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Body Fat Percentage vs. Body Weight

Thursday, March 18th, 2010
Which is a better tool of measurement when it comes to health and fitness:  body fat percentage or body weight?

Not an uncommon question, let’s just put up a blog post about it!   My thanks to Carolyn for permission to use her question to springboard the conversation.
Q:   Hi Lani,

Is it healthier to determine your weight by body fat percentage or body weight charts?

If I use the body fat percentage, I would need to lose about half the weight that I would need to lose if I use the body weight charts.
If I use the body weight charts, I will be below the recommended minimum 12% body fat.

How can this be? My main goal is health, but I really do need to lose some weight and lower my cholesterol (although it is not terribly high) and my blood sugar (borderline).Please help! I am SO confused!!

Please help! I am SO confused!!

Carolyn


A:  Carolyn,

Just yesterday I read a commentary with the directive that the best bodyfat measuring device is to stand in front of a mirror naked and jump up and down. :eek: The message is that it will tell you all you need to know. :lol:

All that aside, you are not alone in this confusion.

Let me make it simple. The scale with “poundage” tells you nothing about what of what those lbs are composed.

Most scales can tell you only if you weigh more or less than the average person. But it doesn’t give you information about how much of that weight is lean body mass and how much is fat.

Based only on scale weight, a 225-pound athlete with 8% body fat would be flagged as “overweight” by a typical weight chart. And these charts, though they can provide us with relative information, are not a good indication of ideal body weight for general health. Or for athletic performance, for that matter.

Here’s a visual for you to make the point:


In my practice – as well as personally – I have seen dramatic shifts in body composition – and appearance and size – without necessarily the shifts on the weight scale.

This is because as we develop muscle, increase bone density (both are results from challenging exercise), body fat decreases in relation to our lean body mass (which is everything that is NOT fat, including bone and water along with the muscle) and you end up taking up less space overall.

As evidenced by the image of 5 lbs. muscle vs. 5 lbs fat pictured above.

Thanks for reading this post.  Please share it if you like it, and if you’re on facebook, please join me now on my facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/lanimuelrath.  See you there!

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