Your Lean-to-Fat Ratio is More Important than BMI

Patient Expert

Beyond the Scale: Body Composition
My scale is a liar. This is not a statement of denial about my weight, nor is it a confession that I believe I have a talking scale that is out to get me. The simple fact is that my scale lies to me.

It is one of those digital models where the weight flashes in oversized, brightly illuminated numbers. The problem is that it can't make up its scale mind as to exactly what weight it should flash in those oversized, brightly illuminated numbers. It reads out a weight. I step off and then back on again and it reads a different weight. I move the scale to another area of the bathroom floor and get yet another reading as to how much I weigh.

I change the batteries and repeat the whole procedure, but the result is the same. My lying scale flashes a sequence of conflicting weights. When I get two identical readings, I assume that is my actual weight. To state the obvious, it's time for a new scale.

Then again, if you want to move beyond the read out of your lying scale (and BMI charts) and focus on detailed measurements, you can have your percentage of body fat measured.

Your Body Composition
Body weight scales do exactly as they advertise: They measure your total weight. What they do not do is measure the lean-to-fat ratio of that weight. Those who have an athletic composition get a simple body weight from a standard scale that belies their fitness. They may weigh in and get a number that lands them in the overweight column on a typical BMI weight chart because standard scales do not identify what percentage of your weight is fat and what percentage is muscle.

Conversly, if you are like me, you could be fooled by your scale and the BMI charts into thinking that you are healthy. The reality for me upon getting a BodPod body composition analysis is that my fat to lean muscle ratio is too high. Based on body fat, I am in the obese catagory even though the BMI charts put my weight in the normal category. This is because I have visceral fat and it puts me at risk for a number of obesity-related diseases even though I don't have any adipose tissue after my plastic surgery and I am wearing size 2 super skinny jeans. Yes, I look thin and healthy.

The main components of your body are fat; the lean body mass of muscle, bone and organs; and water. How much of each varies between individuals.

Gender can be a factor. Men have more muscle than women and women have more fat than men. Age is another factor because we have less muscle mass when we grow older.

Your Ideal Body Weight and Percentage of Body Fat
Once again, there is a difference between genders, but the minimum percentage of body fat that is considered safe and healthy is 5% for men and 12% for women. The average body fat is about 15 to 18% for men and 22 to 25% for women. Mine is 30%. Before my trainer did my BodPod, she looked me up and down and predicted that my body fat percentage was in the low to mid 20s. She redid my BodPod the following week and the result was the same.

Both too little or too much body fat can be harmful. There is a substantial correlation for illness and disease for men with over 25% body fat and for women with over 32% body fat.

Too little body fat also can be problematic. Using extreme measures to reduce body fat can lead to severe health problems. Low food intake causes nutrient deficiencies and fluid imbalances that can lead to greater risk for fractures, illness, and dehydration.

I want to reduce my body fat percentage. So, I have been kicking it at the gym since January when I was medically cleared from my plastic surgery recovery. I ran my first race this week and have signed up for a mud run in May. I am also on week three of the Whole30 program. More on these topics in future shareposts. Please stay tuned

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The Center for Medical Weight Loss