Excess body fat has been linked to several lifestyle diseases including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and cancer among others. This underscores the importance of monitoring your body fat.
Most of us depend on the weighing scale to measure our body fat, there are however other more accurate ways to determine how much body fat we possess. The most accurate ways require more advanced technology such as the ‘underwater weighing’ method which is expensive and not readily available. Another method which is also not readily available is the Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA) which requires the use of electrodes to measure the amount of body fat.
There are three very good methods of measuring how much body fat you have and to also monitor your progress in losing weight.
This can be an indicator of the amount of body fat you possess. You can easily measure this by using a tape measure. Wrap the tape measure around your bare belly at the level of an inch above your belly button. You have to ensure that it is not too tight and also not too slack.
The expected waist circumference for should be less than 94cm for men and 80cm for women. Anyone with a waist circumference greater than 94cm and 80 cm for men and women respectively is at an increased risk of lifestyle diseases and someone with waist circumference above 102cm for men and 88cm for women is even at a more significant risk.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
This method requires some calculations but not to worry, the calculation is so easy that your calculator can do the trick. Just like your waist circumference, your BMI gives an indication of the amount of body fat you likely possess.
Firstly, you need to find out your weight in kilogram and your height in metres. The two instruments you need to do these will therefore be a weighing scale and a tape measure.
The formula you will need to use is:
BMI = Weight (kg)/ height (metres)2
Let us consider an example: If your weight is 68kg and your height in metres is 1.6
Then your BMI = 68/ 1.6 X 1.6
= 68/ 2.56
= 26.56 kg/m2
So what is the normal BMI?
If you have a BMI of less than 18.5, you are underweight.
A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is normal.
A BMI from 25 to 29.9 is termed as overweight while anything 30 and above is obesity.
Obesity can be further classified into three classes:
Class 1 obesity: 30 – 34.9
Class 2 obesity: 35 – 39.9
Class 3 obesity: 40 and above
The overweight and obesity limits are two limits you want to avoid.
From this calculation, we can say that the example above falls under overweight.
With this, you can easily determine where you belong on the scale and start making the necessary adjustments after seeking professional advice.
Waist Hip Ratio
This is another method that has been widely used. To measure your Waist Hip Raito (WHR), you will need to measure your waist circumference which is easily measured at the narrowest point of your waist if you are lean and if you are not, you should measure just an inch above your belly button.
Your Hip circumference is measured around the widest part of your buttocks. Divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference and you have your Waist Hip Ratio (WHR).
A WHR of greater than 0.85 for women and greater than 0.95 for men makes a heart disease more likely and underscores the importance of dietary and lifestyle management.
Your WHR can be used to determine your body shape – Apple or Pear.
Those with an apple-shaped body, store fat more in the abdomen and have a higher WHR compared to those with a pear shaped body who store fat more in the buttocks and have a lesser WHR.
Infact, the WHR can be a measure of attractiveness for females. Those with a WHR less than 0.8 (pear-shaped) are found to be more attractive to males compared with those with higher WHR (apple-shaped). This has been seen as an evolutionary behaviour in men.
The purpose of finding out how much body fat you have is not just for you to know; it is for you to start taking actions to move towards a healthier status no matter at what stage you will be starting from.
The most important ways of achieving a better body fat status lies in your diet and physical activity. You should, however, consult your doctor before you start any plan.