Realistic expectations

Last time I had my body fat percentage (accurately) measured, my lean body mass was about 135. That means my body without fat — my skeleton, muscles, and organs — weighs 135lbs. If I add a healthy body fat percentage on top of that — say 20%, which is really good for a woman in her mid-40s — my weight would be 162lbs.

I’m 5’4″. Okay, really I’m 5’3.75″, but I claim 5’4″. (Don’t judge me.) According to the standard height/weight chart, a woman of my height with a large frame should weigh between 134 and 151. I’m not certain whether I have a large frame or not, but we’ll go with that.

Note that my lean body mass — no fat at all — is already within the range. To get inside the range — to weigh 151 — I’d have to cut my body fat to 12%. If a woman’s body fat falls below 12% of her total body weight, hormone production can be compromised, and menstruation can be interrupted, and therefore the risk of osteoporosis is high. Body fat below 10% in women may be indicative of an eating disorder.

How about BMI instead of height/weight? At 162, I would fall clearly into “overweight,” despite being at 20% body fat. To get to the very top of the “healthy” BMI range, I would have to weigh 145. That would put me far below 10% body fat. A little over 7%, I think. (Which I think equals dead.)

Muscle makes me strong. It makes me fit. It makes me look better, and it makes me more functional. I’m working hard to *increase* my muscle — no way I’m going to let it melt away with the fat. My goal, if you really want to know, is to increase my muscle mass to 140lbs, which would drive my “ideal” weight to 168.

My mentor is a USAW weight lifting certified coach. She is a triathlete, a Crossfit coach, and a firefighter. She has 16% body fat, but doctors and nutritionists tell her that she is OVERWEIGHT. They tell her that because the chart says she’s OBESE, she is.

At 16% bodyfat.

She doesn’t care what the charts say, because she knows how strong she is, how fit she is, and what her cholesterol and blood sugar numbers are. She knows how she feels and what she can do. (She can also look in the damn mirror. No one with any sense would say this woman is overweight. Ain’t a pick of fat on her.)

I don’t care what the charts say. I’m strong, and I’m getting stronger. I’m losing fat and getting fit. I will never be a size zero. I will never be “normal” according to those charts. And I do not care. I am doing what’s right for THIS body.

I saw a person on SparkPeople the other day who had 146lb of lean body mass whose goal weight was 135. To weigh 135 with a healthy body fat percentage, she would have to lose about 30lbs of muscle during her weight loss journey.

Is that realistic? Is it healthy? Is that in her best interest as she ages, even if it’s possible? I think she’s setting herself up to fail because of a damn chart or because of that stupid BMI. And that makes me really, really sad.

Those charts are based on a mythical “average” that doesn’t exist. Really, truly — do you want to be AVERAGE? I’ve never been average, and I sure don’t plan on starting now! I am wayyyy better than average, and I think you should be too.

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4 Responses to Realistic expectations

  1. Kalisa says:

    The scale is a lying bitch and the height/weight charts are obsolete. There are so many more accurate and meaningful ways to measure fitness and body composition… it’s a shame the medical community and insurers still rely on them… it’s like navigating using a map drawn when they thought the world was flat…

  2. Maggie says:

    I remember being introduced to this method in grade nine. Some people showed up and took our measurements using these… Hmm, they reminded me of nail clippers LOL. They were measuring our body fat percentage. Was quite interesting.

    • Melissa says:

      Calipers. They feel sort of like nail clippers too — kind of painful, if it’s done right. Calipers are the easiest method, and they’re inexpensive. But their reliability depends on the skill of the person doing it — and not a lot of people are really good at it. I found a traveling van in my area that offers underwater body fat testing and DEXA.

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