Measures for Success

I found something that might interest the many, many people who made weight-loss resolutions for New Year.

Too many people focus on numbers on the bathroom scale to measure their success. We hear alleged ideal numbers thrown around all the time, but people rarely take into account their height and age. In fact, studies are showing that it’s better to be fat and fit than thin and unfit. I’ve also read recently that thin people in poor shape may have hidden fat; the fat hides inside muscle and around the organs rather than between the muscles and skin where we’re used to seeing it.

This same focus on the scale makes some people drop out of their programs. I’ve seen a few fellow students drop out of my karate school because they don’t feel it was worth the money or they didn’t lose any weight. They’re amazed to learn I lost 30 lbs my first year, but can’t figure out why it’s not working for them. Then I explain I also work out on my own at home (not to mention I show up for class far more regularly), and they’re disappointed.

“You mean this weight loss thing takes work? Aww, man.”

Some people then turn to body mass index, or their doctor and/or insurance agents rub it in their faces. Unfortunately this, too, is a fuzzy number as it makes no distinction between muscle mass and fat. When people described me as skinny, I weighed 185 lbs. I’m a little short, so my BMI worked out to 28.5 at that point, which is labeled overweight. In fact, to get down to a BMI at the upper limit of “normal,” I’d have to get down to 163 lbs, which I haven’t been since the 8th grade. It might have been a little more accurate at that time, but through high school and for a couple of years after graduation, I converted a lot of the pudge to muscle mass.

To get down to 163 lbs now, I’d probably have to cut off a leg.

Which is exactly why I’m glad I found this home body fat test. It takes into account your age, weight and gender, then looks at different body measurements to calculate an estimate of your lean body weight and your body fat percentage. If I was skinny at 185 and I’ve gained/recovered muscle while studying karate, my numbers looked pretty damn close, even allowing for a modest margin of error.

Keep in mind, however, this is an approximation of your lean body mass. In other words that would be your approximate weight at 0% body fat, which is not a realistic goal. The chart supplied with the test says as a white male, 15% body fat would be healthy for me. To get a target, then, I would just take the supplied lean body weight number and divide it by .85. (See that? Algebra comes in handy after all.)

As luck would have it, based on these figures my goal to lose another 20 lbs by October 1st is a realistic goal. Not too shabby. Maybe I’ll add the body fat test to my Weight Tracker worksheet and see how I’m doing from month to month.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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