Body Measurements and What They Mean

The Obsession with The Scale

Many clients I have worked with over the years have had to work through their own perceptions of what the “ideal” size is for themselves. Oftentimes, referred to as their “perfect weight” or “goal weight.” I will tell you this right now, your ideal should not be defined by a single number or modality of measurement.

Psychologically, there has always been a certain level of negativity and misnomer when it comes to the number on the scale. Yes, it goes up and down for mostly concrete reasons, however, the number on the scale is not the sole representation of your health…or your size.

You have to break the psychological cycle of solely thinking about the number on the scale.

Determining your “ideal” healthy weight needs to involve considering a combination of several factors, including:

Body circumference measurements and how that relates to the lean muscle vs fat ratio of your body, which also affects the actual number on the scale, simple genetics and how that may affect how you wear your weight, when you have felt the healthiest and happiest, et al.

Measurements & What They Indicate

BMI (Body Mass Index)

This is a number that is based on your height and weight and how this weight affects your risk for weight-related health problems.  Certain aspects are not addressed by the BMI, like muscle mass or body fat.  Many experts argue against it’s effectiveness when used alone to determine whether an individual is at a healthy weight because it is solely based on height and weight, so it does not take into account the fact that muscle mass and bone weigh more than fat. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Body Fat

This measurement helps describe the composition of your body by giving you a percentage of your total body weight that is in fact, fat.  When you receive this percentage you then know the portion of lean body mass in pounds and the portion of fat in pounds.  The location of this fat is also significant and can be determined by taking the appropriate measurements.   It isn’t just about the total number on the scale because people with a lot of lean muscle mass may weigh more, but have less body fat which would make them in fact more fit.  Conversely, someone who is “thin” may have a high amount of body fat despite being lighter on the scale.

Body Shape

I am sure you have heard of the terms “Apple-Shaped” and “Pear-Shaped” – and even various others.  I think it is ironic that we are being compared to fruit when discussing our shape, however, there is something to be said about where we wear our weight.

  • Apple-shaped individuals are those who tend to carry their extra LBS around their mid-section.  This body type has a higher health risk for weight-related diseases like: high cholesterol levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
    • Although this appearance is oftentimes due to a genetic predisposition, things like increased alcohol intake, high levels sugary beverage consumption, and smoking can lead to excess stomach weight as well.  Increasing exercise and eating a healthier diet (duh!) are the best ways to reduce stomach fat and decrease these heath risks.
  • Pear-shaped figures are those who carry their weight in their thigh and buttocks area, although are not a serious health risks, they are more susceptible to varicose veins and orthopedic issues.

Some Notes I Share with My Clients

  • Remember that muscle burns more calories than body fat, so if you focus on building more lean muscle mass via exercise, you can increase your natural energy expenditure (which is your resting metabolic rate  (RMR) or the calories you burn each day at rest.)
  • Now, muscle weighs more than fat, so while you may not see the number on the scale go down, you will feel leaner.  This helps your clothes fit better because this toning decreases inches throughout the body.
  • Genetics are genetics, so seeing a doctor regularly to monitor things like cholesterol and blood pressure is important.  You may workout religiously and watch every single thing you eat and still not be in total control of your numbers.  Tis’ life.  But, that does not mean you should let things fall to the wayside!

Some Personal Goals to Consider

  • I think goal setting is an invaluable tool.  However, goals should be attainable and realistic.  After all, you want to reach them!
  • Setting both short-term and long-term goals can keep motivation high as you meet the little mile markers on your way to finishing the marathon, you still get that sense of accomplishment along the way.
  • Get selfish-  the goals should be about you!
  • For every physiological or aesthetic goal, there should be an immeasurable goal related to behavior changes, emotions/feelings, etc.
    • For example: I want to run 6 miles without stopping, I want to lose 2% body fat, I want to learn to eat   breakfast everyday, and I want to feel better in my own skin.
  • Physiological goals should take the thoughts above into account-most people say they want to lose 10 LBS but forget all about body fat, fitness goals, health, and developing positive habits.
  • Write them down and revisit them every week to stay on track.
    • To reinforce your commitment, tell someone significant in your life your goals and gain their support in achieving them.