Did you know that the lean mass of your organs shrinks with age?
Your heart shrinks (.3 grams a year), your brain shrinks (10 to 15% over your life) … your bladder shrinks by half by the time you’re 65 … even your sex organs shrink.1
This is one of the reasons why, if you are trying to drop a few pounds and have your ideal body, I don’t recommend focusing on the scale, or your overall weight.
If you only reduce your scale weight, you may be worsening the problem of shrinking organ mass, too.
What I do with my patients is to try to maintain lean muscle mass while getting rid of excess fat. This is called improving your body composition.
I’ll show you how to calculate and improve your body composition – the ratio of fat to lean muscle mass – in a minute.
But remember that the number modern doctors use called body mass index, or BMI, is a weight to height ratio. It was never intended as a guide for optimal health. The BMI doesn’t consider body composition, and makes no distinction between lean body weight and fat weight.
Your overall weight is simply compared against the ideal weight tables developed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company way back in 1943, and only slightly revised in 1983.
That insurance company designed a height to weight chart based on the average American citizen ages 25 to 59. If your actual weight was 20 percent or more above the table weight, then you were considered obese. If it was 10 percent under, you were underweight.
Most world-class athletes (usually less than 8 percent body-fat) would be considered obese by the original weight tables. Plus, they didn’t take into consideration anyone over 6’4” for men or 6’ for women, heights that are much more common today.
What you really want is to have a healthy body composition… that means lots of lean muscle and a high ratio of that muscle to body fat.
The way to measure and determine your fat to lean muscle proportion is to determine body fat percentage. The body fat percentage is the percentage of an individual’s weight that is fat.
Body fat analysis is the only method that really tells you how fit and lean you are.
If you don’t know how to measure your body fat, there are scales you can buy that calculate your body fat for you. There are also hand-held devices that are reliable. You can find these on the Internet or you can get a set of the calipers I use at my clinic right here.
They come with a simple instruction manual. It’s best to measure at three different body sites and average the measurements to get an accurate body fat percentage. For men, the average is between 15-17 percent body fat. For women, the average is between 18-22 percent.
Another simple method is to measure your waist and hip girths. Simply wrap a tape measure around your waist at your navel and record the number in inches. Next measure the circumference around your hips at their widest point.
Waist girth should be less than your hip girth for both men and women. Even better is a waist girth 1 or more inches less than hips for men. Women are healthiest to have a waist 3 or more inches less than their hips.
Another even easier way is to grab your skin between your finger and thumb just to the side of your navel and measure the thickness of the skin fold. It should measure less than 1 inch in both men and women. Even these rough approximations of your body fat are more useful than the archaic and misleading tables invented by insurance companies.
1 Atkinson L. "Your incredible shrinking body: From your brain to your heart – almost everything gets smaller as you age." London Daily Mail. www.dailymail.co.uk. Sep. 26, 2011. Accessed Mar 5, 2013.