Why Your BMI Doesn't Tell the Whole Story
How well do BMI, waist size, and other measurements gauge obesity?
Other Ways to Measure continued...
Men should limit waist size to no more than 39 or 40 inches; women, no more than 34 or 35 inches, Atkinson says.
Again, there are some racial differences. For example, the Joslin Diabetes Center states that Asian men should keep their waists no more than 35.5 inches; Asian women, no more than 31.5 inches.
Is it useful? Yes. "The data show that waist circumference can be very valuable," Kahan says.
Waist-to-Height Ratio: This compares your waist measurement to your height. It may be even more helpful than waist circumference alone, according to Kahan. The goal is for your waist circumference to be less than half of your height.
Waist-to-Hip Ratio: This compares your waist measurement to your hip measurement. Kahan doesn't recommend this method. "We do have good data that using waist-to-hip ratio is not any more valuable than just using waist as a measurement," he says.
Bioelectrical impedance scales: These scales send electrical currents through the body to assess fat and lean mass. They may be useful, according to Atkinson.
There are also better methods to measure body fat, such as MRIs and DEXA scans. But for most people, scans are not practical. "These things are much more accurate, but they're much more expensive and much more difficult to do, so those are not likely to be reasonable options in the future," Kahan says.