Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Percent Of Body Fat

How the scale does not even tell accurately how "healthy" somebody is bothers me. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I think it CAN be a great weight loss tool, but I also believe too many people get hung up with the number on the scale, and thus become obsessed. I know I did. That is why I said "peace" to the scale, and consequently never hopped back on (this works for me).

However, there ARE tools that are possibly more accurate in telling a person how healthy he or she is. Have you ever heard of something called "skinny fat"? A person can be quite skinny (by 'standards') but still be quite unhealthy, carrying around extra body fat, and/or being unfit. He or she may not weigh very much, but BF percentage he or she carries may be unhealthy for his or her height. So, what WE might see, we might think/judge he/she is SO skinny, "no fair," when in reality WE might actually be 'healthier,' as we might be at a lower body fat level.

I am NOT saying we should judge or carry on comparisons, but what I AM saying is that YOU and I might be healthier than we think. It all depends on the body fat level we currently possess.

SO what IS percent of body fat? The percentage of BF on a person is literally the pounds of fat he/she carries in relation to the total body weight. For example, if someone carries 56 pounds of body fat and overall weight 160 pounds, he/she would be 35 percent of body fat.

Make sense? So in essence, calculating percentage of body fat would in actuality determine a possibly more accurate number than just the number on the scale. Don't we WANT to know how much of us is LEAN versus how much of us is FAT? If not, then health/wellness/caring for self may not be a big deal to ya anyways.

The best part??? YOU CAN CHANGE THE PERCENTAGE OF BODY FAT you currently carry (if you want to, this is good news)!

Lean 'weight' is comprised of:

Fat 'weight' is comprised of:

Thus, you can see that a LOT goes into play when someone steps on a scale. The number saying how much a person "weighs" includes ALL of the above body parts/cells/structures. HOLY moly. That is why it can be SO frustrating to step on a scale. The number can fluctuate anywhere between 2-15 lbs, depending on how much water he/she drank, bathroom usage, menstruation, and a myriad of other things.

Percent of body fat is a great tool to find out just how much lean tissue we currently have versus how much fat tissue. Obviously, if anyone wants to shed body fat, he/she would pay attention to this percentage (aka ratio).

Research has also shown that percent of BF may be a better predictor of longevity, reduction in risk for chronic disease, and compressed morbidity rates than total body weight alone.

Some things to watch out for when seeking to have your BF tested (if you want to):
calipers (used at most gyms) are the least effective....because of so many different factors (i.e. who is doing the test, what kind of calipers, etc)the BodPod (found in many research institutions) is one of THE best ways (percentage error: 1-2%)the DEXA scan is THE Gold Standard (i.e the best, currently) for BF testing(percentage error: <1%)underwater weighing is effective-but requires a lot of equipment and holding breath! (percentage error: 3-7%)electrical impedance is pretty accurate (error percentage: 1-5%for at-home scale:be WARY of these, b/c they are not standardized. Some could be pretty accurate and others not so much.

There ya have it! Also, if you care, research also shows that lifting weights regularly can help decrease BF more so than just simply cardio (because of the many benefits that come from lifting weights ). A weight lifting plan can do wonders for goals in that arena.

Annette is certified in several fitness formats, holds several degrees in the areas of health, wellness, nutrition, and fitness, and currently works as a personal health coach. Find more about her at

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