Weight Loss….such a huge topic! Where to begin….Many, if not all of us, have at some point, struggled with weight gain/loss. To prove that point you only have to look around you. Not only do you see overweight people everywhere, but the market is also flooded with diet pills, potions, creams, diet fads, surgeries, and more. The “diet” industry is a mega money-maker. And, it all revolves around “weight-loss”.
There are so many factors involved when it comes to losing weight (and keeping it off!) I guess the first thing to determine is how much you “should” weigh. This is not necessarily an easy task.
Weight calculations are done differently for men and women. Some calculations take into account body frame size (small, medium, large). Some formulas involve being dunked in water to determine body fat percentages (Hydrostatic Underwater Testing). You can also measure body fat with calipers. This involves “pinching” various areas of the body like the abdominal area, triceps, or thigh to get the “thickness” of the skin. These measurements are then matched up to numbers on a chart. Measuring skinfold thickness with calipers can be tricky if you have different people measure you. The best way to measure is to have the same person measure you in the same spots under the same circumstances every time. This will give you a baseline. From here you can see if you are gaining or losing body fat. However, the skinfold caliper method is not super accurate. That’s why the measuring technique must be the same each time.
There are other ways to measure body fat as well. There is a method called Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) which measures fat through the resistance of electricity through your body fat. Another method which is relatively new is called Dual Energy Xray Absorptiometry (DEXA). This total body scan precisely measures your entire body composition including bone density and body fat.
And, there is the BMI (Body Mass Index) method of measuring body fat too. With this formula, you compare your body weight to your height. More specifically, it’s your weight divided by the square root of your height. A “normal” range for a female would be considered a BMI of 18.5-24.9. You can calculate your BMI at this link http://www.halls.md/body-mass-index/bmi.htm.
HOWEVER, while all these height and weight charts, electrical measuring methods, scales and mirrors are all lovely (and not very accurate!), they don’t take into account your MUSCLE. Muscle weighs more than body fat. Muscle is metabolically active tissue whereas body fat is not (meaning muscle burns calories!) It’s best to figure out your body composition. Find out how much of your body weight is actual lean muscle (called “lean body mass”) and how much is truly fat. Then, you can decide how much body fat/what body weight is a good level for you. Once you know where you are, you can determine where you want to be and formulate a plan to get there.
If you have between 15% -35% body fat, you can probably get a pretty accurate reading from a skin fold caliper I use one called “Accu-measure” which I bought from Bodybuilding.com. (You can also navigate to the “Supplements” Page located under “Fitness Store” to read more about Bodybuilding.com. It is relatively easy to use and, most importantly, you can do it yourself in the privacy of your own home. In addition to measuring your body fat with the calipers, you should also weigh yourself once a week. It’s best to do this at the same time every week with the same conditions every time also. In other words, every Thursday, naked, right after getting up. In addition to calipers and weighing, you should also take your measurements. At a minimum, measure your hips, waist, thighs, calves, and upper arms. Write everything down so you can monitor your progress. Using all of these methods together will give you a good overall “picture” of your status.
Now, for the second piece of the puzzle. Establish how many calories you need per day. You can use the Harris-Benedict Formula: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years ) to decipher how many calories your body needs at rest. Then, multiply by the activity factor that most applies to you. (Or, use the calculator: Harris-Benedict Calculator) Once you’ve multiplied the calories you need at rest by the activity level factor, you will know how many calories you need to eat on a daily basis to maintain your current weight. If you want to lose weight, you will need to reduce calories or burn some calories at the gym, or both. A pound of fat is 3500 calories. So, if you reduced your calories by 250 per day and you burned an extra 250 calories a day at the gym, that would be a 500 calorie deficit per day, or one pound of fat vanishing from your body per week.
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