Body composition Scans: Why does it scream, “You have a high body Fat!”
When I was holidaying in the Gold Coast with my family during the Easter Break, I was hoping for mindful retreat from all forms of work. However, I was rudely interrupted by a noisy jet flying above me as I lay in the sand, dragging along in the sky an advertisement for a Body Composition Scan. It was almost like a message from above saying, “You can’t relax. Think about body fat” and this jet thought it would spend the good part of ½ an hour flying backwards and forwards above me just in case it was afraid I had missed the message!
Little did that jet know, that I already find body composition scans an essential part of my weight loss consulting as it can give a more comprehensive picture to how a patient is tracking. There is no doubt that patients get fixated on the number on the scale and I am often amused by how quickly patients are whipping off their clothes as soon as they walk into my consulting rooms even before I have a chance to sit down. Why do we really care what number that piece of machinery spits out at us? Why do we let that please of plastic determine our mood for the rest of the day?
The more important figures are body fat percentage, visceral fat and muscle mass. A good quality body composition scan can give you a guide on your improvements in these areas and some software programs can track it visually.
Why do we care about body fat?
Getting our body fat percentage down not only makes us look better, but has tremendous health benefits. We know that being a higher percentage of body fat makes us more predisposed to diseases such as cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, oesophageal, liver, kidney) , gall bladder disease and diabetes. More importantly, lowering our visceral fat (also known as toxic fat) , which is the fat around our vital organs is imperative in reducing our risk of stroke, cardiovascular and arteriosclerotic disease. On average body fat percentage in men should be between 18-26% and females 25-34% but it does differ with age as seen below.
How do we get our body fat percentage down?
Regular exercise is the key to reducing our body fat percentage and our visceral fat levels. It also has the important benefit of increasing muscle mass which is necessary for burning the fat around it. In particular, I find that high intensity interval training is very effective in reducing body fat quickly as well in increasing fitness. Strength training is also very good at reducing visceral fat and increasing muscle mass. Spot exercising such as doing sit ups, may tighten abdominal muscles but will not reduce visceral fat. In my consulting, patients often tell me that exercise does not make them lose weight so why bother. But exercise does improve body fat percentage, reshapes our body, has tremendous mental health benefits, improves our cardiometabolic profile and most importantly reduces our visceral fat. If I could bottle exercise and give it to every one of my patients I would, as it would be like giving them bottles of longevity, improved mortality and reduced body fat.
Yes, sometimes we can’t be bothered exercising but if we think that through exercising we are giving ourselves a pill that improves body fat percentage and a reduction in chronic diseases that reduce both our quality and quantity of life we would do it everyday. Feel free to scream back at the scales.