What’s My Body Fat Percentage?

by Menaka Warrier

When it comes to weight loss, everyone has a million and one theories and suggestions to give. You try it all. But, the results you get are often discouraging and you lose the motivation to continue. “People love to use the old adage about eating less and moving more, but the reality of losing any significant amount of weight is that it’s a lot more complicated than that,” says Tinier Tim Bauer, who lost 225lb through diet and exercise, and appeared on the premiere episode of Skin Tight, a reality show.

To begin with, you first work out your goal by weighing yourself and then decide what you want your target weight to be. We often hear the words BMI and body fat thrown around, without really knowing what they mean. Understanding them will help you greatly.

Don’t Go By Your BMI
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the ratio of a person’s weight with their height, ie weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. “It was designed to be used to assess the health status of large numbers of people,” says Matt Likins, a physical therapist from Metro Detroit.

A BMI of around 25 is considered normal. If we are over this, we automatically consider ourselves overweight or obese. But, this is a mistake. “It was designed to be used to assess the health status of large numbers of people, never designed to be used on an individual basis,” says Matt Likins, “It does not account for body type or body fat percentages. A man who is 5'10" and 200lb could have a muscular build and be in great shape (think NFL), or be clearly obese and out of shape.”

Thus, reducing your BMI will not help you determine the optimal weight loss for healthy living. BMI can show you if you are above or below the average person’s weight. How that should affect your living and determine your health requires the measurement of body fat.

Knowing Your Body Fat Percentage (BFP) Is Important
The Body Fat Percentage is the total mass of fat in the body divided by body mass. “Weight can include muscle, fat, and fluid,” says Lisa Hugh, a registered dietician, “Usually, higher BMIs mean higher body fat, but there are exceptions: body builders, athletes especially.”

Instead of concentrating on your BMI, you should be making your fitness regime depending on your BFP. “An increase in lean muscle tissue means that the proportion of body fat is lower and your base metabolic rate—the rate that your body burns calories—increases, which means you burn more calories at rest,” says Polina Liu, a personal trainer and fitness writer.

How To Get Your BFP In Control
Increasing physical activity and reducing simple carbs in your diet is a reliable way to increase your rate of metabolism. Polina Liu suggests that the best way to shed your body fat is through weight training.

“For most people, a combination of cardio (three to five days per week, usually) and weight training (two to three days a week) plus stretching works well,” says Lisa Hugh. Consistency in whatever you do is equally important. Losing a lot of weight quickly only results in it coming right back.

“I recommend to anyone who has a significant amount of weight to lose to start by focusing on the “why” you need to lose weight and overcoming the self-sabotage that has accounted for the why it hasn’t been successful in the past,” says Tim Bauer.

Nutrition plays an equally important role. Holly Del Rosso, a certified personal trainer, and television fitness expert says that you must not deprive yourself of any food because you tend to go back to eating it again. Simply reduce the amount you eat. “Have a scoop of ice cream once or twice a week. Eat the meals you want, but reduce the quantity and substitute with lower fat ingredients when possible.”

The probability of success is far higher if you focus on the right things and don’t let your BMI be the driving force. Even if you’ve resolved to lose weight on your own (without professional help), it would serve you well to gain access to your BFP stats, perhaps at the local gym or at your nutritionist/dietitian's clinic.

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