Sunday, April 18, 2010

Twist of Fat

Weekly weigh-in: 202.4
Loss: +0.9
Total loss: -90.3
Body fat percentage: 15.2
BMI: 24.5
Emotion: All-business

Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends.

It’s been a solid year on plan, but Act Two promises some fundamental changes in the program. This has become much less a weight-loss journey and much more a search for a fit and healthy future.

I’ve known all along that strength training wrecks havoc with my scale. Take this week for example (please take this week…). I had a solid enough week, with six days of exercise, one meal eating out and the rest of the time eating on plan, or close enough to it for government work. I even ran my ass off as I powered through a few more days of C25K.

And all that being good as gold earned me a crappy gain. Thanks for nothing, strength training!

Except I know better…

Greta from Big Bottom Blogger has been hounding me for a while to discount the numbers on the scale and start paying extra attention to body fat percentage and BMI.

But aren't we trying to rid ourselves of all the fat? Well, most sources agree that the human body requires a certain amount of fat for good health. Fat helps regulate body temperature, store energy and cushion and insulate organs. The percentage of body weight that makes up this “essential fat” is around 4% of body weight for men and roughly 10% for women. Beyond that, there’s a somewhat wide range of what’s considered a healthy percentage of body fat.

The American Dietetic Association recommends that men have 15-18% body fat and women have 20-25% body fat. Healthy male athletes might be as low as 5-12% body fat, and healthy female athletes could be as low as 10-20%.

Dr. C. Everett Koop's site,, breaks down healthy body fat ranges by both gender and age. Men under 39 years of age should have 8-19% body fat, and women under 39 years of age should have 21-32%. Older men may range from 11% to 24%, and older women may range from 23% to 35%.

The American Council on Exercise says men's body fat should be 6-25%, and women's should be 14-31%.

Doctors increasingly use Body Mass Index (BMI)–not body fat measurements–to determine whether or not a person is overweight. BMI is based on a mathematical formula using height and weight that estimates overall body composition. There are handy BMI calculators and tables all over the internet, so it’s easy enough to figure you can see where you stand.

Here’s the breakdown of BMI standards:

* Underweight = <18.5
* Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
* Overweight = 25-29.9
* Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

So… I’m still feeling my way with all these new metrics, these new ways to gauge my bearings on this journey. I’ll get comfortable with it all soon enough, I suppose.

There’s still work to be done.

And I’m ready to get down to business.


  1. Jack, I still focus on the "top number" (because I am a chick obsessed by the actual weight, regardless of what I know to be true, PLUS I still have a way to go.) BUT I do know that the week after a muscle % gain, I get a really good fat % and top number weight loss. All the numbers ALL move in the right just wait till next week, young man.

  2. There is some mileage in what people see as our ability to swap one compulsion for another. Although a compulsion to be healthy is better than one to overeat, I sometimes wonder if we dont get fixated on darned numbers, and what they do or do not tell us.

    We need a guide to keep us on the straight and narrow for sure, but at what point does it start taking over your life just as our consumate ability to stuff our faces did. I reckon if you pick on one set of numbers, and stick to them, - a set that suits you, you cant go too far off the beaten track. But heck - what do I know.

  3. I'm sure the reason we can so easily gain our weight back is because maintenance is so hard. Way to stay on top of things. BTW, are your measurements changing? My weight hasn't changed much the last 2 weeks, but my measurements have. Just a thought.

  4. They use BMI, in my opinion, because its quick and easy but unfortunately it can be terribly misleading. For example take a muscular guy with low body fat - using BMI he can easily come out as overweight or even obese.

    I'd stick to BF %.

  5. Echoing James, BMI is falling out of grace pretty quickly amongst nutritionists and health/weight/obesity researchy-type folks. It's an old measurement that doesn't reflect reality for people who are less than BMI-30. Your BMI is normal. But if you still feel like you need to lose weight, you actually need to lose body fat because that can layer under your skin and be really stubborn. The problem with BF% measurement is that it's tough to do accurately without climbing into a big ol' bodypod, but using the same equipment every week will at least give you a decent trend to work with.

    Enter mondo-strength training time to build muscle, which will be the only way to get that BF% down first, followed ultimately by weight (unless you get all Schwarzenegger'd). Otherwise if you focus only on weight through low cal and high cardio, you could risk your body not burning fat but instead muscle or bone for fuel.

    Frankly I look forward to having the issues you do today :) In the meantime I think a balance of the three numbers is the best way to think about it.

  6. I'll second what Lucy said. All the numbers will move in the right direction. Well done!

  7. From what I have read/heard BMI is not exactly the ideal way of gauging progress.

    Like others have mentioned, have you done any body measurements?

    Keep your head up!


  8. I still want to see losses on the scale, but I've come to terms with the number. The scale can't tell me how many miles I've run this week. It can't tell me my fastest mile time. It can't tell me that I'm working my ass off for a 10K. It can't tell me that I've recently converted to barefoot running and am re-training my leg muscles. It can't tell me that I can now do a push-up. It can't tell me so many things that I know I couldn't do last week or the week before, or the month before, or a year ago.

    I've made a commitment to myself and my sanity to be more than just a number and for some reason, it's liberated me.

    You're on week 4 of C25K now right? You're continuously running more than you've run the week before, more than you've run probably ever. You might still feel like your lungs are burning, but I bet if you re-do week 1, you'll feel an immense difference in both speed and endurance. There's so many things the scale can't tell you and we're all so much more than a weight.

  9. Just don't lose sight of what you have accomplished. Sometimes we get so excited for the future and goal-setting that we forget how far we have come.

    Even if it takes you awhile to get to where YOU want to be, body-wise, fitness-wise, you are a success and have already changed your life so dramatically. Not to mention being an inspiration :)

  10. I am to focused on the scale number and that is all. I know we all need to look at the whole picture but most of us don't.

  11. I too gained...but those numbers on the scale is what drives me....

  12. Jack, I don't know what your real name is. I'm not sure how much of this blog is your persona and how much is *you*. But you seem like a wonderful, caring man. You're hilarious too. If you you truly enjoy working out (cardio and strength enhancement) then do those. The numbers are all junk science, not one good study in the bunch can definitively be applied to all individuals. BMI, by the way, was intended to be applied only to populations, not individual people. For fun, start researching the history of fitness-seeking. It's an eye popper.

    I guess what I really want to say is: live now. Stop chasing numbers unless that happens to satisfy some OCD streak in you. ENJOY being alive everyday. Volunteer your finly honed physique at Habitat for Humanity or some other organization that needs people to lift and move objects (stack cases at a food shelter, for instance.) But spending your precious life, your minutes ticking away, concerned about a bunch of numbers?

    Put it this way. If you have the pleasure of being conscious on your death bed, are you gonna feel good down to your toes about the BMI, BF%, or muscles you worked on. Or are there, perhaps, other things you will leave as your legacy. It's not either/or. And maybe this blog is your great contribution. But typing doesn't really use those wonderful muscles you are what is your intrinsic purpose for building them? What are you really longing for, deep inside? Are numbers on man-made scales your driving force or are there deeper, more primal reasons you got into this amazing journey in the first place?


  13. Your post exemplifies why "Biggest Loser" drives me crazy. Those folks spend hours a day exercising, which you know has got to be adding muscle. Then when they don't lose as much as they "should" or are "expected" to lose, everyone is so disappointed, and surprised, including the TRAINERS, who should know better! Yes, the number on the scale can be very deceptive. That number is only a small piece of the picture, not the whole picture.

    You are doing great, Jack. You continue to inspire me with your wit and work ethic.

  14. I just want to throw something out here... I for one am worried about the scale. I think that ultimately I think about the scale because I believe that that is how I look.... I look like I am 230 or whatever.

    The BMI is what is going to kill me. It is what I should be really paying attention to. I went not long ago to purchase some life insurance. Of course the weighed me, but when I got the report back from the company... BMI is what they commented on. These people are like the casinos... they are in the business to make money and they are not going to bet on something that is not a sure thing. They want to make SURE that I am not going to die and have to give my wife a million bucks.

    My point is- if the insurance company uses BMI to try to figure out if I am going to die... that is what I am going to go by.

    Thanks Jack, and thanks Greta for bringing this up.

  15. If I remember correctly, the BMI scale was designed by an insurance company to gage rates for the obese people and nail them with higher premiums but...BMI is simply an extension of the scale, since your height doesn't change drastically on a daily basis (I'm personally shorter after 6pm), BMI change is just weight change anyway.

    I find that body fat became more important once I hit maintenance too. Maintenance people needs goals too! So I put away the scale and pulled out those nasty pinchers that squish your giggly bits.

    Strength training is brilliant but after a hard day on weights, I can literally hold 5lbs of water. That can make me play hot dog eating contest.

    Welcome to maintenance Jack isn't it FUN?

  16. It's because of all those stupid numbers that I bought a scale that shows me body fat % and hydration level. That way if I do gain weight, I can see if it is because I ate too much or just because I am holding onto water or gaining muscle.

    I personally feel that body fat % is more important overall than weight. I figure someone who is slightly "overweight" but has the right amount of body fat to muscle ratio is much healthier than someone who is "normal weight" but has too high of a body fat percentage.

  17. I think the most important number there is the body fat percentage. YOu need healthy fat. YOu need you age it's the first thing to go. Build those muscles and you will raise your metabolism..also weight bearing exercises build bone..
    written by the girl who hates weight training but does it anyway.

  18. See, i wish i was that smart with the BMI and stuff.

    I just go to the gym and work out and eat goods.

    Hey, we should do a challenge with pictures during maintenance. I mean, I have noticed you are doing strength training. I am also.

  19. any way you look at it jack, your 15.2% body fat percentage rocks! be proud, dude, that is better than most!

  20. Anne made me snorfle water out my nose.

    that and... jack, you are doing great. For me, I can't even count calories or points.. so paying attention to all those other numbers would drive me nuts.

    I have about 150 lbs to go to goalish zone.. so for now, the scale and my own physical fitness level are my gauges (I like what Jess said.. about knowing her body)

    When I get closer to goal, my guage will be clothing size, and my fitness level. I don't know what that size is yet.. whether it's a 6 or an 8 or a 12.. but I hope to know it when i get there.. and hope that by then, I'll finally have learned how to do this for life, and stop being the yo-yo that I am, and having the scale rule my life. yanno?

  21. Yes.


    Er, I just wanted you to know I always read, even if I'm not super chatty in the comments very often. Still inspired by you.

  22. you probably already know this (as jack knows eeeeverything!) but it sounds to me like you are on your way to finding a balance in living healthy..which I hear is the key to living happily.



  23. Thanks for the breakdown on body fat percentages. I know I still have a ways to go and need to knock off some more body fat, but it was really helpful to see the recommended differences between men and women.

    Although we all know that women are supposed to have more fat, it can still be discouraging so see that I have a percentage that is so much higher than my boyfriend. This really helps put it into perspective. Thanks, Jack!

  24. Since I'm the one willing to go where no one has gone mentally before-because I'm the only veteran-I'll do it.

    Sometimes all that fluffy psycho babble has a point. I have to recalibrate my identity. I resist on a lot of levels I don't want to acknowledge and frankly don't want to deal with.

    Never fear valiant leader. You do not need to meditate for an hour or stand on your head in repose. Probably just a healthy dose of confidence that YOU ARE GOING TO KEEP THIS OFF.

    Then again, it could just be your metabolism adjusting to your healthy BMI and stoking up the furnace fires. You're stellar Jack, not really Sh*t.

    And thanks. know.

  25. IMHO the BMI scale totally sucks, because it does not take muscle and fat into account at all. Body fat % is the key.

    The two measures are completely different. I only have 1% to go to get to the top end of a "healthy" body fat %, but 45 pounds to go to get to a "healthy" BMI. Screw that!

    Jack, you are doing fab. I hope the running is still growing on you.

  26. Made it! I've finished reading one of the most inspirational stories on learning to live, through getting to a healthy weight and becoming fit, in Blogland. It is also the funniest, I'm sure.

    Thanks Jack. I have resisted reading Men's Blogs/Journals until recently .... Too much testosterone, I don't need it.

    I'm glad I read this and will continue to follow on Reader.

    A few posts back you wrote about the Blogs that interest you so I've made a note to follow up on the Why's. I'm sure I'll learn a lot as I work through.

    I'm old if you're a teenager, ... that's OK with me. It's been a fine interesting life to date and hopefully lots more to come. Sometimes it's been more exciting than I wanted and a lot more painful than I would wish on anyone but there's also been a lot of fun. I like to live and that was easy when I was younger and simply overweight .... not perhaps optimal but I got by fine most of the time. Roll on the years and a whole lot of stuff and whamo! I'm morbidly obese, facing old age in a fat, fat shell. Not so much fun.

    I'm hoping that all you young things will be impressed and encourage me as I battle through. The way so far has been too much like a roller coaster but thanks to all the wonderful inspirational people in Blogland I think I'm getting to the place where I can confidently say this is forever. My progress may be slooooow but I am determined to never ever take one of those huge swoops up again.

    I've spent far too many hours stuck in this recliner reading your words and chuckling away between the thought provoking moments and the dead eye shots. I've just discovered it's lunch time, TWJ, my patiently loving husband is eating his. I still have to decide between eggs and lettuce or cottage cheese and celery. Don't feel sorry for me I like both.

    I'm away from here but I'll be around for the magic moment when you ride on by 100 kg gone.

    Blessings with the book you are going to write one day. You know you can't avoid it. Popular demand reigns.

  27. Looking good, Jack! Guess what would happen if you added 3 pounds of muscle this month and lost 3 pounds of fat? The scale would say the same thing...but you would be 13.8% fat. Magic! :)

  28. I will take you on in the weight room & then we can discuss it! :-)



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