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Truths About Weight Loss - Part Three by Larry Smith, MD, CPT, CVT

Measuring your body fat percentage

With the Holidays upon us it is impossible to not overdue. Be it cookies, cocktails or big meals with family and friends. So, self-discipline and restraint are the orders of the day.


In part one, we have talked about the steps you need to follow to begin a weight loss program. In part two we discussed how weight can be measured used as an indicator of health and wellbeing. Part three is going to discuss measuring percent body fat and its value.


Males and females (gender neutral) accumulate fat differently. Men tend to accumulate intrabdominal and abdominal fat known as android obesity, whereas women tend to accumulate subcutaneous fat in their thighs and abdomen and arms or gynoid obesity. During pregnancy women gain additional weight due to the hormonal changes of pregnancy and can store up to an additional 90.000 calories in fat. This stored energy is used to feed baby with during breast feeding. Middle age regardless of sex, brings about weight gain as the body's physiology slows. We burn less fat but continue to eat so more fat is stored, ergo we gain weight. Understanding how much excess weight in the form of fat someone is carrying is important. These are the reasons we all need to make exercise and nutritional management an everyday part of our lives.


So, how do we measure "body composition" that is basically what percentage of our weight is bone, muscle or fat? Well, we know what BMI is. We can add to this by measuring skin folds in various parts of the body. Using skin-fold calipers, measurements of skin thickness are taken at six to seven different areas on the body. These values are then placed into the proper equation and the percent body fat and density can be calculated.


Now, as we continue to measure various aspects of the body's weight, composition and size, we are developing a more comprehensive picture and data base of that person's health status. Adding "Girth Measurements" into the data will further define the person's health status and allow that person to better understand their health risks and fitness needs. The "waist to hip ration" is an important girth measurement. Measuring the waist at its narrowest point and the hips at their widest point then dividing the waist measurement by the hip measurement gives you the waist to hip ratio. This ratio can tell you your relative health risk when it's compared to the larger populations' health risk with similar values.


Girth measurements are indicators of health risk the same as BMI and Percent body fat.


There are other more sophisticated techniques to measure body composition and these techniques are easily accessible now. Specifically, "Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis "

has become a simple, fast and convenient way to collect not only body fat percentage but also muscle, bone, water and subcutaneous fat distribution data. Today you can buy a bathroom scale that calculates much of the data needed to start your weight loss program with. These scales will also store the data so your weight loss trends can be followed.


In Part four of this series, we will begin discussing how the body stores fat and more importantly how the body burns (Oxidizes) fat to make energy. Oxidizing fats is where the tennis shoe hits the pavement. Effectively mobilizing and oxidizing fats in the body is easy. Doing it consistently and efficiently is what's important to weight loss.

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