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Body fat percentage

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Old 01-13-2014, 07:53 PM   #1
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What is ideal?

I'm near my scale goal, and I have been telling myself that when I got close, I would measure my body fat and finalize my goal based on that data. It seemed like a good way to take emotion and body image out of it and to set a genuinely healthy goal for myself. My appointment is Sunday, and I just realized I don't know what my goal should be. I've Googled, but I got a very broad range of results. I really need a number to shoot for or at least a much smaller range. And am I athletic? I run and do strength training, but not competitively. The Olympic committee isn't banging down my door.

I am female, and I'll be 32 in a month. I'd like to be thin, but in a healthy, strong way. I am wondering about an ideal goal, not just "not overweight," if you see what I mean. Like maybe in the thinner half of healthy?
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Old 01-13-2014, 08:08 PM   #2
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Having been down at the bottom end of my range, i'd say don't aim for the very bottom of the healthy weight range. I assume you know your healthy weight range in pounds.

For example mine is 55-68kg. (multiply by 2.2 for pounds). I look pretty good anywhere from 61 down but at 55, its hard to maintain. Actually i am sure i look a damn site better than i do now for anything from 68 down. But i still feel ugly at 68 so 63down is not at all bad either.

The thing with me and probably most people is that a lot of us tend to have a part of our bodies that are a bit fatter/flabbier/saggier and ungorgeous even when everything else is looking great. Don't try to make the ungorgeous gorgeous. Its never going to happen. Just learn to be accepting of your imperfections (if you have any).

for me to have nice legs and arse, i have very bony ribs. But other people aren't anywhere near as critical of our bodies as we are of ourselves. We need to learn to be a bit less critical.

Sorry i can't talk in terms of body fat percentage.

The thing is if you are doing plenty of exercise, you will be keeping yourself toned and will look great anyway. Especially when you've got all your clothes on. A lot of what makes people beautiful is in their faces anyway. If you've got a nice face, you are already a million miles ahead.

And use good clothing choices to maximise your looks. I am amazed at how my clothing choices in recent times have improved my appearance and i'm the most overweight i've ever been. People are always giving me compliments. Hairstyle is another factor.
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Old 01-13-2014, 09:48 PM   #3
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I am a big believer is setting incremental goals. For me, my body fat percentage right now is too high. 32% is the number I've seen for obese and I'm above that. So, my first goal is to get below 32%. Right now, since I'm above 32% it doesn't really help me to think about how much I could be below it. I want to get below that percentage and see how I look and feel and how hard it is for me to maintain. Then, if it goes well I would probably set a goal in the 20s and I would periodically review that goal and adjust it as realistic.

Way back when I got to lifetime with Weight Watchers I had a pretty arbitrary goal of 125 pounds. I am not sure why but it was a number that sounded good. So that was my goal. Along the way I got to other weights that I sustained for a good long period (under 145, for example, which is not overweight for me), but I was fixated on 125. I got there and couldn't maintain and felt that 130 (which was very slim for me) was a failure. So I gained it back. In reality, 125 was not sustainable for me at that time.

So this time I'm doing it differently. I am focused on getting to 146 and then I'll consider if I want to go below that. I don't have to have that as goal right now. I am not saying you can't have goals that you may find challenging, just to consider if it might be helpful to have some shorter term goals as well.
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Old 01-13-2014, 11:03 PM   #4
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The thing is that I had a goal, but I'm still fat and I'm almost there. So I could pick another weight, but what happens when I get to it and I still think I'm fat? Which is a risk. I have struggled with eating/body image issues, and this time I am really trying to be positive and rational. That's why I think I need a number for the body fat percentage to be my next goal. I'm afraid if I go see what it is without having a plan, I'll just freak out and pick something way lower, and maybe right now is already ok. On the other hand, if I pick a number now, then on Sunday when I go, there are four options:

1) I'm below the goal! Maintenance time.
2) I'm at the goal! Maintenance time.
3) I'm just a little above it. Maybe my goal weight is the right weight after all.
4) Wow, I am way above it. Ok. I'm still on track to make my goal weight, which is a huge accomplishment. Now I have a new challenge to focus on once I'm there.

I really think if I have a concrete plan, I can be positive with myself about it. But if it's open-ended, I feel like nothing is ever good enough. And that leaves the door open for a lot of obsessiveness and self-loathing that I would like to believe I've outgrown.

So...21? Or is that low?
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Old 01-14-2014, 12:14 AM   #5
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This is a really tough question, mostly because the answer varies. It depends on A) your body type and fat distribution B) genetic predisposition and bone structure C) muscle mass D) personal aesthetics E) method of measurement!

Females need to maintain an essential bodyfat % of ~10-13%; bodybuilders and athletes are usually somewhere within the 12-19% range. But what might be comfortable and healthy for one woman at 18% might be dangerously underweight for another. Also, depending on the actual measurements, a water displacement analysis can give a wildly (sometimes 5-10%!) different number to, say, a caliper reading.

Personally, I'm aiming at just under 20% bf for my end goal; I want a bit of muscle definition. But then again, my goal weight is ~125lbs and my Mum used to be 105 when she was my age (she's 2" shorter than me). If I hit that but then decide it's too low, then I can always modify my maintenance bf% goal - for me, easier to go back up a bit! Models are often around the 15-20% mark; but, again, depending on your personal chemistry some women lose their periods at that %!

A healthy, attractive bf% for women can usually be reached at ~22-25%. If you know that you could still have self esteem or body issues for a while after reaching your goal, I think it's best to aim for 'healthy'. Then, after you've allowed yourself the time to adjust to your 'new' body (at least 6 months!) and decide you'd like to drop a bit more bodyfat, you'll have a better idea of when to say 'stop'!

Good luck, you've done so well!

Last edited by Defining : 01-14-2014 at 12:23 AM.
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Old 01-14-2014, 03:22 PM   #6
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Thanks, defining! That's really helpful. I'm going to aim for 22 to 25 percent and hold there to see how it goes.
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Old 01-14-2014, 09:15 PM   #7
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Glad I could help! It sounds like you've made incredible progress; be sure to pat yourself on the back no matter what the numbers say.

EDIT: It just occurred to me to add that I am not a doctor, dietitian, or fitness professional. I just read too much. Please continue to do research, and make healthy decisions based on your own conclusions!

Last edited by Defining : 01-15-2014 at 01:27 PM.
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Old 01-19-2014, 04:04 PM   #8
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Update: it came out at 18.1. The guy didn't seem very expert or anything, so I'm automatically kind of doubting it, but I'm going to stick with my predetermined decision tree and say I'm done losing. I will reassess in a few months.
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:04 PM   #9
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Holy crap!!! That's great, congrats.
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Old 01-19-2014, 09:07 PM   #10
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When I was working out a lot more, I had about 20-22% body fat at 128 pounds. I weigh the exact same still, but have been completely out of the gym due to an ankle injury. I would guess that I am at least 25% now, compared to how clothing fits and generally feeling squishier.
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