Tag Archives: BMI

Body Fat Percentage (BFP) or Body Mass Index (BMI) ?

Those digits can deceive, making you feel pudgy when you’re not or giving you false slim-security. Use BMI or body-fat percentage (BFP) to suss out your true fatness. We’ve got the skinny on the way that’s right for you.

Reality check: Body-fat percentage

Who it’s for:  Athletes or fitness fanatics who might be dubbed overweight by BMI because their muscle mass makes them naturally heavier. BFP is also a wake-up call for “skinny fat” women, whose BMI is fine but who, because their muscle tone is zilch, could have dangerously high body fat, which can increase the risk for diabetes, heart disease and other serious ailments. (Not either? Anyone can use it to gauge her body fat.)

How it works: The easiest way to get an accurate BFP reading is a skin-fold test. Calipers (they look like long prongs) measure thickness near your hip and at your thigh and triceps.

Where to get it: Many gyms offer the test gratis to members, or you can ask your doc to test you.

What your number means:

  • 14-20% Oh, yeah! You’re athlete-level fit.
  • 21-24% Sweet. You’re in great shape.
  • 25-31% OK, but your health risks may rise; up your strength training.
  • 32+% You’re actually obese (even though you may not look it).


Reality check: Body-mass index

Who it’s for:  Workout novices who need to lose a lot of weight in order to get fit, says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. As you shed major pounds, you’ll see your BMI go down–an encouraging sign that you’re on track. BMI also helps average-weight, average-muscle-tone folks get a snapshot of their health. (To know your actual body fat, you need to use BFP.) But if you’re just looking to drop a size, skip this calculator. Replacing a few pounds of fat with muscle won’t always change BMI, and you may think you’re not progressing when you are, McCall notes.

How it works: The formula takes how tall you are and how many pounds you carry, then estimates if you’re at a healthy weight.

What your number means:

  • 18.4 or less Underweight. You actually need a little fat to be healthy.
  • 18.5-24.9 Normal weight. You’re in the zone.
  • 25.0-29.9 Overweight. Health risks rise in this range.
  • 30+ Obese. Time for a major body transformation!






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Skinny Fat

The Swapawful Conversation

Me:  I AM FAT! Ugh.

My Girlfriend: Stop it! You’re so thin! You’re like a size 4! Geez….

Me: (More like a 6, what is she blind?) No, really, I’m fat. Look at this (jiggling my fatty waist as evidence).

(This argument goes on for several minutes until the comfortableness of directing attention to our problem spots subsides.)

The Skinny

Just because one looks skinny, doesn’t mean they’re not packing on the fat. Thin people can still have high levels of visceral fat, as well as fatty organs. Visceral fat accumulates internally primarily around the outside of organs such as the heart, liver, spleen, and in between the intestines. Having fatty organs can still put thin people at risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and certain cancers. Causes of internal obesity have been attributed to impaired triglyceride/cholesterol metabolism increasing fat accumulation in your liver; excessive intake of fatty foods; or more commonly, eating more calories than the body uses.

How Fat Affects Your Organs

There is no evidence that fat on the inside is riskier than having fat on the outside. What is known is that it is just as comparable to causing hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

  • The liver. The liver is the body’s filter.  It converts and clears the blood of toxins.  When the liver is fatty, it doesn’t work very well as a filter.  Poor liver function has been linked to increased glucose production (diabetes), and affects overall health.
  • The ovaries. Women’s ovaries are crucial for reproduction because they produce eggs and also secrete the hormone estrogen. Problems can arise in the ovaries when too much fat is involved. Investigative studies are currently being done regarding fat around the ovaries and how it relates to pregnancy and fetal growth.
  • The heart. Although visceral fat resides in the abdomen, it can actually be hurting the heart. Research done on mice found that inflammation surrounding individual fat cells can contribute to atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of the heart’s arteries, and can lead to blood clots. The heart, and the arteries in general, can also be harmed by triglycerides.
  •  The brain. Much more research needs to be conducted, but scientists have found that excess visceral fat may affect brain health as well. Specifically, it was discovered that people with a larger waist and waist-to-hip ratio along with larger body mass index (BMI) have a lower total brain volume. What this really means and whether there is a correlation between abdominal fat and dementia need further investigation, but for those who carry excess weight around the middle, losing a few (or more) pounds makes sense.

Regardless of whether you have internal or external fat, treatment for either is the same.  Eat a healthful diet, weight train, and include cardiovascular exercise in your daily/weekly regimen – a must for this skinny-fat girl!



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Picture of an Obese Teenager (146kg/322lb) wit...

Image via Wikipedia

Body Mass Index is an indirect measure of body fat based on weight and height.

Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)]2x 703

Calculate BMI by dividing weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.

Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5’5″ (65″)
Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96


Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

According to the BMI weight status categories, anyone with a BMI over 25 would be classified as overweight and anyone with a BMI over 30 would be classified as obese.

It is important to remember, however, that BMI is not a direct measure of body fatness and that BMI is calculated from an individual’s weight which includes both muscle and fat. As a result, some individuals may have a high BMI but not have a high percentage of body fat. For example, highly trained athletes may have a high BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness. Although some people with a BMI in the overweight range (from 25.0 to 29.9) may not have excess body fatness, most people with a BMI in the obese range (equal to or greater than 30) will have increased levels of body fatness.

It is also important to remember that weight is only one factor related to risk for disease. If you have questions or concerns about the appropriateness of your weight, you should discuss them with your healthcare provider.


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