Understanding body fat and weight
An understanding about your particular type of fat, and an accurate measurement of your weight is an essential part of your assessment.
Where is your fat located?
- In your underwear, find the mid-point between the uppermost part of your hip bone and your lowest rib.
- Mark this point and measure round your waist with a tape measure, keeping the tape parallel to the floor and snug, but not tight. Make sure you breathe normally as you take the measurement.
A waist circumference above 94cm (37in) in men and 80cm (32in) for women indicates that you are carrying excess weight around your middle, which increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Men with a waist measurement of 102cm (40in) and women of 88cm (35in) puts you at high risk.
Are you an apple or a pear?
People who tend to gain weight mainly in the abdominal region (a paunch or “beer belly”) are said to have an apple shape. If you tend to gain weight mostly on your hips, buttocks, and thighs, you are said to have a pear shape. Measuring your waist is a simple way of checking whether you are an apple or a pear and if you are at increased risk of certain diseases.
The location of your body fat affects your health. If you are apple shaped, you are at increased risk for the health problems associated with obesity, including cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, and diabetes ( see Are you a healthy weight for your height?). You cannot do anything to change being an apple or a pear - it is an inherited characteristic. However, you can limit its extent by controlling your weight and keeping fit.
How to weigh yourself
- For accuracy, make sure that the bathroom scales you use are from a reputable company. Don't buy the cheapest that you can find because they may not be very accurate.
- Each time you weigh yourself, do it wearing the same clothes, in your underwear, or naked.
- Make sure that you use the same scales in the same place each time you weigh yourself. If possible, get yourself bathroom scales that only you can use. Because different scales vary in their accuracy and how they are calibrated, it is likely that you will get slightly different results if you change the scales that you use. For example, you might find that you are heavier on different scales just because they are not very accurate. Beware of using the scales in the gym - they may seem accurate, but hundreds of people use them and they are prone to wear and tear.
- Always weigh yourself at the same time of day, ideally with an empty bladder and bowels and nothing in your stomach. First thing in the morning after you visit the toilet and before you have breakfast is the best time of day.
- Don't weigh yourself more than once a week. We all have normal fluctuations in body weight - especially for women during their menstrual cycle - and you may be disheartened if you weigh more than on the previous day.
- If you are trying to lose weight through an exercise regime, you should be aware that muscle weighs more than fat tissue. There may be a point in your regime when you look slimmer and more toned but you stay the same weight or even weigh more because you are more muscular. Don't get discouraged.
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