What do you weigh? If you’re like most Americans, you know because you just checked it sometime in the past few days. Do you know your body composition, or your body mass index (BMI)? Chances are, you’re not sure. Your doctor may have told you what your BMI was the last time you met with him or her, but you didn’t pay much attention. If you do know your body composition, it’s likely because you had it measured by a health and fitness professional who spent some time explaining where you’re at and what it means.
Body Comp vs. BMI
Body mass index has been used for identifying whether an individual is overweight since the 1800s. It became popular in the United States in 1980. BMI is intended to identify whether someone’s weight is appropriate for his or her height. It’s calculated by taking your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. Across a large population, using some kind of height/weight measurement, which is what BMI is, can do a reasonable job of estimating if a population is becoming more overweight. Most of the statistics we read about Americans continuing to become more overweight are based on BMI data. In a clinical setting, many physicians rely on BMI with their patients. However, without understanding what makes up an individual’s body weight, it is difficult to coach someone about whether they need to gain or lose body fat.
One scenario where BMI is not valuable is for those who are often called “skinny fat.” We often see this in people who followed very low-calorie diets to lose weight. Though they lost weight according to the scale, they often lost significant amounts of lean mass, or muscle tissue, along with losing some body fat. As a result, their body fat percentage would still be quite high, even though they looked thin in street clothes. Their BMI might suggest they are at an appropriate weight, but a check of their body fat percentage would say otherwise. It’s important for skinny-fat individuals to adopt a solid resistance training program, get plenty of protein in their diet, and focus on quality foods rather than counting calories.
At the other end of the spectrum from the skinny-fat individual, you’ll find the muscle-bound athlete. In this case, individuals carry a significant amount of muscle tissue, yet have very little body fat. Think of the sprinters you see in the Summer Olympics. According to BMI standards, these athletes are considered obese, yet no one would tell them to lose weight. Although they have high BMIs, their body fat levels are clearly below what would be considered risky. BMI to this group is also irrelevant. The average, out-of-shape, sedentary individual who has a high BMI also has a high body fat percentage, but it isn’t always the case. Even though BMI can work to provide insight on a large population of average people, on an individual basis, it’s really quite useless.
Body Fat Percentage
The real risk for an individual is how much body fat he or she has. Though many people think of their fat tissue as little storage places for excess calories, fat tissue is actually an endocrine organ, meaning it secretes hormones of its own. The more fat one has, the more of these unhealthy hormones may be secreted. Visceral fat, or belly fat, is the worst, and is becoming more and more common in both men and women. Belly fat is difficult to measure with skin fold calipers because the fat tissue is found under the abdominal muscles. If you have a lot of belly fat, you may have a hard time “pinching an inch” from your stomach, yet your stomach is quite distended. Caliper measurement is quick, easy and cost-effective — but it's not the most accurate. That's where BIA testing comes in.
What is bioelectrical impedance?
Bioelectrical impedance (BIA) is not new. This method for measuring BIA was discovered in the 1960s, though early equipment proved to be inaccurate. BIA is a form of body composition measurement in which a very small current is sent through your hands and feet. Water, fat, muscle and other tissues create varying resistance to the electrical impulse, which the InBody uses to determine the amounts of fat, muscle and water found in an individual’s body.
Losing the Right Kind of Weight
Here are a few principles for healthy body fat loss that you should remember:
1. Fat loss is good, muscle loss is bad. Low-calorie diets often result in a loss of lean body mass, or muscle, along with some fat loss. Ideally, a routine should be designed to maintain, or even increase, lean body mass while lowering body fat levels. Resistance training and some cardiovascular exercise help, but nutrition is critical. To maintain muscle while losing fat, focus on eating protein with each meal and getting most of your carbohydrates through non-starchy vegetables. Higher-protein, moderate- or reduced-carbohydrate, and moderate-fat diets consistently outperform low-fat diets for modifying body composition.
2. Focus on how you look, not what you weigh. It’s easy to get hung up on the scale. Kick the habit of weighing in each day and step on the scale just once a week, ideally at the same time of day each time. We’re often told people shouldn’t lose more than 1 or 2 pounds of weight per week, but time and again we find that when people clean up their diet and start exercising right, they may lose much more than that. For those with 50 pounds or more to lose, don’t be surprised if much more weight comes off in the beginning. If you’re doing things right, most of it will be fat and water and you’ll maintain most of your muscle tissue. Check the mirror and your belt to measure your success more often than you check the scale.
3. Fat doesn’t just look bad, it IS bad. Extra fat isn’t just an issue of aesthetics. It really can impact your long-term health. Fat releases many inflammatory compounds into the body. If you haven’t convinced yourself or a close family member about how important it is to get body fat levels down to a healthy range, now is the time to make a change.
Give our office a call at 623-551-6677 so we can schedule a time to do your BIA test. Its the only way to know if you're aging gracefully because as we age we don't want to lose lean muscle tissue.
Yours in better health.....
Dr Brian Hester
Dr. Courtney Knight is a recent Doctor of Chiropractic graduate of National University of Health Sciences in St. Petersburg, Florida and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 2013. Go Blue! Dr. Knight was born and raised in a small town in southwest Michigan where her sense of community and wellness drove her to pursue a career in the holistic health field. She saw the inconsistency in what society was being told was "healthy" and desired the research on how to truly correct one's diet to fuel their body rather than feed cravings. Dr. Knight focused her studies on the anti-inflammatory diet, discovering that our bodies are in a state of chronic inflammation due to the food we are eating which in turn, is the underlying cause of so many diseases plaguing our world today.... see more
Dr. Brian Hester, originally from Alabama, graduated from Life University in 1999 with his Doctorate of Chiropractic. He moved to Anthem, Arizona in 2003 and opened his wellness center. Dr. Hester's mission is to provide people in the North Phoenix area, with the tools they need to identify stressors in their life and the underlying causes of their health challenges. With Dr. Hester as a health partner, patients can make positive lifestyle changes and take control of their lives...... see more
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41930 N Venture Dr #110
Anthem, AZ 85086