Look beyond your scale to determine body fat, not weight

By MISSY CORRIGAN
Posted 11/15/17

From the time we are born, we are compared to a standard height and weight chart based on age and gender to determine our growth progress. This continues throughout our life as the result of these two numbers that make up our Body Mass Index. This …

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Look beyond your scale to determine body fat, not weight

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From the time we are born, we are compared to a standard height and weight chart based on age and gender to determine our growth progress. This continues throughout our life as the result of these two numbers that make up our Body Mass Index. This is an easy way to generate body fat percentage by just using height and weight, but this number doesn't paint the whole picture in determining potential health issues.

As we age, various factors including genetics, environment, physical activity level and nutrition intake shape and define our weight and our health.

For decades, the scale has been the determining factor for health risks. As a result, the scale has been given the power to influence our mood, attitude and self-worth.

The number on the scale includes your skin, bones, muscles, fat, organs, water, food recently consumed and anything that you are wearing at the time. It does not specifically identify how many pounds of that total weight is fat, muscle or water. It is just that, total body weight. There is no guarantee that if you lose weight or reach a specific number on the scale that you will be happy, healthy or a certain size.

Experts tell us that we need to be more concerned about body fat than body weight. And more specifically, focus on the type of body fat it is and where it is. That is because even though your weight may be normal, you may be storing large amounts of fat which may be harmful to your health.

While many people are genetically programmed to store fat under the skin, others lack these fat cells which leave fat particles to accumulate in and around the organs. This type of fat is called visceral fat, and it is associated with insulin resistance, metabolic diseases and heart disease.

Because abdominal obesity is a factor for serious health risks, experts suggest using the hip-to-waist ratio for a better determination. To accurately measure the abdomen, wrap the tape measure around the midsection just above the belly button. For the hips, measure at the widest part. Divide your waist size by your hip size for the final number. High risk is .9 or above for women and 1.0 or above for men.

Exercise and a healthy diet can help reduce abdominal fat cells and decrease health risks. Even those who are of normal weight can benefit from it as well. And because you cannot spot reduce any area of the body, it is best to train the entire body for an all-over benefit.

Unfortunately, all the crunches and situps in the world won't reduce the size of your belly, but it will make your abs stronger.

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at mcorrigan@ymcasumter.org or (803) 773-1404.