Even though a 38 inch waist may look fairly large, it’s actually a couple of inches below the average male waist size. For a woman, it’s right on average.
This guide draws on body measurement research to explain how big a 38 in waist really is for both men and women.
After that, we’ll get into some practical tips so that you can slim your waist safely and naturally—without any extreme diets and unsustainable exercise regimes.
Compare Your Waist:
- 30 inch waistline
- 31 inch waistline
- 32 inch waistline
- 33 inch waistline
- 34 inch waistline
- 35 inch waistline
- 36 inch waistline
- 37 inch waistline
- 39 inch waistline
What does a 38 inch waist look like?
It’s completely possible to be happy with your body while having a 38 in waist. However, there’s no getting around the fact that if you have a 38 inch waist, then you also have excessive stomach fat.
Because of this, your stomach may visibly protrude through your clothing, which could cause some individuals to feel self-conscious.
However, one thing that a 38″ waist definitely isn’t is abnormal.
Most men, for example, have a waist measurement that exceeds 38 inches, whereas a majority of American women have a 38 inch waist on average.
Is a 38 inch waist too big for a woman?
Yes, according to scientific research, a 38 inch waist is too big for a woman to live in optimal health.  According to a paper published in the Obesity Research journal, females should aim to keep their waists below 32 inches if they want to maintain a low risk for cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.  Therefore, at 38 inches, your waist is 6 inches too large.
Of course, just because you’re not living in optimal health at the moment doesn’t mean that you can’t in the future or that you should be in despair. With a simple and sustainable exercise regime and diet, you can lose a surprising amount of belly fat and drastically improve your health and body composition.
You also shouldn’t feel that you need to become really slim just because some people may look that way. While you can definitely change your body via diet and exercise, some people naturally have a harder time losing weight than others.
Additionally, some women may store a disproportionate amount of fat on their stomach compared to other areas like their legs and upper body.
Is a 38 inch waist too large for a man?
Yes, even though a 38 inch waist is smaller than average for an American man, it’s still too big for a male to live in good health. Indeed, research often recommends that a man keep his waist below 35 inches if he wants to keep his risk of disease and premature mortality low. So, if your waist is 38 inches as a man, then it’s 3-4 inches too big.
Now, if you’re really tall, then having a 38 inch waistline isn’t as bad as it could be (this is also true if you have a lot of abdominal muscle mass).
The reason for this is that when you’re tall or very muscular, a larger proportion of your circumference measurement (in this case, the waistline) consists of lean mass rather than harmful fat.
Of course, most people who have a 38 inch waist are unlikely to have a slim and trim waistline. However, if you have well-developed abs and obliques, then you might still have a somewhat thick waist even when you lose weight and improve your body composition.
How can you reduce your 38 inch waistline?
Losing weight comes down to one simple fact; you need to put your body in an energy deficit if you want to burn fat.
For most people, getting their body in an energy deficit simply means consuming fewer calories than their body needs to maintain its weight.
You can also trigger an energy deficit by increasing your activity level while keeping your food intake the same. Most individuals, however, will need to eat less and move more if they want to experience fat loss.
On the diet side of things, stick to healthy, wholesome foods like yogurt and avocados for fat, whole grains and fruit for carbohydrates, and lean meats, fish, and beans for protein. 
Conclusion: Is it bad to have a 38 inch waist?
You can absolutely look and feel good about yourself while having a 38 in waist. However, for your best health, it’s recommended to lower your weight and reduce your waist circumference.
This doesn’t mean crash dieting or hitting the gym every day. Rather, by making healthier food choices and performing a moderate amount of exercise—consistently—many people can see significant changes in their body composition and health.
Additionally, since having a 38 inch waist size isn’t abnormal, it’s a great idea to start changing your body now (while you’re in a better position) rather than later so that you don’t gain any additional weight, which could make slimming your stomach harder.
- Ross, R., Neeland, I. J., Yamashita, S., Shai, I., Seidell, J., Magni, P., Santos, R. D., Arsenault, B., Cuevas, A., Hu, F. B., Griffin, B. A., Zambon, A., Barter, P., Fruchart, J. C., Eckel, R. H., Matsuzawa, Y., & Després, J. P. (2020b). Waist circumference as a vital sign in clinical practice: a Consensus Statement from the IAS and ICCR Working Group on Visceral Obesity. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 16(3), 177–189. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41574-019-0310-7
- Han, T. S., van Leer, E. M., Seidell, J. C., & Lean, M. E. (1996). Waist Circumference as a Screening Tool for Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evaluation of Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC). Obesity Research, 4(6), 533–547. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1550-8528.1996.tb00267.x
- CBS News. (2011, January 17). Eight Delicious Foods That Help Fight Belly Fat. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/eight-delicious-foods-that-help-fight-belly-fat/