Assessing Your Body Fat Fit or Fine

When you look in the mirror or at people at the mall, you see that nature wants humans to have some body fat. In fact, the reference 24-year-old woman is about 27 percent fat, and the reference 24-year-old man is about 15 percent fat. Some of us have more fat than others—undesired bumps and bulges, spare tires around our waists, and fat on our thighs.

Society preaches that thinner is better, and consequently many of my clients yearn to have a fat-free image. Women strive to be sleek and slender. Men want to be muscular and trim. Although a certain amount of leanness is desirable for health and performance, obsessions about body fatness are unhealthy. One man did 1,000 sit-ups each day, hoping to get rid of the fat on his abdomen. A woman spent hours on the stair stepper, hoping to eliminate the fat on her thighs. Both came to me asking to have their body fat measured, and both were shocked to learn that they were leaner than they thought.

Scantily clad athletes commonly see themselves as being too fat, but rarely too thin. Measuring body fat can thus offer a helpful perspective about where a person is in the scheme of fatness. Body-fat measurement can be a positive tool that allows you to quantify loss of body fat or gain of muscle as you embark on your diet and exercise program. The purpose of this chapter is to talk about bodies, body fat, and body fatness; discuss the different methods of body-fat measurement; and offer perspectives about how fatness is less important than fitness. Even overfat people can be fit, healthy, and at peace with their bodies.

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