Body Composition: Defining Success

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In an effort to lose weight and excess fat, Americans spent billions of dollars for diet books, services and products. Yet, efforts such as these to achieve thinness are often based on misunderstandings about body weight and body composition.

Body composition refers to the proportion of fat and fat-free mass in the body. Those with a higher proportion of lean mass to a lower proportion of body fat have a healthy body composition. Lean mass is muscle, tissue, bone, water.

Being thin does not necessarily reduce one’s health risk. Thinness simply refers to weighing less than the recommended values in age-height-weight tables. What is most important to reduce health risk is having an ideal body fat percentage. Someone who is thin yet carrying additional fat (as determined by a test) are considered “skinny fat”.

Leanness, on the other hand, refers to the % of muscle and bone composition of your body weight. Muscular people with relatively low body fat may be overweight according to weight charts and Body Mass Index. But because they are lean (meaning ideal body fat percentage) , this decreases their risk for health problems associated with being over fat.

Success of your weight loss and exercise program is defined as achieving and maintaining a healthy BODY COMPOSITION not WEIGHT LOSS.

This is a better indicator of your overall level of health and success than number on the scale. How much of a person’s weight is actually body fat is one of the most significant factors in evaluating health. Your ideal weight is really a range of weights that is considered healthy, as long as your body fat is in the “healthy range. A body fat test will tell you what your body fat is. That is something I do with all new clients. Then armed with this information I can calculate what an estimated healthier weight is based on your current body fat percentage and a healthier percentage.

As we age our body fat tends to increase, and there is a loss of muscle mass. If you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body.

Muscle weighs more than fat and strength training increases muscle. So the scale may not be a good indicator of your success with your program. If you have been working out with weights and watching what you eat, the number on the scale may stay the same or even go up. But there is no need to worry about this. Here is a real life example. And here is another one. Notice how many inches and body fat they lost and how much strength (pushups) the gained.

The goal is to lose fat and maintain muscle and even build muscle. A more muscular body burns more calories per day, helping you manage your weight.

So body composition is a better indicator of your body’s health and fitness.

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