Why Your Waistline is More Important Than Your Body Fat

It doesn’t just determine your clothing size—your waistline also directly affects your cholesterol, triglyceride levels and blood pressure. – By Selene Yeager

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More important than how much fat you have in your body is where that fat sits. You’ve likely heard that some people are apples, meaning they wear their excess pounds around their middle, while others are pears, those who tend to deposit extra pounds below the belt. (There are others, of course, who have their weight pretty evenly distributed.)

This impacts more than your physical profile. Scientists now know that people who tend to carry fat around their waist have more visceral fat, which is located deep inside the abdominal cavity. This deep fat surrounds the internal organs. Unlike subcutaneous fat (the kind that sits directly beneath the skin), which hangs out in storage waiting to be burned, visceral fat tends to be more metabolically active, acting almost like its own organ, pumping out hormones, fatty acids, and other substances that can harm your health.

This chemical cavalcade can pave the way for chronic diseases of all kinds, especially diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and even hormone-fueled cancers like those of the breast, colon, and prostate. Even people with moderate amounts of weight to lose can have excessive amounts of abdominal fat, which is why waist circumference has become the go-to measurement of choice for many doctors trying to get a snapshot of overall health risk. It’s also a better measurement than BMI for people who are classified as overweight only because they are heavily muscular. That’s the bad news. The good news is that your body tends to dig into your deep fat stores first when you start exercising to lose weight, so you’ll be tightening your belt and improving your health almost immediately after you start to ride, and it’ll just improve with each pedal stroke.

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How to Measure (And Reduce!) Your Waistline

To determine your waist circumference, find the top of your hip bones on either side of your body. Place the measuring tape around your waist at this point so it wraps around your waist parallel to the floor. Breathe normally (don’t suck in your stomach) and hold the tape taut, but not tight; it should not cut into your skin.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, you’re at an increased risk for the diseases just mentioned when your waistline measures more than 101cm if you’re a man or more than 90cm if you’re a woman. But don’t get too discouraged if you have a long way to go to bring your belt into that territory. According to weight-loss research, trimming just 6cm off your waistline can reduce your cholesterol 9 per cent, your triglycerides by 26 per cent, and blood pressure 8 per cent.

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