As we kick off our next food challenge, one of the measurements taken at the beginning and end of the challenge is body fat percentage. While we don’t want to obsess over the number on the scale, knowing your body fat percentage is actually something to take note of. We are all built differently and while many of us will never achieve the Victoria Secret runway bodies, our body fat effects more things than you may know.
Fat is not just on the surface. As shown in this picture the fat in your body is found throughout our organs as well. This extra weight takes up room putting pressure on your arteries and organs, forcing your heart to have to work harder to get blood throughout your body. It is said each percent on the scale can drop your blood pressure the equivalent amount in points. Reducing weight can also aide in lowering your risk factor for stroke by lowering your Triglycerides and actually reversing the effects/risk of Atrial Fibrillation which is a leading cause of heart failure. Shedding a few lbs can also bump up your good cholesterol numbers which is another factor in heart disease prevention.
Sleep apnea is a common side effect of carrying some extra weight. The tissue in the back of your throat drops down and blocks your airway when you sleep. This can cause lapses in breathing which in addition to many health issues will cause you to wake up feeling unrested. Lowering your body fat percentage can often help and even allow those who suffer from sleep apnea to put away their bulky, uncomfortable CPAP possibly for good. Better sleep will lead to more energy and with that energy you may have the strength and motivation to get that workout in or at least have a more positive outlook on the prospects of the day.
Belly fat does more than make our clothes snug, it contains and gives off chemicals that effect the hormones in our body. One of the effects is our bodies reaction to insulin. An increase in body fat percentage can strain your pancreas forcing it to work harder in order stabilize your blood sugar. Losing some of that stubborn tummy pouch may reverse that strain and can actually prevent type 2 diabetes. If already diagnosed, patients who lost just 8-12 pounds reported being able to reduce medications for their condition and lessened their risk for other health problems associated with the disease..
Another hormone that is negatively effected with an excess of belly fat is our human growth hormone. As you may have heard athletes have been caught using this hormone as a way to increase performance, stamina, and strength. Some refer to it as the “fountain of youth” hormone; of which the effects have no doubt proven themselves. We do not want to diminish what our body naturally produces which is exactly what fat does.
For women, fat contains high levels of testosterone and girls that have a higher body fat percentage have shown to have higher levels of androgens, another male hormone. This can lead to many complications during puberty and later develop into polycystic ovaries.
We all have felt what just a couple extra pounds (even the small red, white and blue weight plates) can feel like during our WODs so it should be no surprise that extra weight puts undo stress on our joints on a daily basis. Each extra pound we carry adds 4 pounds of pressure on your knees and lower body joints, so imagine if you lose 10 pounds, you have just relieved your body of 40 pounds of pressure. This extra strain can cause inflammation which will negatively impact your joint health as you age and also increases the occurrence of headaches and migraines.
Some struggle seeing results for themselves in the mirror, or have that “ideal number” in mind, and when they lose just a few pounds may feel discouraged or like a failure. However, when you know how much just that small number has affected your overall health, it may put an extra bounce in your step. Knowing the difference you made leads to you feeling in control of your body. As you lose weight people will notice, they will comment on your progress, ask for advice, compliment you and even be jealous. Talk about a huge confidence boost.
That being said, many find a distinct change in their relationships during the transition. Your relationship with your significant other or potential suitor, with whom you may have hid your body or declined intimacy for fear of being exposed might improve. Your new found confidence may allow you to express your affections without the self doubt. Your relationship with food is another that may change. Many people use food as a form of comfort and as you tackle the obstacle of losing weight you need to see food as fuel for your body, not a go to for break ups and bad days. When you can’t hide behind that pint of double fudge brownie ice cream, you may find you are forced to deal with what is causing these feelings and find alternate (hopefully healthier) means with coping with them.
All in all, the scale should not control our lives, but we can control what we allow to affect our lives. Muscle can cause weight gain just as much as fat can so don’t get caught up in the numbers below your feet. Great ways of seeing results and knowing you are moving in the right direction are to do body measurements, take pictures, or have Amanda run your body fat percentage. Many of us can not see the change, as it often happens slowly but looking at a side by side photo even after just a month of work may be all you need to stay motivated.