Changing the Conversation:
Body Composition, NOT Weight Loss
Personal Training Director, Jay McWilliams
What is body composition, and why is it one of the 6-focal points of 50/50’s balance approach to health and wellness?
Over the years, I and many of my training clients and members of our gym have discussed dreading stepping onto the bathroom scale. Most of us can relate as it is very frustrating to exercise and eat a healthy diet only to see the number on the scale stay the same. However, just because your bodyweight on the scale isn’t changing doesn’t mean that your hard work isn’t paying off. If you are exercising, most likely your body composition may be improving.
So, what is body composition? Body composition refers to everything in your body, generally split up into: fat mass and fat-free mass. Fat mass refers to all the fat tissue in your body. Fat-free mass is everything else, including muscle, organs, bone and fluid. If both change at once, you might not see any changes in bodyweight on the scale. For example, one of my training clients started exercising to lose weight, he may have gained two pounds of muscle in the first month. At the same time, he may have lost two pounds of fat, due to burning more calories through exercise, and changing his diet. In those first few weeks, he began to get discouraged because his bathroom scale showed that he was not losing weight. I had to change his way of thinking by educating him about the importance of body composition over bodyweight on the scale. I reminded him that his fat-free mass may have increased by the same amount as his fat mass decreased, making his “scale body weight” unchanged. With some doubt, he asked me: “How do you know?”
One technique 50/50 utilizes is tracking the circumference of different body parts (Shoulders, chest, waist, belly, hips, buttocks, thigh, and biceps). We make these measurements using a flexible tape measure. Along with body circumference measurements, we also use fat caliper readings. We measure the skinfold of seven sites on the body that gives us an average body fat percentage, and then calculates the total fat mass and fat-free mass in pounds. Taking progress pictures of your body every few weeks or months can be another way to assess how your body is changing. While none of these tools give us exact information, these do give us some general idea of the changes taking place.
So, why is body composition one of the 6-focal points of 50/50’s balance approach to health and wellness? If you have too much fat, especially at your waist, you’re at higher risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. That increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Obesity is now recognized as a major, independent risk factor for heart disease. If you’re overweight or obese, or simply have an excess of fat mass, you can reduce your risk for disease and increase longevity by starting a 50/50 Training Program.
The personal trainers here at 50/50 understand that stepping on the scale will only tell you how much you weigh. You can get a more accurate picture by considering your body composition (percentage of fat mass vs. percentage of fat-free mass). Your body composition is affected by your nutritional habits, exercise, sleep and other factors. For this reason, improving it can sometimes feel complicated and unrealistic. That is why 50/50 offers a body composition service, where we can measure your body circumference, conduct a fat caliper reading, and take pictures if you so wish. For ONLY $15! This service is included free for those participating in our Training Programs.