HomeHealthArchivesFeb 2009


Can You Pinch An Inch?

Think you're fat? Don't believe your scale. It's probably giving you a good idea what you weigh, but that has little to do with whether you're too fat, according to doctors at the University of Florida.

The important data, doctors say, is your body's composition of fat and muscle. Dieting without exercising can take off weight but leave you with the same unhealthy fat/muscle proportions as when you started.

There are several ways to calculate body composition but the most common is the skin-fold measurement method. The amount of skin that can be pinched at certain points on your body is measured, and results are located on a conversion table that estimates body composition.

Separate tables are used for men and women, because the sexes differ in the amount of fat typically distributed on the body. Age differences exist as well.

Since weight loss is irrelevant, what's the best way to go about fitting into those old jeans again? The goal should be to turn fat into muscle. That's why no scale can be trusted: You can diet and work out faithfully, and a month later the scale will show zero progress, even though three pounds of fat have become three pounds of lean muscle.

To have your body fat measured, and the measurements interpreted, consult your doctor, the staff at your health club or Y, or a registered dietitian.