TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter – October 2003

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Tape MeasureA Case of Waist
Are you at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, or cancer? Maybe. But here's a surprisingly simple way to find out. You only need a three-dollar fabric tape measure… and the guts to measure your gut. Yes, that's right; you're going to measure the size of your midsection – accurately – for maybe the first time.

The latest health research has revealed that the size of your waist is a very accurate indicator of abdominal fat (much more so than simply weighing yourself, which doesn't take your height, frame size, or musculature into account). Ab fat is bad news. While excess fat anywhere on your body has potential negative health implications, fat stored in your belly correlates with cardiac disease, diabetes, and cancer. Excess fat carried on the lower body – hips, rear, and thighs – is not nearly as strong a disease indicator. Here's why: it's not just where on you the fat is, it's how you carry it. Most body fat, especially in the lower body, accumulates under the skin, but ab fat is actually *inside* your abdominal cavity, right up against your internal organs. The exact disease cause/effect isn't known, however we do know that ab fat is more "metabolically active" than fat stored below your waist.

So, is this something *you* should be concerned about? Yes, if… you're a woman with a 35+ inch waist or a man with a 40+ inch waist. Please note this is not usually your pants waistband size. Men, especially, wear their pants relatively low. That's why you need the tape measure. You've got to loop it around the right spot. Here's how to do it:

Feel for your lowest side rib, and then for your hip bone. (For most people, these two points are about 3 inches apart). Loop the tape measure around your waist, halfway between those two landmarks. If you're having trouble feeling your hipbone, just place the tape about an inch below your lowest rib. Now stand up straight and check your measurement. Don't suck up your gut – no cheating! For an accurate, repeatable measurement, first take a nice, deep breath, let it out, and measure yourself at the end of the exhale.

OK, how'd you do? Guys, are you north of 40? Girls, 35+? Time to get serious about bringing that number down. How? Forget about spot reducing. That doesn't work, despite claims made by all those ab exercisers flogged on late night TV. Overall weight loss is required; best accomplished through a sensible combination of dietary choice, portion control, aerobic exercise, and resistance/weight training.

Now you just have some added motivation to get back in shape – and an easy way to measure your progress back to great health.

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