How to Measure Waist Circumference Diet Information

measuring tape
Your measuring tape may tell you more about your health than your scale. Image: © [2008]

Do you know your waist circumference? If you don't, take a moment to consider that it might be just as important for you to watch your waist as your weight. Pulling out a tape measure and assessing your middle-measurement may help you evaluate your overall health better than simply stepping on a scale. This article will help you understand how to measure waist circumference.

Why should you measure your waist if you already know your weight?

Your waistline measurement may be a better barometer of the big picture because extra weight around the waist may be a sign of future health issues. Even if you are not overweight, it can be important to keep tabs on your waist measurement: Excess abdominal fat even in normal-weight individuals is associated with a substantial increase in the risk of dying. One theory about the risk of carrying excess weight around your middle is that excess abdominal fat increases the risk of ​insulin resistance and causes inflammation, and as a result, increase the risk of both ​diabetes and heart disease.

As a rule of thumb, women who have a waist circumference higher than 35 and men higher than 40, have a significantly increased risk of developing obesity-related health problems.

To measure your waist size, use a standard tape measure to do the following steps:

  • Put one end of the measuring tape against your stomach just above your belly button and hold it in place.
  • Use your other hand to wrap the measuring tape around your waist until it meets the end you're holding over your belly button.
  • Take note of the measurement where the two ends meet. The point where they meet is your actual waist measurement.

Tips: The tape should be kept parallel to the floor. When you pull the other end of the tape around, you should keep it close to your skin, but it should not compress it at all.

(Note: According to the National Institutes of Health, waist measurement does not predict disease risk in those with a BMI over 35, so taking waist measurement as a way to predict health risks is not applicable for those individuals.)


Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults: The Evidence Report. 1998; NIH Publication No. 98 - 4083.

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