Before starting a new diet plan or spending money on a new weight loss product, it’s important to first define your goal. What exactly do you consider your ideal weight to be? Are you looking to reduce your weight to Y pounds, lower your body fat to X percentage, or lower your BMI to Z? Each measure of weight loss success has its advantages and disadvantages, and before you embark on a journey towards quick weight loss it’s critical to understand the differences.
The Dreaded Scale:
Whether you’re using a weight scale at home or at the gym, the chances are good that you’ve been taught to rely on the scale as your primary measure of weight loss success. This is a misconception that has plagued dieters for decades, and if you’re seeking truly healthy weight loss it’s a good idea to forget about that dreaded scale.
The best advice you’ll ever hear in regard to weight management is throw away your scale. The focus, or obsession, on weight is the very reason why most people fail. It’s misguided and dangerous. The focus on weight began back in the 1950’s when the definition of appropriate weight was simple. Your weight was compared against the ideal weight tables developed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. That insurance company designed a height weight chart based upon the average American citizen. If your actual weight was 20% or more above the table weight, then you were considered obese. If it was 10% under, you were underweight. Today, however, the term ideal weight is irrelevant.
The original weight table standards were designed for insurance purposes, not as guides for nutrition and fitness. These tables never considered body composition. In other words, they make no distinction between lean body weight and fat body weight. Most world-class bodybuilders (usually less than 8% body-fat) would be categorized as obese by the original weight tables.
As an example, consider these two characters: Jay Cutler (a professional bodybuilder) and Fat Albert. Both are 5’9″, both weigh 265 lbs. and let’s say that both of them are 32 years old. (These are the real statistics for Jay.) Using the old ideal weight chart designed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, we find that both of these men are clinically obese. In reality, Fat Albert really is obese while Jay Cutler is one of the healthiest people on the planet. The error is that the height weight chart doesn’t account for differences in body composition; it only measures weight. Therefore, without taking lean body weight vs. fat body weight into account, it’s impossible for the bathroom scale to tell you if you’re at your ideal body weight or not. More importantly, when you do begin to lose weight fast the scale will never be able to tell you if you’re experiencing fat loss or muscle loss.
What Is BMI, And Why Should I Care?
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a relationship between weight and height that is associated with body fat and health risk.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is widely used to determine an individual’s ideal body weight. Similar to the height and weight chart, it is essentially the relationship between a person’s weight and height. The formula used to calculate it is: BMI= (Weight in Kilograms) / (Height in meters squared).
This measurement, also known as the Quetelet Index, was developed around 1830 to 1850 and is attributed to a Belgian named Adolphe Quetelet.
According to most experts, a BMI of 20 to 25 is considered healthy. BMI of less than 20 suggests an individual is underweight while 25 to 29 indicates an overweight person. 30 and above is a sign of obesity.
BMI provides an estimation of fat content in a person’s body, and is probably accurate for most people. Results may vary, however, because BMI doesn’t take into account the differences between lean weight and fat weight. For example, athletes may develop significantly higher muscle mass. Muscle contributes more to overall weight than fat. As a result their BMI may be higher than average despite a lower fat content. Conversely, elderly people who have suffered some deterioration of muscle mass may have lower BMI with higher fat content.
Again, using our Fat Albert / Jay Cutler example, we find that their BMI is an identical 39.1 (obese). Remember that we’re using Jay’s real statistics here, and Jay is certainly not obese. That’s the danger of relying only on BMI as an indicator of fitness – without differentiating between lean body mass and fat body mass, the result is skewed.
Still, for the average American without Jay Cutler-size muscles, the BMI can be a fairly accurate measurement of health.
There are two convenient places where you can find a BMI calculator. First, just ask the friendly staff at your local health club. They will be more than happy to calculate your BMI and body fat percentage. Another resource is the on-line BMI calculator found at the Department of Health & Human Services site. Both sources are accurate and can help you determine if your BMI is in the acceptable range.
Body Fat Percentage Is The Best Measurement:
The way to measure and determine one’s fat to lean muscle proportion is to determine body fat percentage. The body fat percentage is the percentage of an individual’s weight that is fat. It is entirely possible for a person that’s ‘heavy’ on the scale to boast a low body fat percentage. Jay Cutler, for example, weighs in at 265 pounds but has a body fat percentage well below 10%. Fat Albert, on the other hand, has a body fat percentage greater than 50%. Body fat analysis is the only method that truly reflects the fitness level of the person.
Sure, the Jay Cutler / Fat Albert example is extreme. Few Americans are as overweight as Fat Albert, and even fewer have the muscle that Jay does. But this extreme example does prove the point that weight control is best measured through body fat analysis.
Only body fat analysis allows you to determine whether you are losing fat or losing muscle. The difference is critical to your weight loss success story, since losing muscle will only lead to further fat gain. On the flip side of the equation, if your goal is to gain muscle then only body fat analysis will show exactly what type of weight you’re gaining: muscle or fat.
In short, body composition testing (also known as body fat analysis) is the only proven method to accurately test whether or not you’re at your ideal weight.
To have your body fat analysis done, visit your local fitness center. In just a few seconds they will accurately and safely determine your body composition. Your personal physician can also perform this test.
Many Americans are trying to lose weight. Unfortunately, the best weight loss program doesn’t focus on just weight loss but on real fat loss. When it comes to measuring progress, the scale and Body Mass Index (BMI) both fall short for many people because they don’t distinguish between lean weight and fat weight. Only body fat analysis can provide an honest assessment of whether or not you’ve arrived at your ideal body weight. So what exactly is your personal ideal body weight? Whatever you weigh when your body fat percentage is in the recommended range!
Tracie Johanson is the founder of Pick Up The Pace, a 30-minute exercise studio for women focusing on fitness, health and nutrition for maximum weight loss. Please visit http://www.letspickupthepace.com/ for more information.