Your body composition and body fat percentage are important measurements – especially when you’re following a weight loss program. You may be tempted to track your progress by stepping on the scale, but scales are inherently misleading: you could be successful in losing fat and gaining muscle without seeing your weight go down (in fact, it may even go up!).
Bathroom scales aren’t the only wrong way to track weight loss. Conventional medical doctors have been using an imprecise diagnostic tool to measure bodyweight and define obesity for years: BMI.
Body Mass Index (BMI): A Flawed Formula
The BMI approach to weight measurement is problematic because it doesn’t paint a full picture of overall health. Your BMI is calculated by taking your weight in pounds, dividing that value by your height in inches squared, and then multiplying that result by 703.
If this equation seems complicated and somewhat arbitrary, that’s because it is.
Functional medicine practitioners take a different approach. We believe that height and weight aren’t the only factors that should be used to determine a patient’s healthy weight. To get a complete picture, we need to recognize the other factors that shape body composition.
Factors that Affect Body Composition
Genes: Genes play a role in whether you are naturally lean or have a tendency to retain fat, including where fat is stored in your body.
Hormones: Hormones can influence appetite, water retention, and body fat distribution.
Sex: Compared with men, women generally have a higher percentage of body fat.
Age: People often lose muscle mass as they age, which can result in a slower metabolism.
If you’re looking for an accurate way to monitor your bodyweight in a manner that more fully recognizes your complete body composition, here’s what I recommend:
Keep Track of Your Body Measurements
Use a tailor’s tape to take your measurements. The common areas to track are:
- Chest – below the pectoral muscles
- Midsection – right across your bellybutton
- Hips – at the widest part
- Thighs – at the widest part
Notice How Your Clothing Fits
This may seem obvious, but paying attention to the way your clothes fit is a quick and easy way to identify weight changes or fluctuations. Are your favorite jeans getting tight? Did you need to buy a bigger size the last time you shopped for clothing? Be honest with yourself.
Visual indicators are a great way track any changes to your weight or overall appearance. If you’re following a weight loss program, progress pictures are absolutely critical. Since scales can’t determine how much of your total weight is comprised of water, fat, or muscle, even the most “accurate” reading is still incomplete.
Work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner
To really know if your body composition is healthy, you should work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner who can accurately determine your body fat-mass percentage to total body weight. Contact my office to schedule an appointment so we can begin to explore your unique body composition together.