Whenever I tell people that I'm a Personal Trainer, there's always the same response. They turn slightly sideways, purse their lips and say, "Oh, I could do with your help..."
Besides the fact that they may be slimmer than me, or that they have no intention of becoming paying clients, there's an immediate guilt pang shooting through their minds and it's obvious they're thinking "Am I Fat?"
I understand that this is the last thing you want to discover for sure in public with a Personal Trainer standing next to you so here are a few guides to help you at home.
Firstly: What constitutes being Fat?
If you can store the remote control in your belly rolls, you can be sure that your health would benefit from some fat loss. The crossover point from healthy to damaging is harder to define. Here are some guides we use:
1. The World Health Organisation recommend a body fat percentage for fitness of 14% - 17% for men and 21-24% for women and for acceptable good health of 18% - 25% for men and 25% - 31% for women.
2. The NHS rely for ease on the Body Mass Index and recommend a score of 18-25 with 25-30 equating to an overweight category and 30+ as technically obese. Remember, this is totally different from body fat and gender plays no part. It doesn't take body shape into account and most rugby players will measure as obese when they're just strong.
3. Recently, wasit/hip ratios have been highly regarded as a good indicator of heart health, with "apple shapes" proven to be more dangerous than "pear shapes". A score of less than .85 is deemed healthy for men and .75 for women. This may also show up the TOFIs (Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside).
There's also some great research about overweight being healthier than skinny: have a read...
Now: how to measure it accurately?
1. Body fat. It's hard to measure it accurately even if you buy a set of scales that include a body fat monitor. Hospitals have fancy pods but at home you can measure to within 3% accuracy with nothing but a tape measure and a calculator using a system developed by the US Navy. It's a series of equations, described very well on the livestrong site here. Make sure you measure in inches - it's American.
2. BMI. Unsurprisingly, the NHS website has a good calculator for this one, check it out here. It's a simple height to weight correlation and you'll find lots of charts online to assist. It doesn't give much feedback about the quality of body composition but will work well for the majority of the population. The NHS site works in metric or imperial measurements.
3. Waist/Hip Ratio. Take both measurements in cms, divide the waist result by the hip result. People who hold fat around the middle are more likely to suffer from heart issues and, although this body shape may be genetic, more care should be taken to maintain a consistent normal weight if you're this shape.
What's the verdict?
As Trainers, we may choose a variety of measurements depending on the client's goals and body shape. Personally, I'm more interested in the benefits of weight management than the body beautiful perception so my choices would be very different from a body builder's. If you've done the tests and it shows you need to take action, start off with the no puddings, no seconds, no snacks and no booze rule for a week. For further planning, measuring or clarification get in touch.
Enjoy Good Health!