"Importantly, I also changed my diet and lifestyle completely"
We hear so many times in the media and health debates about what the healthy waist size should be for both men and women based on your weight and body shape. However, it’s proven that those of a South Asian origin need to be extra careful in this department. Because our genes are not the same as those of a Caucasian background, and yes, it does apply to British Asians.
In fact, a bigger waist size dramatically increases the risk of heart disease for British Asians compared to non-Asians. According to the British Heart Foundation, ‘South Asian people living in the UK are one and a half times more likely to die from coronary heart disease before the age of 75 than the rest of the UK population.’
This also relates to having a family history of cardiovascular disease. If your family has any kind of history of heart disease then the risk is further increased, and unfortunately, it is a ‘non-modifiable’ risk factor, which means that it is risk factor that you can’t change with any medical assistance.
A Nature Genetics study carried out by a team at Imperial College London in the UK found that a gene sequence in people of South Asian origin which linked them to an expanding waist line, weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Although the gene exists in all the population, it is more prevalent in South Asians. Making British Asians more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease due to their family history.
This adds worry to many because we all know how much we love our fat rich dishes and those moreish sweets and snacks. Especially, for those do not know they need to change the way to cook and eat, or those not making changes to their diet or lifestyle regime.
Your body shape contributes a lot to the state of your physical health. For Asians, the tummy and waist is one area of the body where fat does gather and is most visible.
The waist size is a favourable indicator of how high the risk of cardiovascular disease can be for an individual.
Measuring your waist correctly is important to gauge the risk. To get the correct measurement, you must take a measuring tape and place it around the lowest point of your rib cage and the top of your hip bone. This is how to take your waist measurement correctly, not where you would wear your belt as some people might think.
Here are guidelines to the risk for British Asian men and women:
- Women – if your waist is over 32 inches or 80 centimetres
- Men – if your waist is over 36 inches or 90 centimetres
- Women – if your waist is over 35 inches or 89 centimetres
- Men – if your waist is over 40 inches or 101 centimetres
So, to maintain an ideal waist to reduce the risk of heart disease and other diseases related to being over weight, British Asian men need to have a waist of 36 inches or below and women 32 inches or below.
If it is higher than these figures then you are in the overweight category and you do need to take care of your health, especially, your diet and the amount of exercise you do.
If your waist is bigger than the Substantial Risk figures then you need to seriously review your lifestyle, exercise regime and diet. The more over-weight you are the more likely you can develop the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
For British Asians, exercise is perhaps not a priority as it should be, especially, the older generations and even younger people too. Exercise does not mean heavy sessions in a gym. It needs to be something you enjoy and want to do because you know it will benefit your waistline.
Any form of physical activity all contributes to daily exercise, including gardening, using stairs instead of lifts, going for a daily brisk walk for over 30 minutes, jogging, dancing, swimming, cycling, playing sports such as badminton, squash, basketball and tennis. Even using exercise orientated games on consoles such as the Wii and Xbox Kinect can all contribute to getting healthy.
However, exercise alone is not the answer, we know Asian food does not boast ‘fat-free’ content, therefore, changing your diet is a must if you are serious about reducing your weight and improving your waistline.
Changing your diet involves a lifestyle change. This is not about ‘dieting’ but completely changing many of the fatty foods you eat and swapping them for healthy alternatives.
The calories and fat in Asian food varies on what is used to cook it but mostly for taste butter and ghee are classic additions. So, one example of change is using Rapeseed Oil instead of butter and ghee. Another is simply reducing portions, for example, having less chappatis (rotis) with a meal. Having smaller meals throughout the day is better than a large and heavy meal in the evening.
Alternating your Asian meals with other healthier meals is a very good way of reducing your fat and calorie intake.
Examples include, salads with lots of spinach, tomatoes, cucumber and tasty raw vegetables instead of fried snacks such as samosas and pakoras; grilled meat instead of fried meat or cooked meat curries; jacket potatoes instead of chips and fries and fresh fruit salads instead of Desi sweets.
Today, it’s become the norm that both Asian women and men drink, and alcohol is a key culprit for weight gain and can contribute significantly to increasing your waistline.
Therefore, drinking sensibly is advised. Men should not drink more than 2 to 3 units a day and women no more than 2 units a day. So, if you easily guzzle those bottles of beer, binge on the cocktails or love consuming more than one bottle of wine between you – it is time to rethink your drinking, if you want to get healthy for your sake.
Ajit, aged 48, says: “I noticed through the years my trouser waist size increased by 5 inches. This was down to sitting in front of a computer at work all day and driving everywhere. I did no exercise and ate and drank purely for taste, not fat content. After a visit to the doctor which shocked me, I decided to change everything. Now, I have lost 3 inches of my waist and have a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a good diet. I feel great.”
If your waist has grown through the years then buying bigger clothes should not be the solution. You need to take control of your body and health, no one is going to do it for you.
You need to change the habits that contribute to your weight gain. By losing weight and changing your lifestyle, it can transform your life.
Sunita, aged 37, says: “I felt my clothes getting tight, my bum felt and looked big and my thighs definitely were heavier. Walking made me feel out of breath. A friend suggested a gym. Hesitantly, I gave it a go and now I go three times a week! I have really taken to it! The great news is I’ve lost the fat I wanted to and bought a new wardrobe! Importantly, I also changed my diet and lifestyle completely. I love making and eating salads of my own and have discovered some amazing foods with high nutrition but no calories.”
Living in an age of fast-food outlets outnumbering other shops, and gadgets and facilities that do not require much physical effort, losing anything between 5% to 10% of your weight can be really beneficial to your health and your waistline.
These kind of changes can be challenging so set yourself mini targets to reach ultimate goals. Remember any kind of healthy change will help towards reducing your weight and subsequently, your waistline.
The important thing is to continue the change and not do it for short period. Otherwise, any weight lost could return quickly, resulting in even a bigger waistline.