When talking about body image, rarely people (especially women) satisfy with their body. Some of them think they’re too thin, while others (mostly) think they’re too fat. Before taking any strict diet or extreme exercise, it will be wise if we ‘know where we are’. There are some assessment methods we can use to find it out.
According to NIH (National Institutes of Health, USA), assessment of weight & height risk involves using 3 key measures:
1) BMI (Body Mass Index) or Quatelet Index (W/H2)àin which W is weight in kg & H is height in meters. The higher your BMI, the higher your risk for certain diseases (such as: heart disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problem & certain cancers. The BMI scores means the following:
|18.5 – 24.9||Normal|
2) Waist circumference à Waist circumference over 40 inches (±100 cm) in men & over 35 inches (±90 cm) in women can increase the risk of heart disease & type-2 diabetes.The ideal one is less than 90 cm for men & less than 80 cm for women.
3) Risk factors for diseases & conditions associated with obesity.
The more preferred method is BMI and waist circumference. While waist to hip ratio is now seldom used (Mahan & Stump, 2004). Although BMI can be used for most men & women, it also has some limitation. It may overestimate body fat (in person who has muscular build such as athlete) or underestimate body fat (in person who lost muscle such as elderly). It also cannot be used for children or pregnant women.
Regarding body fat composition, there are also several methods available to measure it. You can see the comparison in the table below:
|Method||How to measure||Upside||Downside|
|Skin fold caliper||By pinching your fat with your fingers then measuring the thickness with body fat caliper||Accurate, dependable & repeatable||Variability of measurement, requires skilled pro to measure & can be less accurate for overweight people|
|BIA (Bioelectric Impedance Analysis)||Determines the electrical impedance (muscle has higher water content & more conductive than fat)||Very easy to administer & inexpensive||Questionable accuracy & depends on hydration level|
|Anthropometric||Uses body circumference to estimate body fat percentage (waist, neck & height for men, hips, neck & height for women)||Easy to administer & cheap||Questionable accuracy, the least accurate method|
|Hydrostatic Weighing||Requires to be submerged in a specialized tank of water, takes about 20-30 minutes. Person with higher % of fat free mass will weigh more in the water & have lower % of body fat.||Very accurate, considered gold standard||Impractical, expensive & not repeatable|
|DEXA Scan||Uses a body scanner with low dose x-rays, takes about 10-20 minutes||Very accurate||Expensive & not repeatable|
After measuring your fat composition, you can use ideal body fat percentage chart to know ‘where you are’. One of the most commonly used body fat charts is from ACE (American Council on Exercise) as follows:
In conclusion, you can feel satisfy with your body as long as you are in ‘normal/ideal category’ (for BMI & waist circumference) & ‘average-fitness-athletes’ (for body fat composition). Don’t forget to maintain your fitness with healthy diet & regular physical activity. If you’re falls into other category, then it’s time to set up your goal & work out more. Most importantly is to get healthier, not only slimmer.
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Mahan, K. & Stump, S.E. 2004. Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy. 11th Edition. USA: Elsevier.