Starting Out: Assessing Your Weight & Health

Image Source: Microsoft Clipart
This blog post is dedicated to those of you at the beginning of your weight loss journey. If you're anything like I was, you probably have a strong sense that you need to lose weight but haven't yet plucked up the courage to step on the scale to assess the situation. 

It's a like when you want to drive somewhere, but don't know the way. You sit in your car outside of your house, turn your Sat Nav on and wait for it to find you. The Sat Nav has to figure out where you are right now so that it can calculate the route to where you want to be. You don't really need to pay any attention to where you are at this very moment, as you already know it really, so instead you focus on the journey ahead and destination, however far away it may be. This is how you have to think of that first (re?)introduction to the scale.

Handy equipment for assessing your health and weight include a digital bathroom scale, a tape measure and possibly a trip to the doctors, health clinic, or gym unless your scale measures body fat percentage and you have a blood pressure monitor. If you're diabetic or suspect you are you'll also need a blood glucose monitor, ask your doctor about these or ask them to check your blood glucose levels for you. Check out the gadget recommendations at the bottom of the post if you need to equip yourself for the road ahead.

Let's run through some of the different ways of assessing the situation:

Body Mass Index (BMI) 
To figure out your BMI, you will need to know your height and weight. For a really easy way of checking your BMI, you could use this chart:
Source: www.nhs.uk

Ideal Weight Range
So we've found out a little more about where you are now, let's see where you need to get to. Check out the 'healthy weight' section in the BMI chart above. Pick somewhere in the middle of that category for your height and you have your goal weight! If it's considerably further than you anticipated and your end weight loss goal seems daunting, then be sure to check out my post on mini goals an how these can make it so much more achievable. 

Now, BMI is not the full picture of your health and it has it's flaws, for example, it fails to take into account muscle mass, making it less useful for weight lifters. Here's where the rest of the measurements come into use.

Body Fat Percentage
The easiest way to check your body fat percentage yourself, is to buy a digital bathroom scale that boasts a body fat percentage feature. This simply uses a small, harmless electrical current (called bioelectrical impedance analysis) which passes through the different body tissues at different rates. It's slow through fat and speedier through muscle, so it's actually measuring the density of your body and then figures out the estimated percentage of body fat using this. Whilst it may not be precise, measuring it a couple of times and taking an average is good enough for long term tracking and will still be useful for spotting the exciting downward trend.

If you don't have one of these fancy scales (such as the one recommended at the bottom of this post) pop into your local gym where they'll likely have various other gadgets to check your body fat percentage with.

To find out what your body fat percentage means in terms of your health check the following table:
Source:  http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk

Hip-Waist Ratio (HWR)
This requires a simple tape measure. Measure the widest part of your hips, and then measure the smallest part of your waist. Enter the measurements in inches here. Or alternatively use the table below and this simple formula: WHR: Waist / Hips.

Source:  http://www.topendsports.com

Some studies have suggested that carrying most of your weight around your middle (i.e. a higher HWR) increases your risk of weight related illness, such as Coronary Heart Disease. More recent studies however, imply that you're at risk of various weight related disease if you're overweight, regardless of where you carry it. Typical. Medical studies always contradict each other. Either way, it's another measurement to track.

Blood pressure & Blood Glucose
Whilst handy for anyone to check, these are vital for anyone that's overweight to monitor. You could be at risk of high blood pressure, or diabetes. By increasing your exercise and lowering salt, sugar and fat in your diet, you could see a nice downward trend in these figures and potentially save your life! It's best to get these checked at your doctors frequently so that you can prevent future health complications, if you don't have home testing kits or monitors.  

Remember to record it all!
Write all of these various numbers down in  notebook, call it your 'weight loss journal' or store it on a website such as My Fitness Pal, using their 'check-in feature' which allows you to add additional measurements of your choice.

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