Body fat measurements and the measuring tape are recognized as
superior methods for measuring "weight loss". When one
declares that they want to "lose weight", what they often
mean is that they want to lose fat. So, now that you have had your
body fat percentage measured, what does the number mean?
First, your body fat percentage is simply the percentage of fat
your body contains. If you are 150 pounds and 10% fat, it means that
your body consists of 15 pounds fat and 135 pounds lean body mass
(bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else).
A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat
regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and
tissues, and is the main form of the body's energy storage. The
following table describes body fat ranges and their associated
Council on Exercise
*General Body Fat Percentage Categories
Knowing your body fat percentage can also help you
determine if your weight loss goals are realistic. Remember:
weight loss does not always mean fat loss.
Let us say you are a 130lb woman with 23% body
fat, and you goal is to "lose 20 pounds":
Initial body fat: 130lb x 0.23 fat = 30 lb body
Lean body mass: 130lb total - 30lb fat = 100lb
lean body mass (bones, organs and all else)
Goal: 130lb - 20lb = 110 pounds
At 110 pounds, this woman still requires 100lb of
lean body mass (bones, organs, etc.), but would only be carrying
10lb of body fat, or only 9% body fat. The chart above shows this is
a dangerously low percentage for a woman. As you can see, the goal
of losing 20 pounds (in this example) is not healthy.
A better goal might be for the woman to reduce her
body fat from 23% to 18%. In this case:
130lb x 0.18 = 23lbs body fat
100lb lean body mass + 23 lb = 123lb goal weight
Therefore, for this individual to achieve a lean,
but healthy 18% fat, she would need to lose only 7 pounds of fat,
reducing her weight from her current 130 pounds to 123 pounds.
Before you decide that you need to "lose
weight", remember to consider that "weight" consists
of both lean body mass and body fat. Try to keep your weight loss
goals realistic and healthy, and remember, keep the calorie-burning
muscle, and lose only the fat.