Healthy Know How…Measuring Success
by guest blogger Cynthia
Let’s really talk here. For most of us, the scale is our go to for quick confirmation of our success. But I have to tell you the scale is NOT your friend. The scale does not know the difference between muscle, water or fat. Honestly for me something like that is not my friend. There is so much emotional baggage between me and my scale – when it goes up I am sad, when it goes down I am happy. But the truth is the scale doesn’t know me or know if today I didn’t drink enough water, or had too much salt or just needed a bathroom break when I got on the scale. So push that scale aside, or put it someplace where you don’t step on it multiple times per day or even multiple times per week and look at other ways to measure your success. Put the scale in perspective and use the following as better “success” measuring tools for the lifestyle changes that you implement.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
That is know your cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, A1C and your blood pressure. These numbers are key numbers that you and your physician should be tracking. If your physician is not talking to you directly about these numbers – ASK. Ask for a copy of your blood work so that you know where you stand. QUESTION anything that you don’t understand. You can also put detailed lifestyle change plans in place with your physician if your numbers are borderline or high. Your physician can act as a great motivator for change due to your accountability to them. All of these numbers react to nutrition and exercise or lifestyle changes. Keeping your numbers in the low to mid normal range will work in your favor on your quest to be healthy.
The information below for KNOW YOUR NUMBERS is found on WebMD
Cholesterol – is the fatty substance that naturally occurs in the blood. It is composed of HDL, LDL and triglycerides. Total cholesterol is important as well, however the individual values of HDL, LDL and triglycerides are more important. Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL (mg/dL is milligrams per deciliter of blood – the nomenclature for measuring any substance in the blood) is best.
HDL – high-density lipoprotein, is the good fat and research says protects the heart – above 50 mg/dL is best.
LDL – low-density lipoprotein, is the bad fat , less than 100 mg/dL is best.
Triglycerides – is fat in the blood from digested foods and are impacted by eating sugar and white flour. Less than 150 mg/dL is best. Fasting Blood Glucose – measures the amount of glucose in your blood typically after an 8 hour fast. A value of less than 100 mg/DL is acceptable. A1C– this is your body’s average level of blood sugar over a 120 day cycle. Less than 5.7% is best. Blood Pressure – is a measurement of the force applied to the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. Above 140/90 taken on 2 separate occasions is considered high.
systolic – pressure when the heart beats and the arteries fill with blood (top BP number)
diastolic – pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats (bottom BP number)
This measurement should be used as a tool to measure your progress of losing body fat. The more body fat you lose the better off you will be especially since body fat can and does accumulate around our organs. Acceptable body fat percentages are different depending on your gender, fitness and age. Normal for an average non athletic male is 18 – 25%. Normal for an average non athletic female is 24 – 31%. A complete breakdown of acceptable percentages of body fat can be found on WebMD . Working to reduce your body fat, not just your weight, will help in the preservation of your muscle on your quest to be healthy.
There are multiple methods of getting your body fat measured. There is underwater weighing, body fat calipers and bio electrical impedance devices. Some methods are better than others but what really makes sense is that which keeps you focused and on track for success.
Underwater weighing (water displacement)– while the most accurate in measuring body fat, this method is the most inconvenient and the most costly. You have to find a facility to do this (and those are limited), schedule an appointment, change into swim wear and oh by the way you cannot be claustrophobic at all (something they failed to tell me until I was in the lab – but I sucked it up and went thru with it – how bad could it be..huh). Measurements and weight are taken on land. You are put in a basket (ok not the technical term), told to blow out all the air in your lungs (impossible) and submersed under water a couple of seconds (which feels like minutes). This is repeated multiple times, some calculation are done and an average body fat percentage is determined. Not a great experience for me but…just me!
Body fat Calipers – most convenient however this is a tool and method that you cannot do alone. There are 3 sites where a skin fold needs to be taken and measured using the calipers. The back of the arm, the lower abdomen and the top of the thigh – so you have to partially undress for this method but it can be done at home. The skin fold pinches are measured multiple times and then averaged to give you an overall body fat percentage based on a chart. This again is not 100% accurate as the location of the skin fold pinches will always be slightly different each time. This method should always be repeated by the same person to eliminate any “testing bias” introduced by how this person used the tool. Again this is just a measurement to help you gauge if you are going in the right direction – preferably down in body fat.
Bio electrical Impedance – this is the technology behind some of the more sophisticated scales that also provided body fat measurements. Again very convenient but higher level of inaccuracy. This technology is interesting as they send a very low undetectable electrical current from one side of your body to the other. Muscle, fat and water all have different densities and therefore electrical current will travel thru each at a different speed. What the bio electrical impedance device measures is how fast that current returned to the device. Takes that info and does some calculations to provide you with a percentage of body fat. A simple tool to help measure that you are on the right track.
CLOTHING ( non stretch clothing which at the moment does not fit)
While not scientific at all my 100% cotton Levis keep me honest in my activity and on track with my eating. This may sound funny to most, but I have had these jeans a long time as part of my wardrobe. I have replaced them twice with smaller sizes but I have consistently gone with the same brand and the same cut because I like them and I could use them as my measuring tool. At one time a staple – my originals are well worn now but still serve the purpose of keeping me honest (even if they are loose garden wear). I wear the new ones enough to know when they feel a bit snug in an area or a little looser in an area. The goal here is again a gauge – going down and not up.
No matter what method you select to gauge your success, stick with it. Get measured the same way every time. Don’t be concerned about absolute numbers as each has its’ own level of inaccuracy. Concentrate on moving the numbers down or into a “normal” range.
WORKOUT WEDNESDAY BONUS …FUNCTIONAL MOVE – add this to your routine for an exercise that will condition you head to toe – my favorite BURPEES. Do for 60 seconds as many as you can do. When you can get 25 in 60 seconds, reduce your time and try to do more i.e. do 26 in 55 seconds. Add this to your routine as often as you like – 60 seconds is all you need.
You can always reduce intensity by removing all or some of the jumps and replacing those with step back and step forward.
Remember consistency is key, life is going to happen, so plan your work and work your plan!
Always in Fitness ,