One of my favorite classic skits from Saturday Night Live was when comedian, Billy Crystal, played Fernando, a superficial and overtly sexual latin night club performer who greeted everyone with the phrase, “Dahling, you look mahvelous.” His character lived by a personal credo that it was always “better to look good than to feel good.” Maybe we all have a little Fernando in each of us with our desire to look good. While I don’t believe we are all vain and self-absorbed like Fernando, could it be that we put a bigger price tag on our outward appearance than our inner health? This month, let’s focus on ways to feel good from the inside out starting with our body composition.
Not So Marvelous
Did you know that at any given time there are over 100 million people either on diets or attempting to lose weight? According to an ABCNews.go.com article, in 2012 the weight-loss industry in the United States raked in over $20 billion dollars. That’s an awfully fat paycheck for an industry that is counting on us to buy their books, dvd’s, succumb to diet pills, and even go to the extreme of weight-loss surgeries. All the while, we are getting no slimmer. If fact, it is estimated that by 2030, nearly half of all Americans will be classified as obese. When it comes to weight-loss, we may have it all wrong when we focus solely on the scale. Knowing your body composition is critical to changing your shape.
A personal trainer or medical professional may use one of several methods to determine body composition. Here are some that are commonly used and provide relatively accurate results:
- DEXA — Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry which scans the entire body to show fat distribution, body density and muscle mass.
- Hydrostatic Weighing — a subject expels all of the oxygen from their lungs while submerged in a tank of water. It is highly accurate but also challenging for some.
- BIA — Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis passes a low electrical signal through the body via water and fluids. The impedance information is used to determine the amount of lean and fat tissue. I use a Tanita BIA which looks like a conventional bathroom scale and produces pretty reliable results.
- Calipers — takes skin fold measurements and is most accurate when performed by a trained technician.
Truth in Numbers
While a good general measure, your body weight is only telling you a portion of the whole story when it comes to your inner health. Here are the numbers you should know:
- BMR — basal metabolic rate which is the number of calories consumed by your body while at rest. These calories run basic bodily functions like breathing and circulation.
- Metabolic Age — a reflection of how healthy your metabolism is functioning based on BMR and other factors including fat percentage, hydration and lifestyle.
- Hydration level — percentage of fluid in your body as a percentage of total weight.
- Bone Mass Weight — mineral content of your bones in pounds.
- Muscle Weight — amount of lean body mass in pounds.
- Body Fat — usually calculated as a percentage of overall weight.
- Visceral Fat — the percentage of fat that surrounds vital organs in the trunk/stomach area. The bigger the number the greater your risk.
- Weight — overall body weight.
Knowledge is Power
Knowing your body composition will help you customize your diet, lifestyle and workouts to improve your numbers. Right now, weighing yourself regularly (either once a day or at least once a week) should be used as data collection to know how your body weight is trending-either up or down. Think of it as a tracking tool not a torture device. Most dieters believe that cutting calories will result in weight-loss. Unfortunately, if you cut calories below your BMR, you may be losing the wrong kind of weight, muscle not fat. Here are some tips to feeding your body properly to maintain a healthy body composition:
- Feed It — the minimum calories you consume daily need to match or exceed your BMR. If your BMR requires 1,500 calories don’t think you can drop to 1,200 and still lose weight. Your goal is to increase your BMR with cardiovascular exercise, weight-training and a good diet of lean protein and vegetables. Think of it in these simple terms, “muscles eat protein” so be sure to have protein at each meal to feed them and keep your metabolism humming.
- Get Dense - the mineral content of your bones is like the foundation of your house. A strong foundation keeps everything in place. Weight bearing exercises increase bone density. Consider supplementing with a complete, bioactive formula (like Reliv Now® with LunaRich™) to be sure you are getting the right amount of minerals to keep your bones strong.
- Hydrate — the average total body water percentage for healthy adults is 45–60% for women and 50–65% for men. The less muscle mass you have, the lower your hydration levels. A good guide is to drink half your body weight in ounces every day. A 180 pound person, therefore, needs 90 ounces of water a day to maintain healthy hydration levels. If you do intense workouts, be sure to add extra water to that amount to replenish fluids.
- Combat the Fat - even a seemingly skinny person may be fat if their body fat percentage is high while their muscle mass is low. Hidden fat in the form of visceral fat is a red flag as well. A brisk daily walk or swimming laps are the two best forms of exercise to reduce visceral fat. Eating a handful of oily nuts like almonds or walnuts has also been shown to decrease visceral fat. By increasing strength training and reducing fat-storing foods like refined sugars, simple carbs, and processed meals, you will reshape your physique with lower body fat and greater muscle mass.
You Do Look Marvelous!
Knowing what you look like from the inside out will help you create a lifestyle focused on a healthy body composition. Rather than setting a spring goal to lose weight, set your sites on losing body fat while increasing muscle mass. Your heart, muscles, and joints and your mirror will all thank you for it. Maybe we’ll finally convince Fernando that, “It is better to feel good and to look good.…Dahling!”
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“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” Og Mandino
Copyright © 2013 by Christine A.Toriello, all rights reserved.