If you've got a pear-shaped body and carry your weight mostly around your hips, you may be healthier than people with rounder-bellied apple shapes. Whether you're at a healthy weight depends on a number of different factors, including your height, where you carry your weight and your body composition. Your doctor can best advise you about your weight and any potential associated health risks.
Waist-to-Hip Ratio Importance
Having a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 or less, which is what defines you as having a pear shape -- is healthier than having a larger waist-to-hip ratio. Carrying a lot of weight around your belly is a sign you may have too much visceral fat, which sits deep in your abdomen around your organs and increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes. You can still be too heavy or carry too much fat around your waist, however, if you're pear shaped. Men should have a waist circumference of 40 inches or less, and women shouldn't have a waist that exceeds 35 inches.
Healthy Height-to-Weight Ratio
Body mass index is typically used to determine whether you have a healthy weight for your height. You can refer to an online BMI calculator, or use this formula:
BMI = [weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)] x 703.
So, if you're 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weigh 145 pounds, your BMI would be 145/(66x66) x 703, or 23.4. Anything between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy; a number less than this indicates you're underweight, and a higher number means you are overweight. For a person who is 5 feet, 4 inches, a healthy weight is between 110 pounds and 140 pounds; for someone who is 5 feet, 7 inches, it ranges from 121 pounds to 153 pounds.
BMI doesn't actually measure body fat, however, so it's possible to be at a healthy weight but overly fat, a condition called "normal weight obesity." Normal weight obesity increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes, just like being overweight. BMI may also overestimate fat in people who are very muscular and underestimate it in elderly individuals.
Another indicator that can show whether you have a healthy body composition and weight is the waist-to-height ratio, which is calculated by dividing your waist circumference in inches by your height in inches. This ratio may be better for screening for heart disease risk than waist circumference alone or BMI, according to a review article published in Obesity Reviews in 2012.
Men are considered at a healthy weight if their WHtR is between 0.43 and 0.52, and women should have a WHtR between 0.42 and 0.48. For example, a woman who is 5 feet, 4 inches tall should have a waist circumference between 27 and 31 inches, while a man who is 5 feet, 10 inches tall would be considered healthy with a waist circumference between 31 and 37 inches.
Weight Distribution and a Pear-Shaped Body Type
Because of hormones and genetics, women tend to carry their extra weight around their hips and thighs, and men have more weight deposited around their bellies. Women also tend to have about twice as much fat as men. The sex-specific fat around a woman's hips and thighs is particularly hard to lose and tends to be among the last fat lost when she slims down. If you're pear shaped, you'll retain that shape even if you lose weight; you'll just be proportionally smaller.
- University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: Weighing In On Body Fat
- ShapeFit.com: Waist To Height Ratio Calculator – Assess Your Lifestyle Risk
- Obesity Reviews: Waist-to-Height Ratio Is a Better Screening Tool Than Waist Circumference and BMI for Adult Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- American Cancer Society: Normal Weight Ranges: Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: About Adult BMI
- CNN: When You're Losing Weight, Where Does the Fat Go?
- Scientific American: Why Does Fat Deposit on the Hips and Thighs of Women and Around the Stomachs of Men?