The term waist is derived from the Old English term “waist” meaning growth. There are similar terms in many other old languages of the west. And for some reason, this origin makes a lot of sense.
The waist begins below your rib cage. Now the rib cage goes lower than you might think. If you go to a tailor for measurements, they'll measure it just below your lowest rib and the iliac crest (the highest point where your hip meets your waist) after you have breathed out normally. Just look for the crease formed by your hip when you bend sideways with your legs joined together. For women, this area is just above the belly button. However, it may vary slightly from one person to another.
From this, you can see that it is also the narrowest part of the upper body. However, this is the natural waistline. The actual waistline may not be the narrowest part of the torso, but seemingly the exact opposite of it.
This brings us to another important aspect about waists that is also related to our health.
The Thin Red Line
Much of our abdominal fat comes to stay near the waist. In fact, the size of the waist is what can be used to determine if a person is obese or not, other than the body mass index of course. Excess body fat is often regarded as a greater risk to your health than excess fat in your thighs and hips. A waist circumference of 31.5 inches or 80 cm is a sign of danger. This measure is not dependent on the height of a person and except for some special cases applies for everyone.
Another measure that can be used for checking the health of a person is the waist to hip ratio. This gives a more comprehensive estimate of the distribution of fat around the abdominal region. As the name suggests it measures the circumference of the waist with respect to that of the hips. A waist to hip ratio of 0.7 for women is said to be an indicator of great health. It also refers to having an hourglass figure.
Beauty and the Waist
The hourglass figure also brings up another facet about the waist- beauty, and fashion. Years ago before the invention of elastic, pants and other lower garments needed to be suspended from above. But that is no longer a concern. Because of this, the waistline has gone down literally. The modern waistline is not at the same level as the anatomical one. It is actually much lower. This means that clothing sizes cannot be used to determine the waist measurements of a person.
And when have clothing sizes ever been reliable for women in the first place?
However more than health, people are concerned about their waists for the reason of beauty. And where there is beauty there is also vanity. And in fact, waist sizes are one of the few areas where people want less than others. Because of the modern standards of beauty portrayed by the media and fashion industry and social media, waist size envy has become a very real issue. Women of all ages feel constantly judged for their beauty and waist sizes turn into just another thing to worry about. But many times they turn into a greater menace.
Teenage girls are bullied for being even slightly fat in schools. Sometimes this becomes so severe that they develop eating disorders like Bulimia and Anorexia and other psychological problems. Many of them starve themselves for the sake of fitting into their dresses. It has also led to the development of a thriving fitness industry that promises flat bellies and reduced waistlines with simple exercises. Most of the diet pills that come with the hollow promise of lost weight, focus on beauty rather than health.