How many times have you stood on those bathroom scales holding that stomach in hoping it would magically reduce your weight and admonish you for all that excess you just couldn’t resist. I might be a Nutritional Therapist but I’ve been there and I too have felt the anguish and personal recrimination.
I thought I would lighten up a little from the past two blogs and focus in on an aspect of the Nutritional Therapy consultation that takes only a few minutes but provides so much valuable information – Body Composition.
Do you know your Body Mass Index (BMI) ? You must know the risk factors if you start to climb above 25 BMI, we are told almost daily in the press how as a nation we are getting bigger and bigger and how this is contributing to increased levels of this and that. What I never hear anyone talking about is body composition. This is the 21st century, technology abounds and body composition is a great information tool to help everyone understand what they need to do to help them stay fit and healthy.
Body composition involves taking your height and weight just like BMI but also taking measurements of total body fat, lean muscle mass, visceral fat (the stuff we really don’t a lot of) and hydration. It takes only a few minutes, you don’t need to take any clothes off except for your shoes and socks and the results are instantly available. I like body composition.
When I was planning how my Nutritional Therapy consultations were going to work the first thing I wanted to know was how the composition of a clients body influenced their health. I often see clients who have dieted over many years, attended slimming clubs and undertaken a broad variety of dietary programs all in the name of losing weight. We are told being overweight is bad and being the right weight is good and oh how we beat ourselves up about it. Being a ‘healthy weight’ is very important but lets not get carried away with the number on a set of scales, it a guide nothing more.
The most important thing is not your total weight but how that number equates to the level of muscle, fat and water. Take a look around you and I think you will see a broad range of people, all different shapes and sizes, some will have bigger bellies or bigger thighs, some will be ultra slim. The bigger people will consist of those that eat more than they need but also those that don’t, the slim ones equally will be a mix of over and under eaters. We are all different and weight loss, weight gain is a very personal thing often influenced by more factors than a regular Big Mac and chips (which from my perspective is not a good idea).
When you see your body composition report for the first time its a bit of a wake up call. Their you are on a piece of paper electronically dissected, no point breathing in because it makes no difference. This report is you, but I always say that it is just a starting point like getting the map out for the first time and surveying the landscape. I am not in business of offering information that has no value or provides no opportunity for change, what would be the point. The thing with body composition is that is allows a person to take control, to understand the correlations between diet, exercise, stress, medications and lots more and how they contribute to improving or impairing body composition.
I work with all clients and focus primarily upon their main concern, body composition may not be the main concern but I always explain how achieving an optimal body composition for you is going to help every possible condition you would care to name. Diabetes, hormone problems, digestive disorders, inflammation, CVD you name it and an improved ratio of lean muscle mass, body fat and hydration is going to make a difference, even if it just means you feel more confident.
Another thing that is measured with body composition is basal metabolic rate (BMR) this is the amount of energy you need in calories just to lie in bed all day and do nothing. It doesn’t include any exercise such as getting up or walking around, all that is extra so that energy expenditure needs to be added to the BMR to get the total intake of calories someone would need for their weight to stay static.
BMR is influenced by the amount of lean muscle mass and lean muscle mass influences how efficiently we can control our blood sugars. Blood sugars levels and the speed of reduction following a meal give an indication of how insulin sensitive our lean muscle mass is. A reduced level of muscle mass or a reduce level of insulin sensitivity can both drive blood sugars higher than is healthy for us and then we end up with other problems such as oxidised LDL cholesterol, damage to arterial endothelium and onwards we go on a cycle of potential diabetes and CVD.
I include body composition as a standard component of all Nutritional Therapy consultations and also offer the service as a stand alone option to those who simply would like access to this information. I work with a number of personal trainers (PT) who send their clients along before they begin working out, it help the client and it helps the PT who can adapt and modify training programs so the client is achieving their goals.
Body composition is a very effective tool to aid weight loss and for general wellbeing, everyone should try it.