Many people spend countless hours trying to achieve a certain number on a scale, so they can achieve their optimal weight. But an ideal total body weight in pounds generally doesn’t necessarily equate to optimal health. Looking at how much muscle, fat and water is in those pounds will tell you much more about the state of your health and may provide a launching pad for further investigation. For example, if you have what is usually considered to be a very healthy weight with 40 percent body fat and low muscle mass, it’s not your weight that needs to change – it’s your body composition.
Being “fat” doesn’t always mean what you think it means. If you’re imagining a large figure, visible rolls of fat and big numbers on a scale, you may not be aware of the “skinny fat” phenomenon. Take this woman, for example, featured in The New York Times, weighing in at just 119 lbs., but with fat around her organs, she developed problems associated with obesity like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a fatty liver. Not what you’d expect for someone who looks skinny and is just 119 lbs.! Looking “thin” can be misleading when you are skinny fat.
It is often assumed that a skinny person is healthy and that a heavier person is unhealthy. But simply looking at the outside doesn’t tell you enough. For example, a thin female who loves yoga and never seems to gain weight may look like the picture of health to some, but a body composition assessment might show that she carries a lot more fat than she should and not enough muscle. Likewise, a heavyset football player may be strong and muscular, but have a high body fat percentage that’s putting his health at risk. You could have a high body fat percentage whether you’re 100 lbs. or 300 lbs.