I get a lot of people saying in despair, “I’m trying everything – working hard at the gym and cutting kilojoules – but I can’t seem to lose weight”.  Is that you?  What’s really happening?  And is your weight a good indicator of your risk of health complications like heart disease and type 2 diabetes?

Let’s look at body measures for adults that you can do at home then I’ll discuss what they indicate, what affects them and what might be a good body measure for you.

Just a point to note:  these measures are for adults and aren’t suitable for pregnant or lactating women, the very old and frail or children.


Your weight or mass is the sum of all your parts – muscle, bone, fat, body fluids like blood and lymph, bladder contents (urine) and digestive tract contents (poo – and don’t go getting all squeamish on me!).  Weighing yourself at the same time of day (ideally first thing in the morning), in the same clothing (or without) will generally give you a more comparable weight.  If you are dehydrated, you will weigh less than when you are hydrated, which is what boxers and jockeys do to “make weight” – and, no, it doesn’t make you look thinner, if that is your aim.

Based on the scenario above, as muscle weighs heavier than fat so you can gain muscle while losing fat and remain the same weight or gain weight but have less fat.

So, judging your health based purely on weight isn’t necessarily accurate; but it does give us a clue about our health.

Being underweight isn’t healthy.  And being overweight isn’t healthy.  There are tables of ‘healthy weight ranges’ which are appropriate for particular populations and based on your height.  People who don’t fit normal populations, including athletes and body builders, would appear to be overweight as they may have a muscular build which would weigh heavier.

Remember, though, whatever weight you are, you can still have healthy habits (check out my blog on health at any size here).

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index or BMI is a mathematical assessment of the density of our bodies.  Once again, it doesn’t distinguish between muscle or fat or water, and isn’t useful for pregnant or lactating women, athletes, body builders, elderly people or people of Asian and Indian descent, extreme under- or over-weight, people under 18 years of age, and those shorter than 150cm or taller than 190cm.

Measure your weight in minimal clothing, first thing in the morning.  Ask someone to measure your height or check what’s on your driver’s license.

Calculate your body mass index:


If your BMI is:You are classified as: And your risk of health problems is:
Less than 18.5 underweightsome risk
18.5 to 24.99normal weightleast risk
25 to 29.99overweightincreased risk
30 and overobesehigh risk

So, what is BMI good for?  It is a predictor of health risk and is quite useful in some populations.

If you are actively trying to lose weight and gain muscle BMI isn’t a really good number for comparison measures.

But it is really good to reflect on your BMI along with your Waist to Hip Ratio and Waist Circumference.  If they are all high, then you are at high risk of developing a chronic condition.  It’s time to get cracking on that healthy lifestyle!

Waist to hip ratio (WHR)

As we put on weight we store some of it around our middle (sounds familiar, eh?), particularly in men and post-menopausal women who tend to be apple shaped.  The fat stored around our mid-section increases our risk of obesity related conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and breast and bowel cancers.

How to do the measurements

In no or minimal clothing, first thing in the morning, stand with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart, breath out but don’t suck your stomach in and using a tape measure which isn’t old and stretchy, put the tape at the following two points without pulling it so tight that you can’t fit a finger under the tape:

  • Waist circumference:  the point half way between your bottom rib and top of your hip bone, the iliac crest and
  • Hip circumference:  at your widest point where your buttocks stick out

It can be a little tricky to measure accurately, so take the measurements three times and average them.  Now plug the results into the calculator below:

Calculate your waist to hip ratio:


If your WHR is:You are classified as having:
For women
Less than 0.85a healthy waist to hip ratio and a reduced risk of developing a chronic condition
Greater than 0.85too much fat stored around your waist and at high risk of developing a chronic condition, fat loss is recommended
For men
Less than 0.90a healthy waist to hip ratio and a reduced risk of developing a chronic condition
Greater than 0.90too much fat stored around your waist and at high risk of developing a chronic condition, fat loss is recommended
Waist circumference (WC)

Waist circumference (WC) is just an abbreviated version of WHR so is a good measure of central weight stores.  And it’s quite good if you are really big and have trouble finding your hip circumference.

Measure your waist, as for the WHR measurements.

What’s your waist circumference and what does it mean?

Waist measurement tends to vary based on your ethnicity, so I’ve given a number of different figures below.

If your WC is:   Your chronic condition risk is:
For women
Caucasian, EuropidIndian (South Asian), Chinese, JapaneseMaori, Pacific Islander
80-88cmLess than 80cmLess than 88cmNormal
More than 88cmMore than 80cmMore than 88cmHigher
For men
Caucasian, EuropidIndian (South Asian), Chinese, JapaneseMaori, Pacific Islander
94-102cmLess than 90cmLess than 102cmNormal
More than 102cmMore than 90cmMore than 102cmHigher


Okay, so you’ve spent the morning taking measurements, now what?

  • Record your measures and the calculations.  You can compare how your measures change over time, taking into account whether you are gaining muscle or not.  You may choose to use one or more of them as goals to change (check out my blog on goal setting here).
  • Reflect on them – do they indicate you are at risk of a chronic health condition?  Does the BMI indicate you are overweight or obese?  They can give you motivation to make changes.
  • What do you want to do?  Do you want to lose weight?  Or follow a healthy lifestyle?  Then get to it!  If you need help, contact me for coaching, I offer lots of different services.

What if you aren’t ready to make change?  Take some time and re-visit this page in a week or two.  Consider what your values are, where your priorities are right now and look to your future – you might find some motivation there (check out my blog on motivation here, too).

Go to it!

Check out our services   if you would like help to work toward achieving your health goals.

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Post byDale Cooke

I'm a nutritionist, dietitian and personal trainer with 29 years of experience helping people improve their health. I really like using a non-diet philosophy to achieving a healthy lifestyle. Can I help you improve your health?