As a society, we have become consumed with the number on the scale. For some people the number on the scale determines their worth or impacts their mood for the day; putting lots of emphasis on the number. Often forgetting to check in on how we feel, hows our energy, our mental health, our joints, and how our clothes fit.

What if I told you the number on the scale or your body mass index is not a reflection of your worth, value, or potentially your overall health.

Lets look at two examples:  

You can be a “healthy” weight with a normal body mass index (BMI) but have way too much body fat (also known as “skinny fat”) which increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Think about the sedentary person that keeps their calories in moderation so they do not gain excess weight.

You can also have an overweight or obese BMI and have very low body fat percent and lots of lean muscle mass. Think about the person with a clean diet that does heavy weight training or an athlete.

I know these are both extremes and many fall in between these two examples, but as you implement a new diet, workout routine, or lifestyle it’s important to monitor your body composition and not the weight on the scale.

So lets break it down further: BMI vs Body Composition Scan

What is Body Mass Index or BMI?

Body mass index only takes into account your weight and height. It does not take into consideration lean muscle mass, body fat percent, visceral fat (the dangerous fat around your organs), water weight, or other variables that are important to your overall health and wellness.

If you have an average diet and don’t lift much weight, BMI may be a decent indicator of overall disease risks. If this is you, you can start by calculating your BMI here.

Based on your results, you can see what category you fall in:

  • Below 18.5- underweight
  • 18.5-24.9- “healthy” weight
  • 25-29.9- overweight
  • Above 30- obese

Individuals that fall into the obese category have an increased risk for diabetes, strokes, hypertension, high cholesterol, chronic inflammation, sleep apnea, gallbladder stones, osteoarthritis, depression, anxiety, decreased quality of life, and really all-cause mortality.

At STAT Wellness, we have technology that helps address some of the shortcomings of looking only at BMI. We use the body composition scan to look beyond the number on the scale. That is why all of our new patient visits include a body composition scan and our annual memberships include quarterly body composition scans. Knowledge is power and understanding your statistics can help influence lifestyle modifications.

So what does the body composition scan look at?

Body Fat Percentage

This is the ratio of your body fat mass divided by your weight. This is a more accurate representation of your “obesity risk” as outlined above. The recommended body fat percentage for males is between 10-20% and for females between 18-28%.

For females, low body fat percent can cause hormonal imbalances or amenorrhea (missing menstrual cycle) where high body fat can cause insulin resistance, estrogen dominance, inflammation, and more.

For males, low body fat percent does not seem to cause any negative impact on their health or hormone balance as long as they have enough lean muscle mass but high body fat can cause them to convert testosterone to estrogen in their fat cells along with insulin resistance, inflammation, and heart disease.

Lean Muscle Mass

This is the muscle mass you can increase by working out, lifting weight, and eating enough protein. Lean muscle mass helps protect our bones and connective tissue along with boosting your metabolism.

Muscle Symmetry

This scan also evaluates the right/left side of your body for lean muscle mass to check for symmetry. Asymmetries can occur after injury or if you are leading with an arm or leg when you workout. If you have large asymmetries especially in your legs, it can cause hip pain and low back pain over time.

Visceral Fat

This is an indicator based on the estimated amount of fat surrounding internal organs in your abdomen. It is recommended to keep visceral fat under 10 to stay healthy; however at STAT Wellness we aim for this to be less than 5. Too much visceral fat increases your risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, and even certain kinds of cancer. Visceral fat is often increased by sugar, processed carbohydrates, and alcohol.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

This is the number of calories burned at rest over the course of a day. Basically this is the minimum calories you need to sustain life at a resting state. If you are exercising or burning calories throughout the day (which everyone is just with activities of daily living), you need to consume additional calories. This level is directly related to lean muscle mass. As your skeletal muscle increases, your basal metabolic rate increases.

After being quarantined for 2 months, we want to help you get back on track with your health and wellness goals.

This week from May 4th to May 8th we are doing body composition scans 50% off (originally $50, marked down to $25). Give us a call at 404-254-5905 and we can get you on the schedule.

In good health always,

Kristin Oja, DNP, FNP-C