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There are several ways to determine body composition

Nowadays, there is so much hype about how a body should look. You see it in magazines, on TV and the Internet. You can’t get away from it. Each day, you will be exposed to “miracle” cures, pills and surgeries to take care of the dimples in your butt, sagging skin, body fat deposits and other various imperfections. I have news for you — no one is perfect. Beauty and health come in all shapes, sizes, heights and colors. So what is the best way to find your healthy weight? There are different ways to find out someone’s healthy weight or body composition. Body composition can be defined as the relative proportion of fat and fat-free tissue in the body. The following are the most common methods used:

Height and weight. This is the one you are probably exposed to the most. Most doctors’ offices use, or have used, this chart to look at your body composition. It’s quick, cheap and easy to do. However, criticism over the accuracy of this chart has made many look for different ways to find one’s body composition.

BMI (Body Mass Index). It uses weight relative to height. It works for the “average” person. But when you look at an athlete with lots of muscles, the BMI does not differentiate fat weight from fat-free weight, therefore putting a muscular athlete in the overweight or obese section of the chart.

Waist-to-hip ratio. You measure the inches of the hip and the inches of the waist. This ratio represents the distribution of body weight, and perhaps body fat in a person. This is used a lot as an important predictor of the health risks of obesity.

Height and weight, BMI and waist-to-hip ratio charts can all be found on the Internet. Most sites are free and let you input your info and will give you immediate results.

Skinfolds. Determining someone’s body composition through skinfolds can be quite accurate if the person who is performing the task is properly trained in the use of skinfold calipers. It is not the exact measurement of your total bodyfat — it is still an estimate. Another way to stay more accurate is to stay with the same trainer. Even though the sites of measurements are all the same, the way each trainer “pinches” might differ.

Bioelectrical impedance. It’s a non-invasive and easy way to assess body composition. The bioelectrical impedance passes a small electrical current (you can’t feel it) into the body and measures the resistance to that current. Fat is a poor conductor, containing little water. To make this measurement valid, you must do the following:

• No eating or drinking within four hours of test.

• No exercise within 12 hours of test.

I get the best feedback from the body fat measured with calipers and the circumference. It shows me that if the inches went down but the body fat didn’t, something isn’t going right (typically diet). Or, when the bodyfat did go down and weight went up (increase of muscles). So, instead of trying to look like a picture in a magazine, see what your healthy weight should be and where you are right now. Look into the beauty from within and accept what God and your family heritage gave you and take responsibility. You and you alone can make your body healthier. Your family doctor can help steer you in the right direction if you can’t do it on your own. Try to stay away from the miracle drugs, shots and pills.

Start exercising, eat a sensible diet and make your way to a healthy weight and better you, inside and out. And it’s not going to be easy — if it was, everyone would be at a healthy weight and leading a healthy lifestyle. I invite women to come and join me for a ladies’ night out on Aug. 7 from 5-9 p.m. at the Peeler Crystal Lounge on the Catawba College campus. The proceeds benefit the Rowan County United Way, and there will be health fairs, wellness screenings and so much more. Registration is recommended and a $10 donation is suggested. Register or donate at NovantHealth.org/rowanevents, and I hope to see you there on Thursday.

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director for the JF Hurley Family YMCA and a strong supporter of our local United Way.


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