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How Fat Exactly Are You? - June 21, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Since starting this journey, learning exactly how much body weight I have stored as fat, has become an important aspect of my better health plan, to better understand exactly where I am, health-wise. Call it the scientist in me, I need to see concrete evidence in numbers of the damage I have done, and another way to mark my progress. I have read about scales that offer this element as part of a simple weigh-in, but when I actually bought one, it didn't work and I sent it back from whence it came.

Just now I came across something that is simple, versatile and best of all, FREE. The YMCA formula claims to be within 1-3% of accuracy, and for my purposes, that's close enough. I'm not ready to spend thousands of dollars on something that will only give me a small difference in percentage points for the sake of better accuracy. [Did I already say that the YMCA formula is free?]

Check this out and tell me you don't agree:
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • NUMD97
    Doctors' judgments ALWAYS override simple online calculators. PLEASE, folks, remember that. This blog was meant to entertain and stimulate conversation. It was never meant to replace clinical judgment on the part of the medical community.

    Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).

    End of public service announcement.

    2735 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/24/2012 11:18:04 AM
    Ok, so I used the calculator on the link and the result was "Obese". I am now very confused because I had a doctor appointment in April and she was not concerned with my weight. Any thoughts on that? Thanks!
    2736 days ago
  • NUMD97
    I subscribe to various medical links online, when I want a fast up-to-date review. This crossed my desk today about waist circumference, BMI and risk stratification that I thought might be of interest for our discussion (apparently still ongoing):

    2736 days ago
  • NUMD97
    OK, it appears that the "jury is still out" as far as using waist circumference exclusively as a predictor of obesity. As I originally said, it's just one more tool in the armamentarium in our fight to slay the obesity monster.

    Here's another interesting link from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition addressing just that issue:

    And, of course, the conundrum of BMI alone on fit people that does not take into account muscle mass, but I found this discussion interesting as well on a blog called (of all things), "Obesity Panacea" emoticon put out by a clinical exercise physiologist and a doctoral student researching the relationship between sedentary time and chronic disease risk in children and youth:

    [I hope I'm not being too obtuse here.]
    2744 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/15/2012 9:20:16 AM
  • NUMD97
    I agree with what you are saying, Catherine, that a 35-inch waist will not conform to the same body fat percentage on *all* body types, but it does seem to be the least common denominator in saying that on no one (or at least close to that), is a 35-inch waist going to be healthy. I think that was all the article was trying to bring out about that point.

    Thanks for your input.
    2760 days ago
    according to this calculation/site I'm in the okay range, so I'll take it
    2761 days ago
    Yes, greater than 35 is a problem. BUT having a waist that is less than 10 inches smaller than the hips (the classic proportion for an hour glass figure), does not make you fatter than that person with the hour glass figure. So a 28 inch waist (for example) could mean extra fat on one person and not on another.

    If all you are doing is trying to determine if your weight is healthy, go with the 35 inch waist, but don't assume that it necessarily correlates to the same body fat % on all body types.

    I'm probably not being clear here, but setting boundary above which most people are over fat and using waist size to calculate body fat % (where you don't know the person's proportions) are apples and oranges.
    2762 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/27/2012 7:25:00 PM
  • NUMD97
    "Wide waists" for a woman does not seem like merely a "normal size" issue, especially if the circumference is greater than 35 inches. This assumes one is measuring accurately.

    I delved further [The following is taken from The National Heart Lung And Blood Institute (seems to be a division of the National Institute of Health]:

    "Waist Circumference

    Measuring waist circumference helps screen for possible health risks that come with overweight and obesity. If most of your fat is around your waist rather than at your hips, you're at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk goes up with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men. To correctly measure your waist, stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones. Measure your waist just after you breathe out."
    2762 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/8/2013 10:59:31 PM
    seems simplistic. Some of us just have wide waists.
    2765 days ago
    It gives me exactly the same % as my Tanita Body Fat scale.
    2765 days ago
    I must need a professional to measure me. It's telling me I'm "acceptable" but close to obese, and that's definitely not true. I'm experiencing amenorrhea, and my doctor just told me I need to GAIN weight because I don't have enough body fat. Interesting to try that formula anyway, though. Thanks for the link!
    2766 days ago
    I think having it measured so you have a start point is a good idea, and a motivator. I use a handheld bodyfat monitor, and while not super accurate, it gives me data that is good enough to spot trends. However, honestly, I think using a camera, mirror and taking pictures is probably the best low tech method around. It's very motivating, and you can see changes that you won't see with numbers alone.
    2767 days ago
    It's a conundrum.

    On one hand, it's really body fat we're trying to drop.

    Yet on the other hand MEASURING or even accurately ESTIMATING body fat can be hard.

    Despite that I still think it's worth trying to estimate and track changes in it.

    I've written two of my own blog posts about the subject...

    About measuring and estimating % body fat

    About trying to track changes in body composition

    Some people use photos:

    And some people just use a measuring tape.

    In my case I suspect the formula overestimated my % body fat by quite a bit (28%). At this size and weight and similar physical condition DEXA put me at 19% in January 2010. (I'm wearing the same clothes as I did when that measurement was taken.) FWIW my average BIA number at the moment is 19.34.

    The only explanation I have is that because I'm a kayaker I have an unusually developed core which means I might have muscles around my waist that they didn't anticipate.
    2767 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/22/2012 2:01:23 PM
    Hmmm. If I put in my old weight of 230 pounds and my old waist measurement of 36" I score "fit".

    I'm wondering about that . . .

    At 142 pounds and 28" I'm "athletic" . . . that feels more accurate.

    (Tripped across this blog from mutual friend PHEBESS's page: thanks for the link!)
    2767 days ago
    How useful, thank you
    2767 days ago
  • OOLALA53
    Personally, I think the emphasis on bodyfat can be as misleading as BMI, though for MOST people BMI is relatively accurate (excluding bodybuilders, as noted above, the very tall and the very short). It's a world wide measurement. Too many weight loss advocates aim at bodyfat that is too low, IMHO. In many countries where health is good, women are at 25% bodyfat which is high by our standards and not considered "fit".

    Also, I don't know if I used this incorrectly but it underestimated my bodyfat. I have had underwater weighing and the new gold standard, DEXA, plus calipers done at various times in my life. I know what my weight was and how certain clothes fit and I know my bodyfat is at least 5% higher than this measure showed. But maybe I used it incorrectly? It didn't even ask my height! I think if I were several inches taller I could still have the same waist measurement and have much lower bodyfat.

    I gave up on this weight and that bodyfat and committed to moderate eating over two years ago. Weight loss was not my first goal, but I I reached the high end of my BMI range a few months ago and am holding steady. I've definitely been thinner but lived in fear of food and eating situations and had to ice my knees almost every day. I'm much happier now!

    But, as you say, this is acceptable. Besides, waist measurement is a better indicator for health purposes anyway.
    2768 days ago
    I found this helpful. Thank you!
    2768 days ago
    Interesting - thank you for sharing.
    2768 days ago
  • NUMD97
    Thanks for stopping by, LILY_SPARK. Perhaps you'll come back and see this, as I can't leave a note on your page since it's marked private.

    Thanks for your input. So that's one for the "no" column.

    This is going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

    All the best,

    2768 days ago
    It's great that it's free but I've found the YMCA calculations run VERY low.

    These are free, too, but you do have to have a smartphone:

    If you have access to iPhone (don't know if droid has these apps), I run my measurements through FOUR calculators. I take the highest THREE, add and find the median. If I use all 4, it comes out lower. I don't want a false--"good." I want the truth.

    I use these apps:



    It takes a lot of measurements and a little maths to get accurate data but I'M WORTH IT. LIFE is WORTH it. You're worth it!
    2768 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 1:54:42 PM
    Thanks for sharing this! It made me wonder if my goal for weight loss has been set too low. According to BMI, I need to lose another 5-8 pounds to reach the upper middle of my normal range. According to the YMCA body fat tool, I'm at 19% body fat and in the "athletic" category!

    Food for thought!!

    PS. Just thinking about this some more, I imagine the reason I got such a low reading is because I have a small waist. So those of us who don't carrry our weight around our middles are going to have lower numbers.
    2768 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 2:07:57 PM
    Oh, my!! I have a lot of work to do!! This is a very helpful tool. I had never really calculated the numbers before, it's a real eye opener as to where I am and where I need to be.
    Thanks so much for posting this.
    2768 days ago
    I have a scale that claims to calculate percent body fat. It fluctuates by 4-5% from day to day and even though I've lost 50 pounds I appear to have lost only about 3% of body fat. If 50 pounds is 3% of my body (let alone body fat), I must have weighed 1,650 pounds! Needless to say, I have no faith in that number and don't pay attention to it.

    2768 days ago
    Hmmmm - this formula shows at 24% body fat while the electronic calculator has me at 27.8%, so I guess that is close to +/-3% difference.

    BMI is not a measure of body fat. In fact it is a quite imprecise measure as it doesn't take into account body composition (ie. % body fat). By BMI measures I was obese when I was a body builder at age 21 and had 10% body fat. If you are ST at all, % body fat is a much better representation of healthfulness.

    Thanks for posting this, I also like data and will continue to check it against the fancy tools.

    Stay Strong
    2768 days ago
    Thank you. I don't like being called obese, but it is what it is. Maybe more motivation.
    2768 days ago
    Thanks for posting this!!
    2768 days ago
    Awesome, thanks!
    2768 days ago
  • NUMD97
    Thanks for confirming that the freebie the YMCA provides matches your electronic gizmo, TAMPATINK67. That's exactly the kind of result I was hoping for!
    2768 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 8:19:48 AM
    Interesting... It matches my expensive electric tool! That's pretty cool!!!

    Crazy thing is, it lists my category as "acceptable"... Not obese! I won't be out of the obese BMI category for another 10 lbs - but looking at percent body fat is another great metric and something I regularly track.
    2768 days ago
  • NUMD97
    Interesting question was asked: This is not the same as BMI calculations. According to what I just found on the web, this purportedly is a better index of internal fat than the BMI.

    See the link below for more information about the study comparing BMI and waist circumference:
    2768 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 7:39:02 AM
    Thanks for the calculator- definitely a great way to measure progress!
    2768 days ago
  • KARL1266
    Is this the same as BMI? If so, this will be a great tool to backup (or dispel) my scale as it gives me my BMI as well as weight. Thanks!
    2768 days ago
  • BOSS61
    Way cool and thanks!
    2768 days ago
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