Bathroom scales might be one of the biggest enemies for Boomers. Yes, I had one of them in my bathroom, and I instinctively stepped on it at least once each week after a morning shower to see whether my holiday eating habits took a significant toll on my weight.

If my weight increased, I usually increased my activity level to address the change. This always made sense to me since I was told from an early age to “watch my weight” and “getting fat isn’t healthy.”

But I have learned that focusing on that number on my scale may be preventing me from being proactive about my health. Sounds almost counterintuitive, right?

A significant amount of credible research suggests that If we are truly concerned about our health, body weight is really not as important as the composition of that weight.

This is because our body weight represents the total weight of all our body tissues while body composition includes the proportion of fat to our weight. And the right proportion has very little to do with your total weight.

In fact, you can appear skinny but have an unhealthy proportion of fat. Moreover, our fat mass tends to increase with age – especially the fat around our internal organs, also known as visceral fat, even if our body weight remains unchanged.

This means that the 60-year-old former high school homecoming queen who brags about how she can still fit into her jeans from senior year may be unhealthier than someone who has put a few pounds over the years.

Some Health Risks of Too Much Body Fat

There are many health risks to having too much body fat including hypertension, diabetes, cancer and joint diseases.

Excess body fat may also promote changes in our body shape as we get older and this can affect our balance. So, another risk of not having an ideal amount of body fat is that it can make falls more likely.

How Much Body Fat Should We Aim for as Boomers?

For boomer women, the range of body fat is between 22 percent and 33 percent. Below this range is too little and above is too much. This may seem like a pretty wide range especially when compared to a man’s target range, which is between 16-25 percent.

However, we need more fat than men do as we have breasts. One study suggests that anything above 38 percent for women is associated with increased mortality over a four-to-six-year range.

We also need to remember that our visceral fat tends to increase as we age while our lean muscle tends to decrease. And fat tends to move from our face, arms and legs to our internal organs.

This ‘fat shift’ is especially risky since we can’t see it and often times it is easier to kid ourselves into thinking that “if I can’t see it, it can’t be all that bad.”

Lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and smoking have both been linked to visceral fat accumulation. And last but not least, the hormonal changes we experience during and after menopause can also send a signal to our body fat to move away from our hips and to our internal organs.

How to Measure Our Body Fat?

There are several ways to measure body fact and some are more accurate than others. But even the least accurate will still tell us if we need to take steps to reduce our body fat percentage.

Skin-Fold Caliper

The skin-fold caliper technique we can do at home by pinching the fat around our waist and measuring it with a body fat caliper. We can then compare the reading to available charts to determine our body fat percentage.

In addition to the benefit of being able to do this at home, we can also repeat it to test our progress against reaching our goal.

Waist Circumference

Another test we can readily do at home is measuring our waist circumference. If we have too much fat around our waist, we are more at risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The risk is higher among women if we have a waist size greater than 35 inches.

InBody Machine

The InBody Machine is a state-of-the-art body composition analyzer that is widely regarded as the most accurate and precise tool for measuring body composition.

The InBody provides a detailed report that shows how much fat, muscle and water our body has, and provides recommendations for how many pounds of fat (or muscle) we need to lose or gain.

How to Keep our Body Fat in the Ideal Proportion?

In addition to doing some form of physical activity and eating a healthy diet – which includes limited refined sugar and processed carbohydrates – it is also important to make sure we are drinking plenty of water.

Water may be important for burning fat and may increase our metabolism. One study suggests drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%.

As we age, it may be more challenging for our bodies to absorb certain nutrients. Getting a nutritional test is key in ensuring your body has adequate amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients.

Deficiencies in critical nutrients may cause hunger and hinder fat loss despite our good efforts. If you have any deficiencies, you can work with your healthcare provider on tweaking your diet and maybe even taking good quality supplements.

It’s time to for us to ditch the scale and learn about our body composition. Doing so will help us know our bodies better and this information can help us work toward being – and staying – our healthiest. I, for one, was happy to ditch the relic that stared me in the face every time I stepped out of the shower!

Have you ever had your body composition checked? If so, what were the results? What did you do about them? Do you think you’re at your ideal weight? What kind of exercise regimen do you follow to keep your weight in check? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Joy Stephenson-LawsJoy Stephenson-Laws is the founder of Proactive Health Labs, a national non-profit health information company that provides education and tools needed to achieve optimal health. Her most recent book is Minerals – The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy, available through Amazon, iTunes and bookstores.

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