When it comes to body confidence, nothing is more important than getting your body fat percentage right. It’s not just a vanity thing: too much body fat and you can be in the danger zone for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue and a number of other illnesses and long-term diseases. Are you healthy overall, but could stand to be a little healthier? No matter how fit you are or what you weight, becoming familiar with your current body fat percentage—as well as the range you should be in—is crucial. Here’s your cheat sheet to learning all about it.
Your Body Fat Percentage—What Should It Be, Really?
Forget the ads on the radio promising to give you a tiny waistline in record time, or pills that promote rapid weight loss without you having to do anything else. Your current body fat percentage (no matter how healthy or unhealthy it may be) is a direct reflection of your lifestyle more than it is genetics. In other words, no matter how slow of a metabolic rate you may have to work with (which is just like your mothers and grandmothers metabolic rate), it’s your lifestyle choices—diet and exercise—that manifest what your current body fat is, today.
Women are naturally meant to have a higher body fat percentage than men—it’s essential for child rearing. That being said, women should shoot for a body fat percentage range of 20-25%, while men should opt for 15-18% body fat, according to The American Dietetic Association. If you’re active or an athlete, women can have a lower body fat index of 12-20% while male athletes can get as low as 5-12%. Skip the madness about losing weight just to hit the lower end of your range, though. Anytime you make a change with your body, it’s essential to make a lifestyle change—otherwise, your body will undergo a ‘yo-yo’ weight loss/weight gain fluctuation cycle that will never end.
Everyone stores fat in a different part of their body. Some people tend to store fat in their waist, while others seem to gain weight predominantly in their lower body (such as their legs and buttocks.) No matter how healthy you may feel (and no matter where you store fat in your body) it’s important to get tested in order to find out your Body Mass Index. It’s a simple test that will tell you how much excess fat you’re dealing with, and a perfect starting point for awareness and action. When you know what your goal is, you can begin working towards achieving it!