What is a Healthy Waist Circumference for Women?

As a health coach, I find that I work with a number of clients who want different things.  Maybe they want to be supported on their weight loss journey, or perhaps they feel like they can’t imagine finding time to exercise in their busy day.

What is a Healthy Waist Circumference for Women?

But most often, my coaching clients come to me with an ideal weight they want to achieve. Sometimes it’s what they’ve found as the correct weight for their height (you know the one using the totally unrealistic chart where bone structure and build don’t matter).

Other times it’s that they want to weigh what they did in high school, or on their wedding day, or before they had their first baby.

What is a Healthy Waist Circumference for Women?

Now, these weight goals aren’t bad. In fact, most of the goal weights my clients come up with are reasonable. What really bothers me is when this is the only number that you look at. There is so much more at stake than a number on the scale!

Your body composition plays a huge part in your health, as do things like cholesterol, hormone balance (especially your thyroid), and even your waist circumference.

Today, we are only going to focus on one of those things.

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”)

Have you heard the fruity body shape descriptions like an “apple” or a “pear”?  An apple is more round around the middle (through the belly) and a pear is more round around the hips and thighs (I’m a pear).

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)?

Yup – the apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually lies. 

Visceral fat isn’t something that you can grab and pinch which is why it doesn’t do anything for your muffin top. It’s in this “un-pinchable” fat. 

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because visceral fat releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

That’s not good, y’all!

Studies have found that people with a high waist circumferences have more than double the likelihood of dying from heart disease than their smaller waisted peers. In addition, the risk of diabetes raised 3 times for men and 6 times for women. Those numbers are scary!

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important than how much you weigh.

Which Shape Are You?

I have to admit that I feel a little silly relying on this old stigma, but honestly, for this purpose, it makes complete sense.

If you’re an apple, you’re at higher risk for a lot of things that I really don’t want to see happen to you.

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Measuring Your Waist

Get a cloth tape measure and measure around your waist just above the top of your pelvis. Relax and exhale. Don’t stick out your belly (but be sure not to suck it in either).

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant mamas are exempt, of course.

For, men the number to watch for is 40”.

Now before you panic, just having a high waist circumference does not doom you to a life health problems. However, it is a risk factor that should be taken seriously.

Before you panic that your tape measure hit a number you didn’t want to see, let’s talk about ways that you can reduce your waist circumference. Before we go there, remember that this is not about spot reduction (that doesn’t work). This is about making small changes that will help you feel better and reduce your waist circumference as a happy side effect.

Achieving a Healthy Waist Circumference

As I said, you cannot spot reduce, but you can work toward a healthier waist measurement.

Now, there is no magic pill. But you totally can make some small, simple changes and see big results. When it comes to your waist measurement, obviously you want to adjust your diet:

  • Eat more fiber.  Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussels sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day.  Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
  • Nix added sugars.  This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice). If you’re looking to do a sugar detox, I highly recommend the book 21 Day Sugar Detox. It helped me kick my chocolate habit in just 3 weeks (plus the food is delicious).

Once you’ve got that figured out

You can add a few other items that will help to accelerate your health (and give you loads more energy):

  • Move more.  Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.
  • Stress less.  Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep.  Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

That’s it! So many people (my clients included) feel like there is just way too much to worry about when it comes to getting healthy. I’m here to tell you that it’s not. It’s about small simple changes.

Having a kick ass coach doesn’t hurt either! If you’d like to work toward getting healthy, I would love to schedule a time to chat with you. You can book a (free) Breakthrough Session on my coaching site HERE.

Do you have excess belly fat?

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