When it comes to body fat, it's not just how much fat you have. Where you have it, is also important. One measure you can use is the waist-to-hip ratio.:
* women with waist-to-hip ratios of more than 0.8 are at increased health risk because of their fat distribution
* men with waist-to-hip ratios of more than 1.0 are at increased health risk because of their fat distribution
To get your waist-to-hip ratio, measure the waist at its narrowest point, then measure the hips at their widest point. Using those measurements, you can use our calculator to determine your waist-to-hip ratio. To check the results, or if the calculator doesn't work on your computer, you can simply divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
Typically (though not always), excess fat in women tends to collect in the hips and buttocks, resulting in a so-called "pear" shape. In men, excess fat often tends to collect in the abdomen area, resulting in what's called an "apple" shape. Again, women with waist-to-hip ratios of more than 0.8 and men with waist-to-hip ratios of more than 1.0 are "apples," and as such are at an increased health risk because of their fat distribution.
Only a guideline
Remember, though, that this is only a general guideline. A number of other factors including family and personal medical history can influence someone's risk of developing particular diseases or problems. In addition, excess fat regardless of where it's distributed has been linked to several serious medical conditions, including diabetes, gallstones and heart disease.
Although excessive concern about losing weight can be harmful, that the more obese a person is, the more likely he or she is to have health problems, and that people who are 20 percent or more overweight can gain significant health benefits from weight loss.
In addition, the American Dietetic Association points out that excess fat in the abdominal area poses a greater health risk than excess fat in the hips and thighs and is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, early onset of heart disease, and certain types of cancers.
If you do need to lose weight, talk with your doctor first to determine a reasonable timetable. For many people who don't have an excessive amount of weight to lose, a combination of diet, exercise and behavior modification can produce weight loss. In some cases of severe obesity, gastrointestinal surgery may be recommended. However, surgery is usually considered a drastic option. And even if used, lifestyle changes are still needed to produce permanent weight loss.