I want to weigh “x” lbs. I want to be a size “#”. How much do I weigh? How much Should I weigh? What are my measurements? What is my Body Composition?
Most people I meet are quick to tell me the first two statements above, and it is usually assumed that I should know how much one “should” weigh. When asked why someone wants to weigh a certain number or be a particular size, the answer is usually along the lines of “I weighed that much in high school/college (insert chosen time of life here)” or the explanation reveals the number/size “sounds good” (often based on years of having read the weights of models/celebrities, who we don’t know in person, but see an image portrayed in print or on screen). This of course isn’t at all taking into consideration height or genetics, let alone at what point an individual actually Feels and Functions great!
Measurements and body composition (along with a good visual and chat) tell me a lot more about your health than does scale weight or clothing size. Most people have had some measurements taken at one time or another, but body composition is often a foreign concept. Scale weight is an easy way out as far as I see it. In school or at the doctor’s office, we get weighed and someone with some BMI chart (I’ll rant about this another time!) tells us if we are over or under weight or if we’re “just right”, like this is some Goldilocks fairytale!
So what is body composition and why is it so valuable? Body composition refers to how much lean tissue (muscle, organs, bones) and fat tissue we are comprised of. We all require a certain amount of fat to be healthy and because ladies are designed to carry babies, we get to also carry a higher percentage of body fat to be healthy. There is no magic number that’s right for each gender, as it depends on personal goals/preferences and how the muscle and fat are distributed on each individual. However, body composition (both muscle mass and fat mass) is an important variable to pay attention to
and a great one to create goals around!
Let me share a personal example. In 2003 I reached a personal low (scale) weight that I’d only achieved one previous time in my adult life. I had my body composition done and discovered my body fat was at a respectable level, but nothing to write home about. Over the next few years I worked diligently on various aspects of my fitness and health. In 2007 I again reached the particular scale weight I’d been so excited about before. However, this time when I had my body composition tested, the results were vastly different. On the
scale the number was less than 2 lb. different, but that is where the similarities ended! I had lost 8 lb of fat and gained 6.5 lb of muscle, with the net result of losing nearly 7% body fat!
If you’re wondering if I looked “bulky” with all that extra muscle, I can assure you I did not! I looked leaner and better proportioned and felt more fit and had less physical discomfort (chronically achy neck, and back were no more!) than I had at any prior time in my life! I felt strong, small, fit, and generally fabulous!
Next time you’re looking to “lose weight” or otherwise make changes to your physique, make an appointment with a knowledgeable fitness professional and record some important baseline data about where you are currently at. The four variables I use to objectively track changes over time are: scale, measurements, photos (front/back/both sides, and often a “flexing” photo or two), and body composition. Enjoy the freedom and pride of accomplishment that comes from learning to look beyond simple scale weight to determine if you’re “where you should be”. Listen to your body, track your variables, and enjoy the process of change!
To Your Best Health!