What your body shape reveals about your health

How to protect your health by identifying body shape risks

What if you could predict the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and developing cardiovascular disease simply by looking at the shape of your body?

Believe it or not, there is a strong association between various body shapes and developing metabolic syndrome. So if you’re concerned about your future health, understanding your body shape reveals the best place to start.

Identifying the associated health risks with your body shape is a great way to help you stay proactive about your health.

If you are an apple shape, carrying too much weight at the front around your middle, (abdominal obesity) you are at the highest risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

If you are an avocado shape, with a high excess weight around your love handles, you may be more at risk of insulin resistance syndrome, which can develop into type 2 diabetes.

If you are a pear shape, so you have a small waist and store your excess weight on your thighs and bottom, you are more likely to develop nonalcoholic fatty liver disease  (NAFLD)

And lastly, the strawberry-shaped person is typically broad in the shoulder and the back, with slim hips, this indicates a higher risk for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

I’m Jen Adams, a functional personal nutritional therapist and my purpose is to teach those who want to learn how to improve their metabolic health for energy, vitality, and future wealth and to better understand how their food and lifestyle choices affect every part of their life.

In this article, want to discuss the longer-term health risks associated with the various body shapes so you can understand how to improve your future health most effectively.

But please remember, regardless of your body shape, the risk of developing metabolic syndrome increases when you are carrying extra weight.

If you want to look at losing weight please read this article… 

Metabolic Health: Essential guide to weight-loss

What are the future metabolic health risks?

What you weigh on the scales is an easy indicator to assess if you are overweight or obese, but this simple measurement can be misleading concerning your future health risks.

Your body shape is determined by a combination of factors, including where you naturally store your body fat.

The extra fat deposited in your body has the potential to cause future disease due to the chronic low-grade inflammation within fat cells.

What are the different types of fat cells?

There are two main types of adipose fat: brown and white, each with different functions within the body.

The function of brown fats is to store instant energy for expenditure through heat production, while white fats are more involved in the long-term storing of excess energy and waste as they have a much greater capacity for storage than brown fat stores.

These are called adipocytes. The number of fat cells present in the body at birth is almost identical to that observed in adults. As you gain or lose weight, they get bigger or smaller in volume or size.

Subcutaneous white fat is located beneath the skin away from essential organs and is more common in the lower half of the body, such as the bottom, hips and thighs.

Visceral fat cells are often found within the abdomen, so-called belly fat, close to vital internal organs. Visceral fat responds in times of stress and is used during regular exercise.

Accumulating both types of adipocyte fat cells can raise the risk of a variety of metabolic health problems, due to the high body fat percentage stored near organs, as the fat cells contain endotoxins and generate significant quantities of cytokines.

Endotoxins are poisonous by-products that are produced by gut microbiota when you eat a diet high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates. They enter circulation and activate the immune system, resulting in chronic low grade inflammation.

Cytokines are proteins that protect the body from low grade inflammation, but when there is excessive inflammation in the body, they turn autoimmune.

The white adipose tissue then contains large amounts of inflammatory mediators such as leptin, interleukins and tumour necrosis factor-Alpha.

High levels of cytokines result in insulin resistance and trigger inflammation throughout your body, leading to heart disease and inflammatory diseases

How to measure body shape future metabolic health risks

Our bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. That’s part of what makes each of us unique.

There isn’t an “average” or “typical” body shape. As some people are naturally curvier, and some have narrower hips or broader shoulders, we are all a bit different. We identify our shape as fruit-based: apple, avocado, pear or strawberry.

However, categorising body types isn’t always straightforward. When overweight or obese, there is often a lot of variation within one body type. The objective is to determine the spot where you gain weight most easily and have the most stubborn fat cells even after successful weight loss.

What is your Body Mass Index

The Body Mass Index (BMI) calculation will help you to work out which weight-based category you fit into:

BMI = weight in kilograms/height in metres squared – use my BMI Calculator 

But this measurement has become criticised because it does not consider body shape or fat distribution.

A more accurate way to measure your metabolic health risks is by measuring your waist circumference and calculating your waist to hip ratio – known as Waist-Height Ratio (WHR).

Your WHR is an excellent guide for assessing your metabolic health and the risk of developing these metabolic health diseases as it considers how much abdominal or central obesity you have.

The WHR calculation is: Waist circumference (cm) / Height (cm)

You can use this calculator to work out your WHR: Click HERE.

Combine your BMI result (overweight or obese+) with your body shape type to identify which metabolic health risks you should focus on to make changes to the lifestyle factors affecting your weight management.

Apple Shaped Bodies are at Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

apple body shape

A high WHR ratio of 0.85+ for women or 1.0+ for men indicates an increased waist circumference. This means you are primarily an apple shaped body and suggests the most significant risk for heart disease due to your excess weight around your stomach (visceral fat).

The health risk associated with fat stored around the middle is an excessive and constant demand for the stress hormone cortisol to be released to help you live in the modern world.

Cortisol is essential for managing our energy levels, but the high demand for production over-stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, causing visceral fat storage.

In times of stress, the energy from food is stored in your waistline or as abdominal fat, signalling to the brain that you have stored energy to draw on if needed.

But in the modern world, it is easier to eat more food than draw upon the previously stored or excess fat.

The main issue is elevated cortisol levels inhibiting the cells’ ability to absorb glucose from the food.

High cortisol levels make cells less receptive to the insulin hormone messages and cause them to resist taking up glucose from the blood to deliver into the cells for energy.

This will cause the brain to demand greater energy quickly. As a result, hunger and cravings for high-carbohydrate and high-fat meals are generated, which leads to an increase in cholesterol synthesis.

Years of carrying too much visceral fat around the middle and increasing demand for HDL cholesterol cause the arteries to harden and become less flexible, which raises blood pressure.

In addition, visceral fat produces a hormone called leptin that causes us to eat more. High leptin levels also increase insulin resistance and cholesterol production in our liver cells – all of these factors combined result in an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Avocado Shaped Bodies are at Risk of Diabetes

avocado body shape

A WHR ratio of 0.81 to 0.85 for women or 0.96 – 1.0 for men indicates an avocado body shape. Women or men with large love handles are more likely than other shapes in the apple and strawberry body shape groups to develop insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes if left untreated.

When overweight or central obesity, these different body shapes can be harder to identify and pinpoint as either apple or avocado shapes.

The main difference is the WHR for the avocado body shape can be within the range of cardiovascular danger but also show signs and symptoms of insulin resistance syndrome and developing diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are naturally uncontrollable or have become so with food alone.

When our bodies don’t create enough insulin to break down the sugar in our circulation, we develop diabetes. This implies we can’t use this sugar as energy and it is converted into fat around our midsection, commonly known as love handles or muffin tops.

The major worry is that having love handles or a muffin top might be misinterpreted as ageing, but insulin resistance is an early indicator of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is when you have three or more metabolic risk factors.

These risk factors are high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and larger waist size.

If your blood sugar levels are constantly imbalanced and you tend to gain weight around your waist and trunk, that could indicate that you will likely go on to develop type 2 diabetes as you age.

Pear Shaped Bodies are at and Risk of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

pear body shape

A WHR ratio of 0.80 to 0.75 for women or 0.90 – 0.95 for men indicates a pear-shaped body.

The pear-shaped body is the most common female body shape and is characterised by a wide hip circumference compared to the waist measurement.

You can learn more about the 10 signs your liver is struggling – Click HERE

Strawberry Shape Bodies are at and Risk of Inflammatory Diseases

strawberry body shape

A WHR ratio of 0.75 or below for women or 0.90 or below for men indicates a strawberry-shaped body.

A thin waist and broad shoulders characterise the strawberry-shaped body in comparison to the hips.

This determines that you have more visceral or central obesity across the back and shoulders than subcutaneous fat stores located just under the skin in the lower body.

The WHR on this body shape tends to be within the healthy range for cardiovascular risk. However, if you are overweight or obese, there is an increased risk of inflammatory diseases created from an autoimmune response in the digestive system known as gut permeability, which leads to Crohn’s and Celiac disease.

When healthy, those with a strawberry body shape have a fast metabolism and decent muscle-to-weight proportion. People with this body type do not gain weight in fat quickly when young and are more successful at reducing weight while dieting, however as they age this is when the problem starts.

When people with strawberry shaped bodies do not watch what they eat or begin to diet excessively, they quickly become overweight or obese as the thyroid becomes underactive and can’t make sufficient hormones to maintain the body’s metabolism.

As a result, you are likely to have a body shape characterised by central obesity, a large waist and low muscle mass, and a very slow metabolism, so you gain weight quickly and easily.

Once the thyroid function becomes underactive, which is known as hypothyroidism, the body will demand higher cortisol and insulin levels to function, causing you to eat more. As the metabolism slows down, you will notice an increase in fat mass in the upper body first.

Managing the symptoms of hypothyroidism creates an autoimmune response that causes inflammation within the digestive system. This is known as a leaky gut syndrome or gut permeability.

When left undiagnosed, the gut microbiome becomes imbalanced and cannot absorb food nutrients and energy.

This creates food intolerances and allergies, which trigger the immune system to protect the gut lining by creating more pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Cytokines are proteins that act as messengers between cells and regulate the immune system. They are responsible for how our body responds to stress, food and bacteria.

Cytokines can be both ‘pro’ or ‘anti-inflammatory’, and there is a delicate balance between the two that keeps homeostasis in the gut microbiome.

When inflammation becomes chronic, this leads to high pro-inflammatory cytokines, which causes a systemic inflammatory response throughout the body.

The pro-inflammatory cytokines activate the stress response, and as a result, you eat more and store more fat, which creates a vicious cycle.

As a result, this increases your risk of metabolic and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s and digestive diseases such as Crohn’s and celiac disease.

In summary, our body shapes are signals of potential future health problems. Overweight or obese individuals, on the other hand, pose an increased risk of all metabolic health concerns. You can learn more about how your body form affects your future metabolic health by calculating your waist to hip ratio – Click HERE

Understanding the different body shape health risks and what this says about your health allows you to direct your attention toward the most effective actions for improving your metabolic health.

To learn how to reduce the metabolic health risk in relation to your body shape?  There are individual posts just for you.

  1. How to reduce stomach fat easily
  2. How to lose love handles by balancing blood sugars
  3. How to reduce fat thighs by cleansing the liver
  4. How to lose back fat with hypothyroidism

These are individual articles to help you understand HOW you can reduce store fat in different parts of your body to reduce the risk of developing metabolic health problems in the future?