Body Fat % vs. Healthy Weight

by Stephanie on June 16, 2011 · 2 comments

in Weight Loss

Despite being pretty active, I have been overweight (obese by BMI standards) for several years.  Last year I had my turning point and decided to change that for the sake of my health.  I talked to my doctor and she thought that 150-160 would be a good healthy weight for me to shoot for.  This is in line with what a healthy BMI would be for me.  Okay, goal set.  I have been slowly inching my way there over the last 10 months.

Last week the owner of a local nutrition and supplement store (who is a Certified Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer) came to work to do a BBU (Brown Bag University – informational lunch seminar series) on sports nutrition.  I’ll go into his advice in another post but the important part for today is that he mentioned a free assessment that his store offers that gives you body fat %, lean body mass, fat mass, daily caloric requirement, and all kinds of other data.

I thought, free assessment?  Why not!  So I went in to get one and the information they gave me challenged everything I thought I knew about weight.

Here are my stats from the free assessment (6/13/2011):

Weight: 224 (not a fan of their scale, but okay)
Body Fat: 33% (ewww)
Lean Mass: 150 lbs
Fat Mass: 74 lbs

Now, lean body mass is basically everything but fat.  It includes skin, bone, tendon, and muscle mostly and muscle is really the only variable factor in this number.  You can’t raise it but building more bone!

The guy doing my assessment asked me what I thought a healthy weight would be for me.  I said 150-160 of course. He told me to consider this:

If I weighed 150 lbs right now, I would be at 0% body fat.

Huh.  That’s not realistic.  And now that I’m thinking about the numbers, I have 150 lbs of lean mass?  That’s a lot.  Then he asked me to consider something else:

Why would I ever want to lose muscle?

My initial thought is that I wouldn’t.  Muscle is good right?  Muscle makes me strong and athletic, it makes me look toned, it burns more calories.  Isn’t losing 1-2 lbs per week a guideline because if you lose faster than that you are losing muscle in addition to fat?

He explained that my aim should be to maintain my muscle mass and lose only fat.  This is done through proper nutrition (which I’ll explain in another post) and a combination of weight training and cardio (nothing unrealistic, just normal exercise).  Actually, based on my body composition and my exercise regime, which we discussed, they even gave me the correct number of calories to eat per day to lose 1.5 lbs per week.  Here’s the kicker:

If I lose only fat, at a reasonable rate of 1-2 lbs per week, at 185 lbs I will be 18% body fat.

185?  That’s the realistic weight for me?  My brain is still spinning.  That’s HIGH.  Massive improvement over my current situation but way higher than my envisioned ideal weight.  Look at the other side of it though.  18% body fat is really good.  I would be ecstatic about that.  The guy also pointed out that since I’m losing fat I’ll see major shrinkage and positive change in my body by doing this.

All of this is hard to swallow because it’s such different thinking than what I’m used to.  It makes sense and doesn’t at the same time.  I believe that 185 lbs and 18% body fat is healthier than 150 lbs and 33% body fat. My question is this:

Would I be healthier losing some lean mass and ending up at 150 lbs and 18% body fat?

I ask this because back when I was State qualifying swimmer in high school I weighed 135 lbs and was pretty darn fit.  I don’t expect to weigh 135 lbs right now but 150 seems realistic.  I have a hard time believing I’m healthier at 185 than at 150, assuming I am fit and strong.  Understand that my goal is not a body builder’s physique.  I want to trim down, tone up, and increase strength so that I can lower my risk of disease and better my performance in training/racing.

I’m going to keep talking to this guy because he’s interesting, passionate, and seems knowledge (and though he works at a nutrition & supplement store he made no moves to try to sell me anything which I thought was awesome and impressive… I was ready to fight off the hard sell).  I am also going to do my own research and talk to my doctor to get her take on all this.  The way I see it though, I can always work to lose the fat and when I get down to 185 and see what that looks and feels like I can make adjustments as I deem appropriate for me.

Interesting stuff, huh? What are your thoughts on this?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill Will Run June 16, 2011 at 10:02 AM

That’s very interesting… so often we (as a society) are stuck on the wrong numbers to dictate what is healthy. I’m curious about my body’s composition now. Thank you for sharing this information!

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Stephanie June 16, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Jill, thanks for your thoughts. That’s definitely true about our society. If you decide to get your body composition checked out I’d love to hear what you think afterwards!

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