I’m simply going to give you the basics again today:

  • Eat as much as you need, but don’t stuff yourself.
  • You don’t need lots of carb-rich foods unless you’re exercising heavy, so cut your carb intake back (except veg and fruits) to lose weight.
  • Eat a decent amount of protein – particularly eggs, lean meats and fish, as well as nuts and seeds.
  • Eat a decent amount of fat – particularly nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and full fat dairy.
  • Branched chain amino acids may be helpful, too. 

2. Lift Heavy

While this may not be the immediate thing you think of doing to reduce your waist size, don’t ignore this just because it’s new to you.

The thing is, when you train heavy, your whole body gets stronger and leaner, and weight training pushes your metabolism into “after-burn.”

This is ideal, because it means you are burning calories even when you stop working out.

Women are notoriously afraid to lift heavy weights. This is a topic I’m passionate about, which is why I recently addressed the issue again.

The truth is, strength training is incredibly effective and safe for both women and men.

And you don’t even need a gym membership to get started.

All you really need is a pair of adjustable dumbbells, and you can start lifting weights.

So, how heavy is enough?

Well, you should be lifting as heavy as you can so that you feel challenged, but are still able to perform each exercise, maintaining perfect form as you do so.

Aim to do a full body strength training workout about 3 times each week.

Then, to really boost your weight loss efforts, add some high intensity sprints to your weekly workout routine as well (1 or 2 times each week).

Running sprints creates a similar after-burn effect to what you get with strength training, so you get a bigger calorie burn when you finish working out.

All of this adds up to a boost in your metabolism, and a slimmer waistline.

3. Boost Your Vitamin D Levels

One Harvard study found that people with low vitamin D levels had twice the risk of having a heart attack, compared to those with adequate levels.

In fact, research suggest that those with the lowest vitamin D level have the greatest risk of dying from all causes, and in particular dying from a heart problem.

The Vitamin D Council recommend keeping your vitamin D levels above 30–40 ng/mL (75–100 nmol/L), as a strategy to help reduce the risk.

So, why is vitamin D so important?

Well, vitamin D may lower the risk of heart disease incidence and death by reducing:

  • Metabolic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Thickening of the arterial walls
  • Risk of respiratory infections
  • Inflammation
  • Risk of arterial calcification or hardening

4. Manage Your Stress Levels

One of the biggest contributing factors to heart problems is stress.

The fact is this, even if you eat the best diet in the world, it’s very unlikely that will be enough to overcome the damage created by continual stress.

Another huge problem with being under stress, is that it raises cortisol levels in the body.

When that happens, it leads to weight gain around the mid-section.

As we’ve seen, this is detrimental to your long-term health, further increasing your heart disease risk.

While it’s probably unrealistic to think you can eliminate stress entirely from your life, you can certainly work on reprograming your reaction to the unavoidable stressors in your everyday life.

So, how will you begin making the changes necessary to gain a healthy waist size?

>> Why not Start here with my coaching program?

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Comments 3

  1. Jake Long

    Fantastic article. There are a lot of great points. Especially the part about Vitamin D. It’s really amazing what vitamins and minerals can do for the body. And other small nutrients that we often neglect through crappy modern day diets. I like your approach mentioned in the bio as well. Take away the guilt and torture. Consistency isn’t going to happen if we always feel as if we’re being punished.

  2. Michael

    Hey Melanie,

    It shows that you put some effort into this post. Especially when it comes to stuff like optimal waist sizes, types of fat etc.

    Glad you mentioned the part about stress. Most people try to lose weight only based on eating, while “mental fitness” is also an important part of the whole diet.

  3. Mr London

    Excellent article, I agree waist size is often overlooked by health professionals but it is because it is given as much coverage and when someone knows they have a healthy BMI they automatically assume everything is fine.

    P.S> New reader at this blog, very informative posts, I like your one about weight lifting for women, I think the machoness of it puts a lot of women off, it’s such a shame really as it is very beneficial both for your physical and mental fitness

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