We had some friends over for dinner a few nights ago, and the conversation meandered to a discussion of if, as conventional wisdom holds, "things...Read More
My DEXA Body Fat Scan
This morning I went to the Fitness Institute of Texas (FIT) at the University of Texas to undergo a DEXA scan to learn my body fat percentage.
I opted for the DEXA scan because I’ve gotten wonky-donk readings on skinfold assessments with the fat calipers, even though I’ve had the same person do my fat pinching every time. Prior to today, I wasn’t confident in my understanding of my true body composition.
It’s important to me to establish a baseline reading NOW because I’m committed to my current training program – two CrossFit Women classes, two heavy weight lifting sessions, and one sprint/run workout per week – for six months, when I’ll go back to FIT and have the scan done again.
I chose six months as my time frame because my body is stubborn, and until about four weeks ago, my training plan had been pretty consistent for about two years: lots of met-cons and lots of life stress. I need to give my body time to adjust to my new activities, and I really need to get off the “worrying about numbers” train. So for six months, I’m going to eat well, sleep the sleep of the righteous for 8-9 hours every night, and work as hard as I can in my workouts.
DEXA stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. During the scan, two energy levels are passed through the body to analyze the composition of the body tissue. It’s like an x-ray lite. At the end of the 7-minute scan, I had a report that detailed lean tissue mass, fat mass, and bone. It was me, broken down into my component parts.
When I saw my results, I immediately thought, I’m not showing this to anyone but Dave.
I might have cried in the car on the way home.
But then I resolved to share my results with you. I told you yesterday that we’re more than the numbers we strive for every day. In my heart, I know it’s true.
There is no embarrassment or shame in a number on a scale or on a body comp chart or on a stop watch. I talked about this with Erika today and she agreed: those numbers shouldn’t be treated as secrets – they can’t hurt us. The only power those pesky little marks on a piece of paper have is the power we give them.
So you’re invited to take a look at my results in the charts below. Because these numbers are only an indication of where I am right now. Tomorrow, they’re going to start to change again because at 5:45 a.m., I’ll be in Crystal’s CrossFit Women class. Hell, they’re probably changing right now, AS I SIT HERE, because I’ve been sneakily building muscle over the last month, and tonight, while I get delicious, beautiful, restful sleep, they’re going to change some more.
Now… onto these wretched little f*ckers…
(If you click on the charts, you can see a large version.)
This first chart shows my skeleton on the left and my soft tissue on the right. Note how wonderfully blobby I look without a skeleton. Hey, all you super-lean people! The kind folks at FIT assured me that even super-lean athletes look blobby in their soft tissue scans, too. So: neener.
The graph in the upper right indicates bone density; that little black cube is me, and it shows that my bone density is very good. It’s good if T-score is between -1.0 and 1.0… mine is 1.6. Nice! We talked about this first, and this piece of good news sort of cushioned the blow about to come on the next page.
Oh! I also learned that I’m taller than I thought – or maybe I just stand up straighter now. In my stocking feet, I’m 5-feet-4-and-a-quarter, which is three-quarters of an inch taller than I’d previously thought. Neat! And, again, let’s celebrate where we can, shall we?
The next chart is where the sobering news appeared. You’ll see that my scale weight (151) and the DEXA weight match. The technicians thought that was a good thing. I did not because that officially puts me six pounds over my Weight Watchers goal weight. I know it’s old school (and “old Mel”) thinking to be hung up on the scale, so I’m having a very stern talk with that particular monster, but still… it rankles.
My BMI is 25.8, which officially puts me in the “overweight” category. Again, labeling here is a problem because BMI doesn’t take into account muscle – it’s based on height and weight. So BMI can suck it.
Waist Girth. Aaah, what a lovely phrase! Waist. Girth. Hmmmph. Moving on…
The assessment provides fat and lean numbers for arms, legs, and trunk individually, then totals them, too. My arms weigh 17 pounds! Who knew?
You can see on the chart that they also pinched me with fat calipers to compare and contrast. My DEXA total body fat % is 28.3 and my skinfold is 24.6%. They explained that the skinfold number is usually lower because it only takes into account subcutaneous fat, while the DEXA scan gets it all. Bless you, DEXA, for finding all those fat stores that were hiding in there. You’re a real peach!
FIT defines a “healthy” fat range as 21-32% for women my age. When they explained my results, they said, “You’re right in the healthy range… good job! That’s great.” I, of course, was sobbing inside because in our CrossFit world, 28.3% kinda makes me a chubbster. PotAto, PotAHto.
In these final charts, I’m the little gray cube, and these are showing how I stack up against the average of women they’ve tested, which is, admittedly, not a true average sample.My arms are slightly fattier, my abdomen is right on the average (Hooray! I’m normal!), and my legs and upper thighs are leaner than the average. (Don’t think for a second that didn’t make me strut a little bit.)
So there you have it: me, in my component parts.
Where does that leave me?
Exactly where I was before I was scanned: committed to taking great care of myself and working as hard as I can at every workout so I can continue to improve. I’m still nursing a wounded ego when I read these pages, but the facts contained within don’t change who I am or what I’m doing.
I mean, I wear a bracelet every day that says, “Never cheat, never quit.”