Northwood News ♦ April 2012
Body Fat — The Myths, the Facts, and You
By Valerie Merriweather
How much weight have you gained since high school? If you answered between 30–40 pounds,
you’re not alone. The average person gains 10 pounds each decade. Even though
weight gain happens with age, too much weight gain puts you at risk for problems like hypertension,
diabetes, stroke, cancer, and joint issues.
Not all fat is bad; the body utilizes fat for many functions. However, if you have too much
body fat, it’s time to deal with it. Below are some common myths and facts on body fat
and what you can do about it.
If my BMI is low, I don’t have to worry about body fat.
Not necessarily; BMI is determined by the following equation (using pounds and inches):
Weight × 703 ÷ Height × Height
In order to get the most accurate body fat measurement, you need to have your body composition measured,
which takes into account your height, weight, age, and gender. Body fat can be measured with calipers,
bioelectrical impedance, or underwater weighing. After age 25 we start losing about a pound of
muscle a year. If you rely solely on your BMI, you could potentially gain more fat over time and
increase your risk for disease.
If I limit my fat intake or don’t eat any fat at all, I won’t have as much body fat.
Actually, your body requires fat to live. If you don’t eat enough
healthy fats — such as olive oil and nuts — the body will start burning muscle for energy,
which is the last thing you want to happen. The proper intake of fat can help fuel the body and
The scale is the only way to gauge how healthy I am.
Some people suggest you throw out your scale. I suggest you keep it and here’s
why: one of the best ways to determine a trend in your weight is by regular weigh-ins. Make
sure you weigh-in on the same day and take into account changes in your weight due to hormones or a
high-sodium meal. If you see a change of eight to 10 pounds, get your body fat tested. Over
time, you should have less body fat and more muscle, especially if you strength train.
Key Strategies for Managing Body Fat
- Lose the necessary weight to improve your overall body composition (10 pounds can make a difference!).
- Strength train at least two to three times per week and on a regular basis.
- Eat a diet loaded with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
- Be wary of quick fixes and supplements that claim to eliminate body fat.
- Get adequate sleep — at least seven to nine hours every night.
- Manage stress through relaxation techniques and a less busy schedule.
[Valerie Merriweather — MHA, ACE, NASM — is Chief Executive Officer of
Fitwell Training Solutions, a personal training and wellness company specializing in the health and
fitness needs of families. She led Fitwell Personal Boot Camp at Forest Knolls Elementary from
April-September. At the time of this article, she lived with her family on Playford Lane in the
Forest Knolls community. Valerie can be reached at
www.fitwellsolutions.com for more