Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

This is how you measure your waist circumference correctly



  • How unhealthy is a waist circumference that is too large?
  • Visceral belly fat: why is it so dangerous?
  • What waist circumference is healthy?
  • How do I measure my waist circumference correctly?
  • What is the waist-to-height ratio?
  • 5 tips on how to reduce your waist circumference

Have you ever measured your waist circumference? Maybe to find out the right t-shirt size when shopping online? Or to increase your self-esteem? Perhaps. But to determine your health risk? Probably not yet. Your health is closely linked to your waist circumference and your belly fat. Simply put: the larger the waist circumference, the greater the risk of diabetes, stroke, etc. But why is that actually the case? We show why and when a large stomach circumference becomes a problem, how to measure it correctly and how to get rid of it again.

How unhealthy is a waist circumference that is too large?

One thing in advance: A defined washboard stomach including a six-pack is nice, but it is not a must for your appearance or your health. An extremely small waist circumference with a very low body fat percentage can even be unhealthy, because belly fat also fulfills several important functions in the body: for example, it serves as a cushion for the bones and ensures that the body does not cool down. The fact that your organs stay in the right place is also thanks to your belly fat, because it hangs on so-called fat bands. For example, if you jump on a trampoline, it is these fatty bands that hold your organs in their intended position. This is the optimal body fat percentage.

But that doesn’t mean that a waist circumference that’s too large doesn’t pose any dangers. On the contrary: “It has been scientifically proven that abdominal circumference correlates positively with the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular risk. This means that the larger the abdominal circumference, the greater the risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular diseases,” explains Dr. Matthias Riedl, internist, nutritional doctor, diabetologist and medical director of Medicum Hamburg. Abdominal circumference often affects men in particular because fat is usually stored first on the abdomen. This is due to the sex hormone testosterone, which promotes this distribution of fat.

Visceral belly fat: why is it so dangerous?

Belly fat is much more dangerous than, for example, hip fat or fat on the buttocks. This is mainly due to visceral belly fat. There are two different types of belly fat: subcutaneous and visceral belly fat. “The subcutaneous fat lies under the skin and is colloquially known as a lifebuoy,” says Dr. Riedl. “It primarily has beneficial properties such as thermal insulation and storing energy,” the expert continues.

The visceral belly fat On the other hand, it sits under the muscles and is embedded all around the internal organs – enveloping them, so to speak. But that’s not the only thing that makes it so dangerous: “The fat cells of visceral fat release many harmful hormones that cause some negative reactions in the body. Among other things, they promote inflammation and increase the risk of various diseases, such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes, cancer and hormonal ones diseases,” warns Dr. Riedl. This is how you prevent diabetes.

And the more of this visceral fat there is, the more messenger substances are released and the more likely an illness is, as numerous studies have shown. Caution! A waist circumference that is too large is never just subcutaneous fat. There’s also no way to prevent the gain of just visceral fat – that’s what makes belly gain so dangerous. However, there are risk factors that promote internal belly fat and can even affect men with flat stomachs: an unhealthy diet with too much sugar, too much alcohol, lack of exercise, stress and too little sleep.

By the way: Some body fat scales can distinguish between subcutaneous and visceral fat.

What waist circumference is healthy?

A small tummy is not necessarily a cause for concern. But as with everything, there are certain limits that must be adhered to. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) recommends that men not exceed a waist circumference of 94 centimeters. If your abdominal circumference gradually approaches this threshold or even exceeds it, the risk of serious illness also increases. With a waist circumference of 102 centimeters, the risk is significantly increased.

The more you overextend yourself, the harder it is to get back to a healthy level. Looking at it from the other side, the risk decreases a little with every centimeter lost – even one or two centimeters makes a difference.

How do I measure my waist circumference correctly?

Before you get started, you first need a suitable measuring tape. Here you can choose between an analog tape measure and a digital tape measure. The digital tape measure makes reading easier. There is usually an associated app with various other functions. The analog tape measure, on the other hand, is simple and uncomplicated. For both versions you should follow these 5 steps:

  1. Always measure on an empty stomach: In general, you should always measure your stomach under the same conditions. However, it is still not advisable to always measure after dinner with a full stomach. This distorts the result. The result is most accurate when you get up in the morning.
  2. Stand in front of a mirror: This is the only way you will know exactly whether the tape measure is lying straight and precisely.
  3. Measure in the right place: approximately at the level of the belly button between the lowest rib and the top edge of the hip bone. This is where the scope should generally be largest.
  4. Tension the tape measure correctly: The measuring tape should run tightly and straight around your stomach. Of course you should still be able to breathe, but it shouldn’t be slack around your waist.
  5. Breathe out as you measure: For the biceps circumference you tense, for the abdominal circumference you breathe out. The air you inhale can also distort the result.

What is the waist-to-height ratio?

In addition to the simple abdominal circumference in centimeters (a waist circumference of 94 centimeters is considered dangerous), there is a second guideline for abdominal circumference: the waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). This method puts your waist circumference in relation to your height. This makes the result even more individual and precise. You simply take your measured waist circumference in centimeters and divide it by your height in centimeters. For men under 40, the value should be less than 0.5, for men between 40 and 50 it should be between 0.5 and 0.6. If you are over 50, under 0.6.

5 tips on how to reduce your waist circumference

What is important is that body fat distribution is individual. Unfortunately, you cannot only have a selective influence on your abdominal circumference. Of course, you can reduce fat all over your body. And so at some point the tape measure will no longer be tight on your stomach. The good news: “Visceral fat responds relatively easily to changes in eating habits,” says Dr. Matthias Riedl. Reason for this: When there is a lack of food, it serves as an energy reserve. This means it can be broken down quickly. In addition to food intake, other lifestyle habits are also important for a flat stomach:

  • Increase your activity: Even if your diet is right, if you only exercise a little, you are standing in the way of your success. And not only that: it is also significantly unhealthier for your entire body, including the cardiovascular system. With more exercise you no longer have to live from hand to mouth and you will be doing your well-being a huge favor. Endurance exercise burns the most calories, especially at fast speeds over 10 km/h. But it doesn’t have to be intense sport. Tip: Everyday activities can also help you: stairs instead of elevators, bicycles instead of cars or simply going for a walk.
  • Reduce your calorie intake: But not somehow. If you go too fast and ambitiously, your metabolism can fall asleep – especially if you don’t exercise enough. Changing your diet is the key. Also thinks Dr. Riedl: “This could mean a reduction in sugar or fat consumption. In addition, further positive effects can be achieved by consuming foods containing fiber, including vegetables, salad, legumes, low-sugar fruit and whole grain products.” The expert continues: “The supply of high-quality protein suppliers is also essential for maintaining and building muscles, as well as for sufficient satiety.” The advantage of a change in diet: It usually goes hand in hand with a pleasant reduction in calories and creates awareness of a long-term healthy diet. This will also make your stomach smaller.

If you want to lose weight, are Our individual nutrition plans are definitely the best idea. The Men’s Health Nutrition Coaching not only takes into account your personal calorie needs, but also your diet, your likes and dislikes and cooking knowledge.

  • Lots of volume, few calories: An old trick, but still effective. Use foods that are low in calories but high in volume. Your stomach will be flatter and you will still be full. For example: potatoes. Just 70 calories per 100g. Vegetables and salad can also fill you up with few calories.
  • Eat rarely, but thoroughly: Being able to eat properly is important for the psyche. The so-called intermittent fasting is also very trendy and has various health benefits. Great for reducing your stomach circumference.
  • Drink enough water: If the body is dehydrated, the metabolism runs slower. Especially in the summer months, you should make sure to drink unsweetened liquid regularly. A good guideline: Divide your body weight in kilograms by 30. This gives you your approximate daily requirement in liters. 7 tips on how to drink more water. Extra tip: Get rid of all sweetened drinks. These are unnecessary calories that you don’t even notice.

A small waist circumference can not only impress as a point of cosmetic beauty, but also protects you from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Measure your waist circumference regularly using our tips and see where you stand. Investing in a good tape measure will help you and motivate you to keep things measured.


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