Most people have heard of Body Mass Index (BMI) as a way of working out if their weight is healthy for their age, gender and height. It’s commonly used as a way of indicating if people need to lose or gain weight to be within a healthy limit. Generally speaking, anyone with a BMI over 25 is classified as being overweight and a BMI of anything over 30 is considered obese. However, there are limitations to the BMI calculator. BMI calculations tell you whether you are carrying too much weight for your frame, but not if you are carrying too much fat.
This is where the waist to hip ratio (WHR) comes in. This is a measurement of the circumference of both, then dividing the circumference of the waist by the circumference of the hips. This then enables you to assess your amount of abdominal (stomach) fat. It’s thought this is a better indicator of overall health than BMI alone, as high levels of abdominal fat have been linked to greater mortality levels.
Waist:Hip Ratio and Chronic Disease
To determine your WHR, you need to measure your waist at its smallest natural point, which is just above the belly button, and around the widest section of your buttocks. For men, a WHR of over 1.0 is considered an apple shape, whereas for women, 0.85 or more is an apple shape. This shape is then used as a determining factor in health assessment. People with ‘apple’ shapes are sometimes called ‘pot bellies’ and this is when the largest distribution of fat is situated around the stomach.
In 2008, the World Health Organisation undertook a large study into the effect of WHR on overall health and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This study found that high waist:hip ratios were linked to increased risk of health conditions associated with obesity. The main health complications that result due to being overweight or obese are the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
BMI vs. waist:hip ratio - is one more useful than the other?
Both BMI and waist:hip ratios are useful to determine if you are carrying excess weight for your body size. However, your BMI measurement does not analyse where this excess weight is carried. When taken individually, both BMI and waist:hip ratio can indicate the need for a person to lose weight.
The World Health Organisation and the NHS both suggest that waist:hip ratio is more useful in determining whether or not you are at increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease or Stroke. This is because you could have a BMI that is classified as healthy, but still carry too much weight around your abdomen. Likewise, the BMI does not determine the amount fat on your body, and people who are very muscular could have a BMI that indicates being overweight or obese. In these cases, the waist:hip ratio is most likely a more reliable indicator of whether or not one needs to lose weight.
BMI is a guideline for how much weight a person of a particular height should have on their body, but it does not allow for variables in stature. Therefore, it simply calculates based on height, gender and age. Of course, the range is large enough that it generally emcompasses most ‘healthy’ weight ranges for people of that height. Again, this does not allow for muscle mass.
Healthy Lifestyle tips to prevent weight gain and/or improve weight loss
Staying active is the key to keeping on top of creeping weight gain. Thirty minutes of activity a day is recommended, no matter your weight. Sleep is also very important for weight management, because when your energy levels are low, you’re more inclined to snack.
Similarly, a study has found that too little sleep has been linked to weight gain, while too much sleep has also been linked to weight gain. This is because sleep duration affects the hunger hormones.
Increasing your exercise levels and ensuring you eat a healthy, balanced diet are integral to improving your weight loss, and preventing weight gain. What you eat will determine the amount of weight you gain, lose or maintain so try to eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can. Another tip is to drink a glass of water with your meals, as this will fill you up and prevent you from overeating.
Importance of fibre in weight loss
Fibre is hugely important for weight loss because it is a carbohydrate that moves through your system relatively unchanged. It also makes you feel fuller for longer without adding enormously to your calorie intake. Not only that, but soluble fibre absorbs water and becomes a sort of gel inside your gut. This gel then slows down the rate of absorption of sugar in your bloodstream, leading to lower insulin levels. Lower insulin levels also then reduces your likelihood of storing excess fat in your body.
Supplements for weight loss/satiety
Of course, the best way to lose weight is to do so naturally with through diet and exercise but there are a number of supplements which can help you reduce weight gain. These supplements help you to feel full and can boost your metabolism.
- Psyllium Husk - this is a fibre that helps keep your bowel movements regular. It can also help you feel full, cutting down on your appetite and maintaining normal blood glucose levels.
- Garcinia Cambogia - this plant has been harvested and used for weight loss for centuries. It cuts down on the production of Citric Acid Lyase, an enzyme that synthesizes fat. Therefore, it cuts down on the amount of fat your body stores, while also inhibiting appetite.
- Acai Berry - not only is it full of antioxidants, this berry is helpful in promoting satiety because of its high level of fibre.
If you are thinking of taking a supplement to aid with your weight loss, please check with your GP.
While BMI measurements have long since been recognised as indicators of healthy weight ranges, more research has pointed to the importance of weight:hip ratio. This ratio is a more reliable way of determining whether weight should be lost or not, because it allows for body shape disparities. Similarly, fibre is hugely important in maintaining gut health and improving satiety, reducing your appetite.