Why to Measure Body Fat & Finding A Body Fat Level That's Right for You

My goal this month is to measure body fat and to attempt to reach an 18% body fat without losing any inches off my hips, butt, or chest.

I will be following one of the toning and fatloss workout plans here on the site along with Jayson Hunter’s Carb Rotation Diet.

I am going to attempt to show women that you can lose fat while maintaining your curves IF you’re on the right workout plan and on the right eating plan.

Why Measure Body Fat vs. Just Weighing Yourself?

I haven’t measured my body fat in a very long time. It’s been so long that I can’t even remember but it was 21% last time my friend and co-worker Paulo used the Lange body fat calipers to measure me.

I suspect that I’m about 23-24% since our big move this summer of 2009, just based on how some of my clothes fit (not tight but not loose either). My weight has not fluctuated much since the fall of 2003.

I usually weigh anywhere from 118 – 122 pounds depending on what type of workouts I’m doing, how I’m eating, and how high my stress levels are. My life is pretty balanced right now so I wasn’t surprised when I stepped on my scale this morning and it read 119.7 lb. This is the reason I don’t rely on the scale much to determine how fat I am and you shouldn’t either.

It’s pretty much always the same for me and for many women it can fluctuate 6 pounds either way based on what you eat on any particular day, whether you’re on your period, how much water you’ve had to drink, etc. Your body can look totally different at different times of the week, month, year just based on different factors and this is why it’s more important to measure body fat from time to time than it is to use the scale every day.

Measure Body Fat with Scale, with Calipers, or Both?

I used the Omron Fatloss Monitor to measure body fat. The Omron (pictured here) is a bioelectrical impedance analysis device or BIA for short and according to this device my bodyfat is 24%.

Now based on my experience with BIA scales this reading can be off by as much as 2% but it still gives you a pretty good indication of where you are. We’ll see what the Lange body fat calipers say tomorrow.

Watch the video to see one of my coworkers measure body fat and see what a 3% loss in bodyfat and 1 lb. scale weight loss looks like in the video below.

What The Bodyfat Numbers Mean

It took me about 4 weeks of carb cyling to lose 3% bodyfat and I do feel that I perform and look better at 20% bodyfat.

Here's what the numbers mean: Bodyfat Percent Ranges for Women and Men

Essential fat for Women 8-12% Men 2-5%

Athlete range for Women 14-20% Men 6-13%

Fitness range for Women 21-24% Men 14-17%

Average range for Women 25-31% Men 18-24%

Obese range for Women 32%+ Men 25%+

Here's what my numbers mean: 119 lb. and 23% bodyfat means my body composition is 27 lb. of fat and 92 lb. of lean muscle. 118 lb and 20% bodyfat means my body composition is 23 lb. of fat and 95 lb. of lean muscle mass. So what really happened in 4 weeks? I lost 1 measly pound on the scale but I actually lost 4 lb. of fat and my lean muscle mass went up which means flatter abs and jeans that fit the way I like again. So scale weight really means nothing unless you have the full body composition picture.

How to Set Realistic Bodyfat Goals After You Measure Body Fat

Some fitness snobs would say that a bodyfat not in the athlete/fitness competitor range (between 10-13%) means you're a total fatty even though a reading of 24.4% is healthy and a reading of 20% is in the fitness range and much lower than most of the obese or overweight population.

The truth is only you can decide what is right for your body. I personally don’t feel the need to sport a ripped physique EVER! I never have and I never will.

I happen to like a more normal appearance or the Crazy Horse dancer look. When my bodyfat does get higher than 18-20% which is where I like to be then I don't freak out about it too much and know that I just need to tighten up my diet a little or at times a lot.

I can tell you from personal experience that sporting ripped manly abs to a dance audition at Crazy Horse would pretty much guarantee you would not get hired.

This used to be very important to me since I did dance for a living for 8 years so my goals are based on my dance background and my personal preferences. Your body fat goals need to make sense to you and only you.

Only you can determine what is right for your body or in the case of dancers, actors, or fitness competitors only the director or judges can decide! Check out the videos here and you decide what is a more realistic look for you.

To me the Crazy Horse dancer look or the more curvy Shakira look are much more appealing, plus both are much easier to achieve but if you like the Fitness Competitor look then you might want to get started with a workout plan like The Official Fitness Model Program.