Monday, January 24, 2011

Do I need to make a correction?

After my last blog, a friend of mine chastised me for my measurement techniques and the way I was reporting my weight and body fat percentage values. Of course, if you read my early notes on my measurement techniques, you'll remember that my goal is a relative change and I'm not terribly concerned if my absolute reported value is a few percentage points off. However, she really got me thinking, and I decided to try to learn a little more about a few things.

First thing I needed to do was to understand the different techniques for measuring body fat percentage. Of course, you know I simply went and asked my good buddy Google. He returned all kinds of interesting and informative articles on the different measurement techniques and their relative accuracy. Here's one I particularly liked. That site also has a number of other interesting articles on body composition as well.

Of the different measurement techniques available, there are a few that are more accessible to you and me. I hear that there is a hydrodensitometry weighing tank here in the upstate, there probably are a few, but this is not readily accessible to me on a regular basis. This method is all about measuring the body's density. This comes from the volume displaced by the water, and the weights taken while both in and out of the water. This seems to me the most accurate, but read the articles - no single measurement method is the best.

I'm certain that much more accessible is the use of body calipers. I know that Coach Jeni has a set. She and I will be scheduling a measurement in the near future. In this method, a caliper is used to measure the thickness of a pinched skin sample in 3 or more places on the body. A complex set of formulas is then used to calculate the estimated percent body fat.
If you have a buddy and a set of calipers, here's a cool site I found with the calculations already programmed, you just enter your specific information.

Perhaps the easiest and most accessible method for estimating body fat percentage is through the use of Bioelectrical Impedance. This is where a very small electrical signal is passed through the body and the computer calculates the body fat percentage. This is the method I've been using with my Taylor model 5598 digital scale. Turns out, this isn't necessarily the best method. Worse, the reviews I've read recently on my particular scale are not very positive.

One thing I've learned from this research - I should have been measuring myself in the 'athlete' mode. The scale has two settings according to your fitness or activity level. Wow! What a difference when I switched from the 'non-athlete' mode to the 'athlete' mode. I think the difference has to do with fat that could be contained within the muscles - an athlete is going to have less fat within their muscles than a person who does not exercise.

Yesterday is when I made this switch. In the morning, I was not pleased to see that my weight had continued to drop (down to 167 from what had been an average of 173.5), but it was showing my body fat percentage near 27%! I imagine I am losing some muscle mass while I am on this liquid diet, but sheesh! it can't be increasing my body fat percentage by that much!! So, after that research, I went in and changed the setting on my scale. The Body Fat reading? 17ish percent. Wow, now what?

So, what I'm saying is be very careful and do a bunch of research if you decide you are going to invest in a scale that measures body fat percentage.

Here's an
article on body fat measuring scales:
That same site has a great article on using the skin fold calipers:

For my purpose, I'm going to stay with the 'athlete' mode on my scale, continue to gather the data and I'll continue to report. However, as mentioned, I'll be making an appointment with Coach Jeni to get the calipers
out and make some measurements there.

A couple of other points that I found pretty interesting. Among the methods used to estimate body fat percentage there are a couple of simple methods that use only a tape measure and some calculations. Here's one site that requires some very simple measurements and returned for me a body fat percentage of 18.3%. I'm taking it for what it is, but it will be interesting to see how that number compares to the caliper method and the new readings from my scale in the 'athlete' mode.

I also found this other site that takes you through the method used by the US Navy to estimate body composition. I have not completed these steps yet, but will try to do that today as another estimate to add to my dataset.

So, what is my corrected body fat percentage? I have no idea. However, using the most recent data, I'm thinking it must be closer to 20% than to 24%. The most important thing I found in all of these articles is the same as the approach I have been taking all along - use the numbers as a reference and look for the change in value, not specifically at the absolute value of the number.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Update on body measurements, and how I am going to cheat on my plan...

So far things are going pretty well in changing my body composition. I'm not perfect by any means, however, I have made some very positive steps and I feel really good about the way I am eating and what I am eating.

The best part is that I really feel like I am eating more than I was before. I guess the important part is that the meals are better balanced and I'm eating in good quantities. A huge difference is in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. These make a difference as those are normally the times when I would be going for the reece's cup or whatever other evil chocolate that would be found nearby.

So, let's get down to the numbers: Recall, I am reporting only 7 day averages for weight and % body fat. Here's how they work out with today's calculation:
weight: 173.8
% body fat: 24.8.

In comparing those numbers to the numbers I posted previously, those changes are worth 7.2 lbs (down from 181) and 2.3% bf (down from 27.1%). It's not going fast, but I don't expect or really want it to go too fast. I want positive lifestyle changes that will keep me around for a long time - and in great shape for a long time!

Here's a screen shot of my charts:

I decided also to take my body measurements again this morning. I'm including the last measurements as well for quick reference.

Here's how they fall out:
Chest: 41.625" (down 2" from 43.625")
Waist: 37.125" (down 1.375" from 38.5")
Hips: 39.0" (down 1" from 40)
Thighs L: 23" (down 7/8" from 23.875) R: 23.125 (down 7/8" from 24")
Calves** L: 16.375" R: 16.5"

Not counting the calves, that is a total of 6.125" lost in just under a 2 month period. Funny how quickly it adds up when you are making multiple measurements.

I've put asterisks next to my calf measurements because they are actually showing bigger than the last measurements. It is easy to get a variation in my measurement of them with just a small change in tape placement. Quite a bit of taper on the calves. I will have to work on my measurement technique I suppose.

So, how am I cheating? A couple of days ago I did the most invasive part of my orthodontic treatment. In order to make my teeth straight, not only did I need to have the braces, I also had to have my jaw position corrected for an overbite of about 10mm.

How do they correct for an overbite you ask? Well, to put it in laymans terms, they broke my jaw in two places (near the hinges), moved it out by the necessary amount and then put three screws in each side to hold in it position while the bone heals.

What this means for me is that I am on a liquid diet for a minimum of 2 weeks, then I might be able to start chewing soft stuff. All depends on how well the healing goes and what the Dr. says. I dropped 2 lbs after only one day in the hospital. Thursday the 20th I ate no food whatsoever. Lots of liquids through the IV and cool water with small ice chips.

I don't think it's going to be a major problem though. I have lots of good ideas for liquid (or no chewing required) meals. Including smoothies, protein shakes, applesauce, pudding, soups, etc. Today is my first full day out of the hospital and I feel just as full as if I were eating 'normal' food. Maybe I won't lose any weight after all!

I'll keep an eye on it and keep you posted.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The value of exercise...

This can't be a blog about all the great things that exercise brings to you, there are too many benefits to list! I do know that for me and most of my friends exercise is a big part of our lives and I'm confident that without it we wouldn't have the great lives we have.

This blog is just to note an interesting observation I've made over the last week. Exercise has a very direct effect on my weight (duh)! Here's my most recent weight and body fat percentage chart:

Note the little up-swing towards the last data points as I have circled on both charts. These data points happen to correspond to a period of several days where Upstate South Carolina was shut down with the snow and ice. Of course I was not getting out on my bike, with those bad conditions. In fact, I wasn't getting out of the house at all for a couple of days. When I did finally decide to get out of the house on the wednesday to go to work, the roads were still horrible and that meant another day of no exercise.

If you count the number of data points, you can see there is 3 data points that create the upswing. Those are the three days I didn't exercise. When I finally was able to get in a run on the fourth day, you see that the corresponding data point goes back into the downward swing.

So, there you have it, documented proof that exercise is good for you! (as if you didn't already know that!)

Ok, so the next question you're going to ask is about the big gap in the middle of all that data, and why does the bf% jump after that gap? Well, that was over Christmas with family. It's a dark period in my efforts to improve my nutrition and change my body composition.

All I remember is there was lots of cookies, a number of different types of beer and more food than I've seen in a long time. That's all I am going to say about that.