Fork Fed: It’s NOT All About the Numbers

Post by Fork Fed

scale

Recently, I decided to measure my body fat percent on a body composition machine and boy oh boy was I nowhere near happy by the numbers. I’ve been going to my workouts religiously and watching what I eat, for the most part. My pant size has gone down 2 sizes, I’m much more toned and definitely stronger than I’ve ever been before. Why haven’t my numbers changed?? Here are some reasons as to why numbers do not really reflect that change that is DEFINITELY going on within you.

Equipment used to measure body fat percent is not always accurate!
The most common of all equipment to measure body fat percent is the bioelectrical impedance, and despite the fact that this machine is commonly available and easy to use, it is probably the least accurate way to measure body fat percentages. Bioelectrical impedance works by sending electrical impulses through the body and measuring how long they take to return; the quicker the return of the impulses are equates to a leaner body (fat hinders the movement of the impulses). This technique is not always accurate because hydration levels can also affect how fast the electrical impulses move through the body. The more hydrated you are the faster the impulses move; therefore if your body was somewhat dehydrated, you will be getting a false reading in regards to your body fat percent. The calipers are probably the most accurate, BUT you need to have a skilled person taking measurements and the measurements need to be taken in the same place at different times to ensure accuracy. It can be hard to remember the exact skin-fold that was measured previously.

The scale and BMI are the worst measures of weight loss.
Both the scale and body mass index (BMI) do not take your muscle mass into account. Therefore if you are someone that is working out and doing a lot of resistance training – you are building muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat. So, your weight might increase or stay the same regardless of the fact that you are actually losing fat and dropping in size. If you are not exercising and only restricting your food then using a scale to monitor your weight loss could actually be beneficial. Although to be completely honest with you, I do not like the term weight loss and prefer to focus on fat loss. Taking a look at BMI, it is a calculation of your weight and height. It does not take into account how much of your weight actually comes from muscle or fat, therefore it is the worst indication of whether or not you are at a healthy weight range.

The numbers may frustrate you, but don’t let them bring you down! Numbers do not always reflect everything. As long as you feel good about yourself, then that is all that matters. Make sure you are exercising, eating and sleeping well. Remember, any change you make should be a lifestyle one and not a temporary one. I hope this helps you if you’ve been let down by your weight.

Post by Hyatt Al Sayegh, a Clinical Dietitian and Dr. Sears Health Coach.
Founder of Fork Fed.

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6 comments, add your own...


  1. Ahmed says:

    A mirror is the best way to track progress.

  2. Wozza says:

    I had mine checked last week at Spark Fitness, they have a BodPod machine that is supposed to be highly accurate. I’m not sure it is though as it was five % different from the calipers!

  3. I’m starting to doubt all methods of measurements, but convinced that if you stick to one method then it’ll be easier to track progress.

  4. HAJ says:

    Numbers are suppose to provide a unified form of measurement. Any other non-numerical method is prone to bias based on varying perspectives (Who’s to decide what “looks good” really). On the other hand, you also have to keep in-mind the cost side of measurement; If we want a relatively reliable way and cheap method of tracking progress just take notes and don’t rely on machinery.

    Let’s be frank, who doesn’t have a smart phone these days…?
    Who doesn’t have their smart phone close by at any given point in time when they are about to consume something? If not take a picture of it first lol :D

    So… step 1: download one of the million available apps to track consumption; step 2: take note of every single thing you consume.

    Gather enough data to figure out your average daily consumption in terms of calories (overall point of reference) and the break-up of fat, carbs, sugar, and what ever else you want to measure on a daily basis.

    Then decide on your goal; 6-pack? (possibly lower fat consumption heavily and small decrease in overall calories)

    Lose stomach fat? Fit in a size-2 dress (drop down your overall caloric intake by 10-15% and maintain spread on nutritional values)

    Build muscle while losing some fat? (Bump up your caloric intake while bringing down the fat % consumption, possibly make up for it on the carb-side in your pre-work out meal)

    What ever you decide, adjust your in-take accordingly whilst balancing out the nutritional values.

    It’s not hard, requires a little bit of educating yourself on the basics of nutrition, get to know your body well and understand how it reacts to differently types of nutrition, and maintain as mentioned in the article routine exercise and proper sleep.

    It may sound tedious at the start, but eventually you won’t even need a tracking method and you’ll be able to adjust your in-take on the fly and get the results you want in due time.

    Stay healthy,
    -HAJ

    • Mark says:

      Not sure who you are giving tips to? The dietitian who wrote the post? In any case your why lower fat consumption heavily to get a six pack? It doesn’t have to work that way. My current diet for example involves HEAVILY increasing fat consumption so I could get my six pack. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketogenic_diet

      • HAJ says:

        Not directed to anyone in particular more than sharing my personal experience for the purpose of making a hopefully valuable contribution.

        There is as much variations between dietitians and their advice as there is between economists when analyzing the same situation and yet both can be hailed with prestigious recognition for having opposing arguments. Thus I believe the base case for anything diet related is getting to know your own body and learning how it operates while drawing your own conclusions.

        From experience and conversation with a relatively large sample size of gymnasts whom have managed to attain 6-packs over the past 9 year’s, it seems that reducing fat consumption to specifically not exceed 1.5g of saturated fat daily worked for a lot of them; worked for me personally too and I’m currently around 96kg @ 183cm. Therefore I decided to mention this in the original post with the “possibly” stance, and not “do this, it will work for sure!” ;D Also I forgot to mention that I was referring to lowering saturated fat and not unsaturated healthy-fat

        Keeping in mind that people start at different reference points. Some will be working top-bottom (overweight -> lean + 6p) and bottom-top (skinny -> gain weight + 6p) and I would venture and say the majority is top-bottom. Keto diet’s aren’t easy to follow and many people can’t get the balance right and end-up over consuming the incorrect balance of nutrition’s and see opposite effects.

        Here is an in-depth look at keto diets that might be useful;
        http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/keto.htm

        I personally haven’t tried any form of a keto diet and have no experience in them; they seem to be relatively new and have hit mainstream around 2014 so I’m not sure how much data there is out there on the usefulness and effectiveness over a large sample size.

        I know the basic idea of a keto-diet is to promote your body in burning its own storage of fat thus promoting weight loss; however the basic principles of a keto-diet have been derived from clinical experimentation and methodology based on epileptic children. The variables used in the underlying research may not align with variables found in your typical body building profile.


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