Independent medical expert answers
on psychiatry and psychology

Measuring Body Fat

Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
First version: 22 Jul 2008. Latest version: 06 Aug 2008.


How much fat do I have in my body? It can determined by computing your Body Mass Index (BMI)


How much fat do I have in my body?


To measure a person's fat level the body can be imagined schematically as divided into two components: lean body mass and fat body mass.

The relative proportion between these two parts can be measured with diagnostic techniques that define the lean and fat body mass percentage.

The methods more commonly used, for this purpose, are Plicometry and Densiometry.

Plicometry is based on the principle that there is a direct relation between the subcutaneous adipose tissue and thin body mass so measuring the depth of some folds in the skin, made with a kind of slide rule, it is possible to know the fat mass and then the remainder is the lean body mass.

Densiometry is a methodology based on the observation that thin tissues absorb particular electromagnetic waves in different ways compared to fat tissues and allows evaluation of the two percentages. The densiometric estimates are more reliable with instruments that carry out sample measurements on the whole body. Both techniques are reliable and repeatable, neither invasive nor painful. Normal values of fat body percentages are as follows:

It is true that men usually have half the body fat present in women, but this is a genetically pre-disposed space evaluations that is not linked to will.

A woman who is 20 years old with 9% body fat will be anorexic and a man of the same age with 25% body fat will be overweight.

Nature has made us as we are and we must resign ourselves to accept it.

When you begin a weight control program, it is important to determine your body fat in order to understand if the weight you are losing is made up of fat or lean body mass.

The ideal loss of weight for overweight people, is the one that leads to fat mass loss but preserves or increases the mass percentage relatively.

Thin mass loss could cause tissue flabbiness, muscular loss, metabolism decrease and, as a consequence, a further fat mass increase. In short, less weight but more body fat, exactly the contrary of the aim!

Strict diets followed by eating disorder - patients often lead to this result.

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