Body Weight vs Body Composition

I know with a name like the Art of Weight Loss, you might be shocked to read a post like this but let me start by saying, ‘The Art of Body Composition’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Hey, I gotta appease my audience and you will lose weight through a process of body recomposition, but this is an article explaining the differences.

You will fixate on body weight, in your quest to change how you look and feel, most people do. It’s the easiest thing to measure and gauge progress with, all you have to do is step on a scale.

If you’re going to rely on body weight, I highly recommend that you also take girth measurements at the neck, shoulders, chest, waist (at the belly button), hips, thigh and calves.

This will give you a more accurate read-out on the occasional weight gain you might experience from week to week (often, we hope due to an increase in lean mass, which girth can help identify).

Another common method of analysis is BMI, an index of weight (in kg) divided by height (in metres, squared). BMI is used in most of the obesity studies and surveys that we’ve seen in the last few decades that seem to indicate an increase of obesity in North America. The problem is that it’s not exactly the best indicator, I’ve been 24.9 (6 foot 1, weighing in at 190 lbs) on the scale due to the density of my muscle mass (I’m not actually a big guy by any means), which is 0.1 away from being considered overweight.

Not really the best measures in a lot of cases.

On the other hand I typically get my skin-folds back in about the 6-8% range of body fat percentage (in comparison to lean mass), which is good, not necessarily exceptional for a male but well above average.

This is body composition. Skin-folds in this case, are a far better measure of progress, as it is far more relevant; as long as the tester is the same and the time of day is similar. It can tell you far more than weight ever could, from a health perspective. Generally speaking, body composition assessments (except bioelectrical impedance) are better than weight for quantitative measurement.

Body composition assessments also tie more prevalently into your aesthetic ‘look.’ Which is the qualitative assessment most people forget about, but more often secretly mean when they talk about ‘losing weight.’

The DEXA scan is probably the gold standard though. At $60-100 a pop, it’s not cheap, but worth doing once especially early in your lifetime, and maybe once a year, if financially feasible. This will give you a very accurate baseline you can utilize later in the life. It can even tell you where exactly you are storing your fat, which is nice because we hopefully, all know by now, that abdominal fat is the worst for your health. This scan also gives you an precise indication of your bone density, which is huge in the prevention of Osteoporosis. It can very quickly tell you weather or not you are at risk.

There is also hydrostatic weighing, which is the former gold standard, but it’s intrusive, expensive and hard to find.

My conclusion?

Try not to obsess about weight only, don’t look at it more than once a week even and when you do check girth at the same time.

Weight is ok, but body composition is better, I typically aim to check body composition every 3 months with my clientele where appropriate.

Ideally, use more than one quantitative measure on your weight loss quest whenever possible.

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