How to Measure Waist

Waist measurement is one of those things that many of us obsess about. It is a measurement that carries a lot of significance to many of us as an indicator of whether we have the kind of body shape we desire, or whether we have become too heavy, or, perhaps less commonly a worry, too thin.

Given the significance of the waist and its measurement for our self-esteem, it is therefore important we look at how best to measure your waist.

In addition, given that we can all find we have different sizes of skirt or trousers depending on the brand, or the country we buy from, actually working out what exactly our waist measures can be a really useful thing too, in terms of buying clothes and getting an idea as to which brands ‘oversize’ or ‘undersize’ their clothes. It can save us the hassle and the cost of returning garments that do not fit.

You might also be surprised how many people misdiagnose where their waist actually is. Many confuse their waist with their stomach or their hips, and this is not helped by the fashion industry also basing ‘waist’ measurements on those areas of the body.

How to Measure Waist

Definition of waist measurement

Simply put, waist measurement is a simple way to measure the circumference of your waist. It’s taken at the smallest part of your torso, just above your hip bones. (Not actually your hips themselves, so be careful not to confuse yourself. Your hips themselves will usually be a different size.)

Definition of waist measurement

Why accuracy matters

It’s important to measure accurately, as this can give you an indication of your health and fitness levels. The size of your waist needs to be assessed in relation to your height to know if you are actually unduly heavy or underweight, however. By itself, though it can be a good indicator, it is best associated with your height for a more definitive assessment of whether you are overweight. On some, for example, a 34 inch waist is way too heavy, but on taller and bigger people it may actually mean they are at a very good weight relative to their build.

Measuring well

Correct measurements can be trickier than you might think.

Important for accuracy is to use a soft measuring tape, as you will need it to fold around exactly.

The following two criteria are important.

  1. Place it firmly around your waist, but not so tightly that any skin bulges out of it above or below.
  2. Make sure that the tape is parallel to the floor all the way round. Many people inadvertently have the tape sag or rise up too far at the back.
  3. To ensure maximum accuracy, do this in front of a mirror so that you can check the tape is at the same level all the way round.
  4. Remember to take the measurement in both centimeters and inches, as you will find that there are requirements for both numbers in life. Obviously, it’s the same measurement, but some clothes come listed in inches and others in centimeters.
Measuring well

Benefits of waist measurement

It can be wise to know this particular bodily measurement, as it really can assist in helping you improve your overall health.

If the number is too high, it can motivate you to take the following productive steps.

  • Improve your fitness by taking more gentle or significant exercise to lower your fat levels.
  • Improve your posture, since sometimes the waist is where our bodies sag, as we use our spines and shoulders poorly, when really we should be seeking to maximize our stance. Seeing yourself in the mirror as you measure your waist can be surprisingly depressing. Make sure to then work on your posture; the effect can lessen the waist’s overall size
  • Measurement makes it likely you perceive and understand your body better, especially its core. It can be a motivational number when it comes to understanding the waist’s relationship with lifestyle habits and also with other related parts of the torso.
  • Improve your nutrition and diet. This is always a great thing to monitor in your life. We owe it to our waist to eat well, and not to overeat the wrong things and make the waist uncomfortably large.
  • Waist size is also the one measurement we most get motivated by when it falls. Certainly this is so if we have been too heavy. Train, eat, and live well and that waist number’s reduction can have an outsize effect on how good you feel.

What is Necessary to Measure Your Waist?

A tailor’s measuring tape

You ideally want one of these, as they are flexible, detailed, and, importantly, accurate. The professionals – tailors, dressmakers and seamstresses – all use them to make highly personalized clothes for clients, so they need to be extremely accurate.

If you wish, you may even want to go to a professional to get a really precise waist measurement, as when you lose weight the micro-fractions of an inch can matter, and a good measuring tape will let you see these.

What is Necessary to Measure Your Waist

Notes and Tracking

Always make sure you find a way of tracking your waist size over time. If you are dieting or training to lose weight, this is especially important, as you need to keep a focus on the trend line, and not get bogged down in the occasional rise or fall either way, which can often be the effect of fluids in the body at any particular time.

How to Measure Waist Size Precisely

Precision matters

Take the following steps to ensure precision.

  • Wrap the measuring tape around your waist, just above the belly button
  • Ensure it is snug, but not tight or constrictive, as this will offer a false outcome
  • Check it is parallel to the floor and level all the way round your body
  • Note the point at which the tape reaches itself again

That number is your waist measurement.

How to Measure Waist Size Precisely

Repeat the same step for the hips

If you wish to have further very useful contextual measurements, measure your hips too.

Take the same steps as outlined above, but instead of measuring above the belly button, wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips, again ensuring that the tape measure is level with the ground.

Calculate the difference between waist and hips

This can be a really interesting and helpful piece of data to have on your body. The difference between these two measurements is what we call your waist-to-hip ratio. But remember, do not be swayed emotionally by this number; it is, after all, just a number.

As with all numbers about our bodies, they need to be put in context of your size, overall body-shape, and your general way of life, before you decide if you have a healthy waist-hip ratio.

Calculate the difference between waist and hips

Always measure twice for accuracy

The fashion and tailoring industries have a phrase that is useful: ‘Measure twice, cut once!’

It is wise, therefore, to check your measurement is accurate by repeating the process twice. The technique needed to get a really accurate reading is trickier than you might think, so play it safe by measuring twice. Especially if you are ordering clothes online, this can be a really good habit to get into.

Wear clothing that won’t distort the measurement

Ideally, you are best to measure your waist in private when you are about to shower, for example. This will make it easy to avoid the complications of clothes.

However, if you are measuring when clothed, make sure they are clothes that won’t distort the result. Some skirts or trousers, for example, can be pretty tight around the waist, and this can make it tricky.

Alternatively, however, you may find it okay to be wearing lycra clothing, or sports gear, as they can be form-fitting and very thin, which makes it possible to get an accurate result. Though they stretch as fabrics, they don’t make your skin bulge in the way that a tight pair of trousers does.

Wear clothing that won’t distort the measurement

Tracking Over Time

It is important to monitor this metric, as it can fluctuate easily – and more than you might think. Waist sizes can change in our bodies more easily than almost any other measurements.

Be aware that fluid intake can distort your measurement, for example, as your body can increase in size if it is filled with water at any one time. You are best to get an accurate measurement when you are free of any excess hydration.

Think of other changes to your lifestyle, too, such as exercise, or perhaps a period when you were unwell and ate more or less than normal. These alterations will influence the size of your waist over time. Try to bear these kinds of changes in mind to get a true trend line of your waist size and its measurement over weeks.

Tracking Over Time

Staying true

If you want to track this particular part of your body, you need self-discipline to ensure it is done well over time. Do not be disheartened by what you first see, if it proves to be a higher number than you expected. The key is to know that waist size is changeable. It can be altered, and if you know how to measure it well you have a good chance of altering your lifestyle to help you get the waist size you are after.