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Do I Need to Lose Weight?


Updated February 15, 2014


Measuring body fat with calipers is just one of the ways that body fat percentage can be measured. It should be performed by a qualified technician.

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Q: I weigh 145 pounds. Do I need to lose weight?

A: That's not a question I can answer. But I can tell you some ways to find out the answer.

First up, I would advise you to talk to your doctor about your weight. He or she will be able to tell you whether or not you are actually overweight. Being overweight means your weight is higher than what is considered normal weight for your height. In the past, height-weight charts were used to measure weight, but more reliable methods are favored now. Your doctor will want to assess how your weight is impacting your risk of developing weight-related health conditions.

There are three main ways weight-related risk is measured. They are:

If you are found to be at increased health risk with any of these assessment tools, you'll be advised to lose weight to lower your health risks and improve your overall health.


Percent Body Fat

Percent body fat (PBF) can be assessed by measuring body composition (how much of your body is fat or non-fat) with a painless test called a caliper measurement. This test measures subcutaneous (under-the-skin) fat using a skinfold caliper. The caliper is used to grasp a fold of skin and pull it away from your muscle. The folds are usually measured at the waist, hips, and thighs, and several other locations on the body. The findings are then calculated into a formula that allows your body fat to be estimated.

There are a few reasons why percent body fat measurement may not be ideal: The older you are, the less likely the results are to be accurate since fat distribution changes as we age. Caliper measurement is best for those under the age of 55, though it can become less accurate by your 40s.

Additionally, the accuracy of the results can vary according to the skill of the person taking the measurements and the quality of the caliper used to take the measurement.

Lastly, the more overweight an individual is, the less accurate the results are likely to be.

Other methods of assessing body composition include bioelectrical impedence, DEXA scan and BodPod tests.

What Does Your Percent Body Fat Mean?

The American College of Sport Medicine advises that women should have between 20% and 32% body fat and it recommends between 10% and 22% for men. Higher percentages would indicate that a person is overweight.

Health risk-related standards for body fat ranges were identified in a study that was published in The Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000. According to those findings, a woman between the ages of 20 and 39 has increased health risks at 33% body fat; the risks greatly increase at 39%. For men, health risks were found to increase at 20% body fat and greatly increase at 25%.

PBF assessment is not as widely used as other methods of assessing weight. The Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults suggest that since PBF is expensive to assess and equipment is not always readily available, BMI is a more practical approach than PBF.

More: Waist-to-Hip Ratio >>


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