Body Fat Ridiculousness

Body fat, body fat, body fat. Knowing your percentage of body fat is a great way of estimating your overall “health”. This fun little number determines how much lean vs. fat mass you have on your frame, what category you fall into (athletic, average, overweight etc) and therefore the health risks associated with that.

Body Fat

I personally adore  getting my body fat done. I love knowing where I stand on the scale and have come to know at exactly what percent I can see certain definition in my muscles. After all, a scale weight doesn’t tell me much about my body. But that’s not to say that all body fat methods are reliable…

I’m sure many of you have been to a gym and stepped upon a Tanita machine. Or maybe one of the at home versions which resembles a regular scale that you have to step upon barefoot. Or how about the hand held one that is just starting to grace markets? The point is, there is a few different variations… and they all suck.

These machines are called “Bioelectrical Impedence Analysis” machines. Essentially the way it works is that you enter your weight & height, then when you step upon the machine and it sends a weak electrical signal through your body. This signal estimates the amount of lean muscle,  total body water and fat mass you have on your body by finding various resistances- which depends on the density of the muscle, the amount of fat encountered and the hydration of the tissues. All of those numbers are then calculated based on your body weight. Essentially, the slower the electrical current, the more fat there is present and vice versa.


Sounds practical right?

But what if you haven’t had much water intake that day? What if you just worked out? Weighed yourself at a different time of day? All of these things come into play with this machine, making it unreliable.

The guidelines for BIA machines are as follows:

  • Avoid exercising within 12 hours of the test
  • Abstain from eating and drinking within 4 hours of the test
  • Void (urinate) completely prior to testing
  • Do not drink alcohol within 48 hours of the test
  • Avoid taking diuretics prior to testing unless instructed by your physician


If all of these rules must be adhered to in order to provide semi-accurate results, what the hell is the point?!

My favorite is the water levels. Say you’re  bit dehydrated that day.. when it sends the electrical current the signal slows down indicating you have more body fat than you normally would. Depending on where a woman is during her cycle, she could be retaining extra water (or the opposite) which would also skew the results. So now you have to ensure you’re consistent in your menstrual cycle too?!? Just to learn that you have a high- inaccurate- body fat percentage? Screw that!

One of the other things I have recently been looking into is the new hand held machines you can purchase. I can see the appeal. Quick, on the go results!! But I stumbled across a bit of information about that…

Body Fat Hand held

You see, when you stand on the machines is sends the current through one leg into the other, completing a circle. This evaluates mostly the lower body believing that because it is a larger group of muscles they gives an “average picture”. That in itself is bullshit. What about the abdominal area? But the same applies to the hand held ones that send the signal arm through arm and evaluate mostly upper body mass. This is in no way close to an accurate representation of body fat or health!

In the last two weeks I have tried two of these damn machines. I know full well my body fat is 16.2%. I’m willing to give in that I might be in the range of 15-17.

The first one I tried was a hand held one which told me I was a fun 12%. Really!? I should be stoked! I should be in figure competitions if I’m 12% without trying!!! But alas, I’m not. Since this was a hand held one and took a reading from my upper body only, I can see where the 12% came from I suppose, but my entire body is still not 12%.

What closer to 12% looks like

What closer to 12% looks like

Bring on the scale. A basic scale you can have at home that tells you your body fat%- it told me I was 27%. Overweight. Really?!? REALLY?! Alert the population, did you know that you can be overweight and still have a full set of abs showing?!!? ** insert pissed off, ridiculous face here**

So through trial, error and common sense, I have learned not to trust these lovely BIA machines. Not only are the inaccurate but they normally make you feel like crap. If you really want to know your body fat percent, find someone qualified to do your callipers- this is the next cheapest option.

So that’s the rant for today. Now it’s time for this obese girl to get her ass into a workout 😛