26 July 11 BMI and Body Fat - There is a Difference

When you log your weight into MyNetDiary, our program automatically calculates your BMI (Body Mass Index) to help guide you toward a healthy ratio of body mass and fat. The original concept of BMI was first developed in the early to mid 1800s as a way to estimate one's body fat percentage. Generally, according to a BMI chart, being under 20 is considered being underweight and being over 25 is considered being overweight.

The BMI is a good indicator of body fat, but it is not the same as having your actual body fat percentage measured. BMI is a calculation that does not consider frame size or even gender. Clearly, every body is different, so your BMI may not completely and accurately indicate your true body fat percentage. But there are ways to measure body fat. Some are easy and cheap, and others require specialized equipment and technicians.

So why care about body fat percentages at all? Well, you certainly don't have to. The BMI is there to guide you toward a healthy weight. BMI is quick and easy to calculate, and it is commonly used by doctors and trainers to reference weight classifications. Knowing your body fat percentage, however, may be something to do quarterly, or even annually - just to compare the results to your BMI and check in that your weight loss is primarily fat loss.

Body fat percentages, like your BMI, can also place you into different categories of health and fitness. In fact, some believe it's a more accurate measure of health than your BMI. According to the American Council on Exercise, female athletic bodies range from 14 to 20 body fat (again, not BMI); athletic men range from 6 to 13 percent. Fit women are between 21 and 24 percent body fat, and fit males are 14 to 17 percent. Average women are 25 to 31 percent; average men are 18 to 24 percent. And obese women are over 32 percent body fat and in men it's over 25 percent.

You body needs fat. There's no way around that. It relies on it for insulation, energy storage, producing hormones and other metabolic functions. Those who have too little body fat risk their health just as those who carry too much of it. If a woman dips too low in body fat, for instance, she can stop menstruating and experience hair thinning or loss.

If you're curious about your body fat percentage, here are a few ways you can calculate it:
  • DXA Scan - a full-body x-ray of your body's make-up. This is the most accurate method of measuring body fat, and the most expensive.
  • Hydrostatic weighing - you may have seen this used on the hit television show, "The Biggest Loser." Services like the Bod Pod use water to measure (very accurately) body fat percentage. This portable service is making more appearances around the U.S.
  • Skin-fold calipers - Known affectionately as the "pinch test," this can be a do-it-at-home method, but the results are much more accurate if it's carried out by a trained professional. In fact, those who are skilled with skin-fold calipers can be 97% accurate compared to the methods previously mentioned.
What do you think about BMI versus body fat percentages? Will you get measured regularly or save it as a "reward" for hitting one of your milestones?

Ryan Newhouse

Ryan Newhouse is the Marketing Director for MyNetDiary and writes for a variety of publications. He wants you to check out MyNetDiary on Instagram!

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Weight Loss/Body composition

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