Monday, November 19, 2012

The Best Measure of Success

There are two vital questions  to answer before going into a physical transformation program.

"What do I want my body to look and feel like, and what do I want it for?"

In previous posts like, "Thank You Kate Upton" and "The ideal Woman is a Man" I have written about the disconnect between the kind of figure that represents health and natural beauty, and the figure that represents the demands of fashion and status.

I few days ago I was shocked when I put my weight and measurements into an on line body fat calculator, and the results came back with a warning that my body fat is borderline low for my age.  Now, I tend to carry fat in my hips and thighs so that may have skewed the numbers somewhat, but I had to stop and think.

How do we know when we've crossed the line between pursuing health and vitality, and chasing "Skinny Status?"

A practical answer to this question can be found in your waist measurement, and your waist to hip ratio.   According to the Mayo clinic website, when a woman's waist measurement at the narrowest point is more that 35 inches, there is cause for concern about cardiovascular health.  The warning bells go off for men at 45 inches.  For better health, a waist circumference below 30" is desired for women, and below 40"for men.

To be in the low risk category for heart disease a woman's waist to hip ratio should be below .80 and a man's should be below 1.0.  To find you waist to hip ratio divide your waist circumference in inches  by your your hip circumference.  Measure the waist at the narrowest point, and your hips at the widest point.  Here is list of ideal measurements according to the Mayo Clinic.

Ideal Waist Measurement Charts for Women and Men

Waist Measurement Chart - Women
Height Ideal Waist Line Waist to Height (%)
5' 1" 24 inches 39.5
5' 2-3" 24-25 inches 39.5
5' 3-4" 25-25.3 inches 39.5
5' 5" 25-25.5 inches 39.5
5' 6" 27.50 inches 39.5
5' 7" 27.75 inches 39.5
5' 8" 27.80 inches 39.5
5' 9-10" 27.85 inches 39.5
5' 11" - 6' 28 inches 39.5
Waist Measurement Chart - Men
Height Ideal Waist Line Waist to Height (%)
5' 5-6" 28.5 inches 46
5' 7" 31 inches 46
5' 8" 31.2 inches 46
5' 9" 31.7 inches 46
5' 10" 32 inches 46
5' 11" 32.6 inches 46
6' 33.1 inches 46
6' 2" 34 inches 46
6' 4" 35 inches 46

Now to the point:  If we compare the measurements of models, actors, and celebrities with this chart, fashion dictates measurements that are even lower than the ideals listed on this chart.

This is just another example of how media images of what is desirable can mess with our conception of what is healthy.

I like waist circumference over weight as an indicator of success at transformation because it helps to overcome the tyranny of the scale.  Still, we have to make sure we don't replace that with the tyranny of the tape measure!

To the women in the transformation challenge right now: Let's do our best to change for the sake of health and vitality, and for the sake of what that vitality allows us to do in the world.