As I’m winding down on my first week in my year of Lean Eating, I wanted to document what I’m sure will be the first of many huge milestones along my journal. Today was our first day of measurements and as part of this process, I had to get my body fat percentage measured.
So, first off, I recognize that getting one’s body fat measured isn’t exactly fun. It’s not like I wake up and said, “I want my body composition measured right after I grab a latte.” In fact, knowing that I would need a 7-point skinfold measurement, I made an appointment with a reputable trainer here in town and told him what I was looking for. When I mentioned to a couple of coworkers that I was going to get this done, they all just kind of scrunched up their noses and said, “Ew! Why would you want to do that!” One of my friends commented, “It’s so invasive!”
I do sort of understand. I was worried I would have to undress with some stranger who would pinch me in awkward places. Plus, I don’t exactly have the greatest self-image when it comes to my body to begin with. But I knew I was going to a trainer who has probably measured lots of people of various shapes and sizes, and that he’d be supportive of me wanting to progress. And with the help of my coach, I reminded myself that this is just a baseline. It’s not a judgement; it’s a way to track my progress.
So, I accepted I was going to this and I’ve now completed my first set of measurements. The trainer I went to was so friendly that feeling uncomfortable never even crossed my mind. And he estimated my body fat to be around 22 or 23%. Can you believe it? I sure can’t.
Depending on who you ask, that percentage is considered normal or even fit for women. Using the mirror, I’ve been estimating my body fat to be between 35 and 40% for the past couple of years. So, now I’m pretty sure I have body dismorphia.
One of my friends asked me how it went and when I told her all of this, she said, “Why did you think you were 40%!?” I’ve been asking myself the same question, and I couldn’t figure out the answer. That is, until I weighed myself. Stepping on the scale, I remembered exactly why I think I’m a whale: my BMI is still quite firmly obese. I am obese.
Now, I know there is this mantra on the internet that says that BMI doesn’t really mean anything if you lift. The problem is that, I sometimes feel like the people who take that message to heart miss the fact that they could benefit the most from strict weight loss. Besides, I’m not even sure I have a lot of muscle because I can never see it. But I can definitely see how fat I am every time I look in the mirror, It’s like, I see my reflection and I’m not a hardbody, so I must just be fat.
Except, based on my body fat measurement, I’m pretty normal. I have muscle. In fact, hiding somewhere under this layer of blubber, there is quite a lot of muscle. I’m even wondering if my end goal of 132lbs is realistic, given that this current estimate puts me at 129lb of lean mass. Even given the margin of error that accompanies caliper measurements, getting my weight down will probably necessitate muscle loss at this point.
So in a lot of ways, this number hasn’t felt like a judgement hanging over my head. Quite the opposite, in fact. Maybe the reason I’ve been struggling to lose the same 10 or 20lbs over the past year is because I really don’t need to lose that weight. Sure, I’d like to look leaner but my body is actually functional, and I daresay healthy. And metabolic function isn’t looking in the mirror, so maybe I should cut myself some slack and stop feeling so guilty over my weight, which is truly just a number on the scale.