I think we would all agree that the most common fitness goal is ‘I want to lose weight’. As a global nation our waistlines are ever more expanding, despite how much more we know about the consequences to our health of leading a poor lifestyle. Every gym has a set of weighing scales – Why?
There are many reasons for this (and I don’t want to get into them all here right now), but there is always two things that frustrate me about this phrase.
Firstly, I cannot tell you how many times I was ever asked in the gym “what is the best machine here to lose weight?” I mean, seriously? Are you kidding? The question actually implies that:
- There is one machine that is solely designed for weight loss and
- That one machine works for everyone
Clearly this is not the case.
And secondly that to ‘lose weight’ is not the correct terminology. Losing fat is more purposeful and contributes much more to health than simply weight.
You have to ask yourself the question – is the weight I am losing good weight? By this I mean that you could go on any crash diet and lose weight quickly, but it is more than likely that you have lost body water and lean muscle tissue.
Body fat is what we should all be targeting to lose, not weight. After months and years of inactivity and poor diets we accumulate adipose tissue on our bodies. This is the loose connective tissue that stores fat. Some of us will even store fat in our arteries which means that you won’t even be aware that you are over fat just by looking.
I was recently at my local GP for a health check and the first thing he asked me was to step onto the scales. BMI is still the main indicator of general health in society. Whilst I can accept that anyone who is sedentary with a poor diet will be overweight or obese on a BMI chart, the majority of over-fat individuals will generally have a normal range in BMI, so GP’s will not be totally aware of that persons level of health by just conducting a BMI test.
There are many ways that we can measure body fat. One of the most effective ways is hydrostatic weighing. Unfortunately this is a very expensive method and only limited places will have the facilities to conduct such tests.
Another is by using bioelectrical impedance. These come in handheld or combined as weighing scales and go by the principle that electrical conductivity of fat free mass exceeds that of fat mass. They are simple to use and very quick.
Lastly is the skinfold test. This test estimates the overall body mass that is fat by taking a skinfold measurement at specific sites of the body.
So we should not be completely hooked into thinking that weight is the main measurement of success. It is one way and important to measure occasionally, but to get more of an accurate indication of health then a fat measurement is the best way forward.