PSA #1 – BMI vs. Body Fat Percentage – Huh?

BMI or Body Mass Index was developed by Belgium statistician Adolph Quelet in the 1800’s. His intent was this tool was to be used to measure the obesity of the general population, not the fatness of an individual. That being said, since many people and even physicians still use this measurement, here is the formula for calculating your BMI and what the results mean.
Basic BMI Formula
(weight in pounds x 703) / (height in inches) squared
Example, using my own (gasp!) stats (updated July 6, 2011)
(159 X 703) /(63×63) = 111777 /3969 = 28.1
BMI Interpretation
  • Below 18.5 = Underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9 = Normal
  • 25 – 29.9 = Overweight
  • 30 & above = Obese
According to the basic BMI formula, I am still Overweight.  It’s no longer Obese, but even so, I resent that Overweight label.  Really, I DO!  I’m down to a size 10 dress pant.  That isn’t overweight in my book.  So I dug a little deeper to see if there was another measurement that would take into account actual body fat and how it’s distributed over the body.  I found it – it’s called Body Fat Percentage.
Body Fat Percentage
Body fat percentage is the percentage of total body weight comprised of fat. The best way to determine this is with pinch measurements, an immersion tank and one of those spiffy scales that sends an electric current through your body and magically determines how much of you is actual fat.  Most of us don’t have access to such equipment, so here’s a formula that will give you a quick and dirty answer, along with an interpretation of the results.

Body Fat Percentage Formula for Women

  • F1, etc = Factor 1, etc
  • TBW = Total Body Weight
  • LBM = Lean Body Mass
  • BFW = Body Fat Weight

The Formula:

  • F1:  (TBW x 0.732) + 8.987
  • F2:  Wrist measurement (at fullest point) /  3.140
  • F3:  Waist measurement (at naval) x 0.157
  • F4:  Hip measurement (at fullest point) x 0.249
  • F5:  Forearm measurement (at fullest point) x 0.434
  • LBM = F1 + F2 –F3 – F4 + F5
  • BFW = TBW – LBM
  • Body Fat Percentage = (BFW x100) divided by TBW

 Me, July 6, 2011

  • F1:  (159 x 0.732) + 8.987 = 125.36
  • F2:  6.25 / 3.140 = 1.99
  • F3:  30 x 0.157 = 4.71
  • F4:  39 x 0.249 = 9.71
  • F5:  9.5 x 0.434 = 4.12
  • LBM = 125.36 + 1.99 – 4.71 – 9.71 + 4.12 = 117.05
  • BFW = 159 – 117.05 = 41.95
  • Body Fat Percentage = (41.95 x 100) /159 = 26.38%

Body Fat Percentage Interpretation for Women

  • 10-12%  = Essential fat necessary to stay alive
  • 14-20%  = Professional and Amateur Athletes
  • 21-24% = Fitness Buffs
  • 25-31% = Acceptable
  • 32-41% = Overweight
  • 42% or Higher = Obese

BMI VS Body Fat Percentage

BMI is the most widely use indicator of weight status but it really isn’t  very useful because it doesn’t take into account bone mass, muscle mass or actual fat as it lies on your body. Bones are denser than muscles and twice as dense as fat.  Body builders and other hyped up exercise maniacs, like Buff Chad, have a high BMI without being the least bit obese.  In fact, Buff Chad WORKS at keeping his BMI around 34 (crazy!)  According to the
calculations above, I am in the overweight category in the BMI chart, but I come out in the acceptable range in body fat percentage.

I continue to work on my overall health, with plenty of exercise and responsible food consumption. And no cookies. My ulitmate goal will put me in the normal BMI range and in the fitness buff body fat range.  For now, though, I’m happier considering the Body Fat Percentage over the BMI:  it’s a more realistic snapshot of how I really look and feel.

Note:  Both the BMI and the Body Fat Percentage are just a couple of quasi-accurate measurements to give you an idea of your overall heath and a starting point for your health goals.  If you fall into the obese categories, it would be wise to consult your Doctor for some very specific guidelines for nutrition, exercise and possibly medications.


American Diabetes Month – Part III – My Story

My Own Story is perfectly typical. I went to college, got married, started a career and then went on the Mommy Track. I had four babies in a six year period, had gestational diabetes with all four pregnancies, and delivered big, eight pound babies. My blood sugar ranges went back to “normal” a few months after each baby was born, so I didn’t worry about it.

A few years went by…I gained weight, and stopped getting regular exercise, and I was getting more and more tired. I went to my Doctor with the list of symptoms, including the constant fatigue. There was always another reasonable explanation for them: sinus infections or anemia, yeast infections, uti’s, and heck, who wouldn’t be tired if they had a husband, four kids, a home and an engineering consulting business to take care of? SO..I ignored the symptoms and kept going, blaming the “feeling rotten all the time” on being overweight and hating myself for not squeezing another hour out of my already busy schedule to exercise.

More years go by, and then my eyesight goes south, very suddenly, without warning. My husband came into the office to see the computer monitor pulled right up to the edge of the desk, and me sitting with my nose three inches from the screen. I couldn’t focus my eyes, and I couldn’t see what was on the monitor. I was at the eye doctor the next day, getting my pupils dilated so he can look inside my eyeballs. My optometrist told me to make an appointment with my regular doctor for the next morning to have a blood test for diabetes. What? Diabetes? I thought that went away after the last pregnancy!

I called my Doctor, and was in her office at 7:00 the next morning for the blood test. One drop of blood and five seconds later I had the truth. I have diabetes. My blood sugar that morning, after a night of fasting and not even a cup of coffee before the test, was 178. “Normal” fasting levels are less than 100. Additional blood work revealed that my liver and kidneys had already been damaged along with my eyes. My Doctor suspected that I had been walking around with diabetes since the last pregnancy…TEN YEARS ago!

The good news? According to my doctor, I was still “Young” and that my body would heal, but only if I get my butt in gear and take care of myself, and commit to keeping my blood sugar under control.

So I did. I lost fifty pounds. I purged the pantry of all high-carb, unhealthy food. I read and researched and joined a support group. I met with a dietician, and changed the way my entire family eats. I started walking and exercising EVERY day. My eyesight got better. I now need bifocals, but hey, I probably would have needed those anyway as I am well into “middle age”. Recent blood tests show that my liver and kidneys have healed and are functioning normally. I’m not exhausted all the time any more. I really feel wonderful and “normal” again.

It’s not over, though. I am not cured. I still have diabetes. There is NO CURE for diabetes. Right now, I can control it with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Because the disease is progressive, I will eventually need to take medication and inject insulin daily. My goal for now is to put that off for as long as possible. I know that if I ever revert back to my bad health habits, my diabetes symptoms will come back with a vengeance, and so will the complications that go with them.

I miss pizza, and ice cream. I have to judge every bite that I put in my mouth – is this piece of chocolate worth being blind? Is this donut worth killing my liver? Of course not. This kind of thinking makes it easier for me to stay focused and stay healthy.

What To Do if YOU Have Symptoms?

If you have a family history, if you have any of the symptoms, see your Doctor! Ask for a blood test to check. It’s simple – they prick your finger for a tiny drop of blood, scan it with a meter, and TaDa!! There’s your answer in five seconds. Screening for diabetes is not usually included with annual checkups, but it SHOULD be, especially for those who are high risk of developing diabetes.


American Diabetes Month – Part II – Risk Factors and Symptoms

Risk Factors and Symptoms

Are you at risk to develop diabetes? You may be if you are:

  • overweight
  • sedentary – you don’t get enough exercise!
  • of Hispanic, American Indian or African American heritage

or if you have:

  • had gestational diabetes
  • delivered a nine pound or larger baby
  • other family members who have diabetes

If you are at risk, you need be aware of the symptoms of diabetes. Symptoms are subtle, and are often mistaken for other illnesses, or just ignored as part of “getting older”. Common symptoms include:

  • frequent need to urinate
  • extreme thirst
  • dry mouth
  • cuts and bruises that take a LONG time to heal, more than a few days
  • excessive fatigue
  • unexplained weight loss OR
  • inability to lose weight, even when on a restricted calorie diet
  • constant numbness or tingling in your hands and feet
  • blurry vision, and a rapid deterioration in your eyesight

Symptoms that occur for women only include:

  • continued and constant yeast infections
  • lack of desire

Strangest symptom by far:

  • pink “mold” growing at the waterline in your toilet bowl! This is actually a yeast mold caused by the excess sugar in your urine.

There is some good news: most of these symptoms go away once you get your diabetes under control!

Tomorrow: My Own Story, and What to Do If YOU Have Symptoms