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Your shape and weight


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Most of us will end up looking like one of our parents. Just as the colour of our hair and eyes is transmitted through our genes, so too is our height and weight distribution, though these can be influenced by diet and exercise.

Studies show that in overweight people, the distribution of excess body fat can affect their risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Compared to "pear shaped" individuals, who store fat around hips and thighs, "apple shaped" people are at greater risk.

Healthy weight is defined according to body mass index (BMI), which is calculated as a ratio of weight to height. This index provides a more accurate measure of body fat than weight alone. If your BMI is 30 or above, you are considered to be obese and your health may be at risk.

Therefore, it is advisable to see your doctor and make every effort to lose weight. Men and women store fat in different areas of the body. In men, it is deposited mostly in the upper arms, shoulders and abdomen; in women, it is mainly deposited in the breasts, hips and thighs. For both sexes, measuring your waist gives a good indication of whether you are carrying excess weight.

A waist circumference above 94cm in men and 80cm for women indicates that you are carrying excess weight around your middle, which increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Are you an apple or a pear?

People who tend to gain weight mainly in the abdominal region (a paunch or "beer belly") are said to have an apple shape. If you tend to gain weight mostly on your hips, buttocks and thighs, you are said to have a peer shape. The location of your body fat affects your health.

If you are apple shaped, you are at increased risk for the health problems associated with obesity, including cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

You cannot do anything to change being an apple or a pear - it is an inherited characteristic. However you can limit its extent by controlling your weight and keeping fit.

How to weigh yourself

• There are several dos and don'ts to be aware of if you want to get the most accurate measurement of your weight from your bathroom scales, especially if you are trying to lose weight.

• For accuracy, make sure that the bathroom scales you use are from a reputable company. Don't buy the cheapest that you can find because they may not be very accurate.

• Each time you weight yourself, do it wearing the same clothes.

• Make sure that you use the same scales in the same place each time you weight yourself because different scales vary in accuracy and how they are calibrated, it is likely that you will get slightly different results if you change the scales that you use.

For example you might find that you are heavier on different scales just because they are not very accurate. Beware of using the scales in the gym — they may seem accurate but hundreds of people use them and they are prone to wear and tear.

• Always weigh yourself at the same time of day, ideally with an empty bladder and bowels and nothing in your stomach. First thing in the morning after you visit the toilet and before you have breakfast is the best time of day.

• Don't weigh yourself more than once a week. We all have normal fluctuations in body weight-especially for women during their menstrual cycle — and you may be disheartened if you weigh more than on the previous day.

• If you are trying to lose weight through an exercise programme, you should be aware that muscle weighs more than fat tissue. There may be a point in your regime when you look slimmer and more toned but you stay the same weight or even weigh more because you are more muscular. Don't get discouraged.

Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital

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