When people say they want to lose weight, what they actually mean is that they want to lose fat. Bite the bullet and step on your bathroom scales, and you’ll get a reading of your total weight. However, this won’t tell you how much of your weight is made up of body organs and lean muscle, it just tells you the total weight of your body, and this will include everything that you’ve eaten or drunk that hasn’t been digested and passed through your system, as well as your body fat, blood, bones, organs and muscles.
While your weight is a good starting point in deciding if you need to eat less and exercise more, body fat percentage is a better indication of what you need to do to become more healthy. Ideal weight tables are just too vague – you need a measurement that tells you what you want to know about your body.
The easiest way to figure out your body fat percentage is to use an online calculator, such as the one at Health Status. Input your height, weight, gender and the required measurements for a quick body fat percentage calculation, which is accurate to within two percentage points. The measurements you need are: waist at the narrowest point and the navel, hips at the widest point, and neck at the narrowest point. These statistics will calculate your body fat percentage.
Another way of reaching this fugure is to use body fat calipers on skin folds, but for this method to be accurate, it needs to be carried out by someone who knows what they are doing. If you belong to a gym, they may offer this facility. If you want to do this yourself, you’ll need a pair of calipers, and a friend to help you access the 7 sites of your body which need to be measured in order to calculate your body fat percentage.
However you decide to work out your body fat percentage, you can use the information to track your fitness progress. You may find that some weeks, you don’t actually lose weight, but if you have been exercising, you may have built up more muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you recalculate your body fat percentage, you may find that it has decreased, even though the scale needle remains stubbornly fxed at last week’s reading.
Body fat percentage will also tell you if you are losing body fat rather than muscle mass. If your weight is reducing but your body fat percentage is not, it could be an indication that your diet needs to be amended. Muscle loss can happen with very low calorie diets.
A healthy body fat percentage for most women is between 21% and 32%, with the average falling around 25%. More than 33% body fat could make you more susceptible to obesity related illnesses, including heart problems. Check your body fat percentage and concentrate on reducing it to a healthy level. Your body will thank you for it.