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The body fat percentage is not my friend. I remember first having my fat percentage taken when I was 17 years old. I was quite active and fit then and my fat percentage was around 18 %. That was a long time ago.
I finished my first Whole30 program a week ago (see my results) and once again stepped on my Omron scale (more about this scale later on in this post). The scale is brilliant, but I’m always scared of seeing the results – I’m actually more worried about my fat percentage than my weight. I don’t know why I thought that perhaps this time the numbers wouldn’t be so bad. They were:
Weight 75,6 kg (167 lbs)
Fat percentage 41,3 %
Muscle percentage 23,5 %
Why you should know your body fat percentage
You might be thinking:
I know how much I weigh – it doesn’t really matter what my fat percentage is. I just want to lose the weight.
This is true if you only want to lose the weight. Usually though when we want to lose weight, we really want to lose fat. There’s always the risk we might lose some muscle as well and that’s why we should always do some strength training when we try to lose weight:
To make sure that we keep the muscle and lose the fat.
Measuring body fat percentage is also a great motivational tool in your weight loss journey. Measure it when you start and along the way – it will be very rewarding to see the results.
What is a normal body fat percentage?
There isn’t really such thing as a normal body fat percentage. However, the American Council on Exercise has a body fat percentage chart that tells us about certain limits for healthy body fat percentage:
Chart source: American Council on Exercise
As you can see from the chart, I’m easily in the obese category (*sigh*).
BuiltLean has a really good article on what different body fat percentages look like in pictures.
How you can measure your body fat percentage
There are several ways to measure body fat percentage. You can go to a professional in a fitness center or you can measure it at home.
Measure body fat percentage at home
It is very easy to measure body fat percentage at home, but you do need the right equipment.
Online body fat percentage calculators
There are online body fat percentage calculators, but read on to see that they really might not tell you the truth. I tested a couple of online calculators and got these results:
Fitwatch calculator: 27,2 % (Hmm, not quite.)
Active.com calculator: 28 % (Nope)
HealthStatus calculator: 36,4 (Closer…)
BodyBuilding.com calculator: 45 % (Wow, I’m not there yet!)
Scales that tell the fat percentage as well
Now I already told you that I use my Omron scale (the sort of ”body composition monitor” type of scale) to measure my body fat percentage. There are other brands as well, but I can recommend this one. I bought it several years ago and have been very happy with it. At first I was skeptical if the numbers were true (hah, especially as they were so horrible) but then I got my fat percentage taken with some really professional equipment at a health center few years back (read more about what thoughts that experience provoked) and the numbers were very similar.
This scale measures the body fat percentage by sending an electrical signal through the body as you are standing on the sensors. The signal travels very slowly through fat and very quickly through lean tissue – that’s how the scale can measure how much fat and how much muscle you have in your body.
You need to purchase a skinfold caliper for this. I haven’t tried the caliper myself, I’m just posting this link so that you know they are available. I have however had a professional measure my fat percentage using this method and the percentage was very accurate (= similar to the numbers I had received from other methods).
The way you measure the fat percentage using a caliper is that you pinch the skin by pulling it and then measure the thickness of that pinch.
Measure body fat percentage by professionals
The above mentioned skinfold measurent can be done by professionals but you can also try hydrostatic testing. This is the probably the most accurate way to measure your body fat percentage, although there are new modern methods coming up. Hydrostatic testing requires you to sit in a tank filled with water. You then blow out all the air from your lungs and go underwater for a while. This method is quite expensive and perhaps not very practical, but if you’re really serious about this, then go ahead!
Final words on body fat percentage
I remember back at school over 20 years ago a teacher tried to tell us about a healthy diet. She said that when you bite a sausage, pretty much every third bite is pure fat. I didn’t eat sausages for several years after that. It’s creepy to think that almost every second bite of me is pure fat. I’m fatter than a sausage. That’s something to think about.
I guess my biggest problem is the fact that I’ve done some crazy diets in the past and due to yo-yo dieting have always lost muscle when dieting and then gained just fat as I’ve gained the weight back on. And this is the result.
It’s like I’m what they call a ”skinny fat”, without being that skinny. Just… fat.
Have you got inspiring stories to tell about how you have managed to lower your fat percentage? Also leave a comment if you too are struggling with your body fat.