What shape are you in? Extra fat is mostly stored in two places: The stomach area or the hips. Accordingly, there are two body types, sometimes referred to as “apple” and “pear.”
There is a simple way to find out whether you are in good shape or beyond. Measure your waist line at its slimmest point, without holding in your stomach. For women it should measure no more than 35 inches and for men no more than 40 inches.
The waist-hip ratio measure
The waist-to hip ratio (WHR) measure is a more accurate way to determine body fat distribution. It is determined by measuring the waist size divided by the hip size. Women whose WHR is higher than 0.85 are at increased health risk; so are men with a WHR higher than 1.0
The two basic types of fat distribution are also called “male pattern” (“apple shape”) and the “female pattern” (“pear shape”). The nomenclature is somewhat misleading, since both patterns can occur with either gender.
“Apple” shapes deposit the largest amount of their body fat in the abdominal region, while “pears” carry most of their weight in the hips, buttocks and thigh area.
The pattern of fat distribution throughout the body is an important indicator for health risks in connection with obesity. Extra weight around the stomach is more likely to create health issues than a concentration of fat cells in the hips and thighs because of closer proximity to the inner organs.
“Apple” types are also considered to be at greater risk of developing weight-related illnesses, like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood) and heart disease.
It is not altogether bad news for “apple” types, however, because weight loss tends to be easier for them than for “pears.” The reason is that abdominal fat cells relinquish their fat more readily than those in the hip and thigh regions.
WHR has been found to be more reliable in predicting mortality in older people than the body mass index (BMI). The body fat percentage is deemed to be even more accurate in this regard. But only the WHR takes the differences in body structures into account. It is possible for two persons to have the exactly same BMI values but vastly different WHRs.
Other studies have claimed that measuring waist size (waist circumference) alone is a better indicator for cardiovascular risk levels, hypertension and type 2 diabetes than WHR. What is an ideal waist size? The American Heart Association defines as optimal, a waist size below 35 inches for non-pregnant women and 40 inches for men.
To measure your waist size (circumference), place a tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hip bone. Be sure that the tape is snug, but does not compress your skin, and is parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale, and measure your waist.