And it's completely official! I am "average." I am "moderately lean." I am "acceptable."
How do I know this? Well, because I had my body fat hydrostatically tested this morning. Hydrostatic testing is the most accurate method of testing body fat percentage, short of cutting off all your fat and weighing it.
I recently decided that I wanted to know where I really was physically so that I could figure out where I need to go from here. My home scale measures body fat using bioelectric impedence and it's not known as a very accurate method. What it has shown me though, is a downward trend overall. I know I haven't really discussed how much I weighed yet, but I'll go ahead and do that now because I actually told my husband my actual weight a few days ago when he asked.
It was a big step for me. I never told him my weight before. I felt kind of icky telling him and immediately thought I'd made a mistake, but I realized he was simply curious. It doesn't seem to have affected how he feels about me. I am the only one who seems to place a high value on what the scale says from day to day. I realize that the number that shows up there determines how I feel about myself. I decided to find out what the number meant, really. Not what I thought it meant.
Of course, usually, when I look at the scale, I feel fat. I look at the number (today it happened to be 182 pounds and 37.6% body fat) and I think, "Oh God, I'm so huge!" (It should be noted that that number is 5 pounds heavier than last week because I am retaining an insane amount of water for some reason, I even woke up with puffy eyes and I never have puffy eyes, but whatever.) Even though that number is great considering where I was in April (198 pounds and 44% body fat) I still think of it as too much. Women aren't supposed to weigh the same as their husbands.
So I googled hydrostatic testing in my area and found out that The School of Exercise Science at Florida Atlantic University does this for a small fee. I called and scheduled an appointment and, this morning, drove to Boca Raton to find out my "number." I'll admit I was nervous. I have been thinking, based on what I see in the mirror lately, that the 37% bodyfat number seemed a little high to me. I had set my goal to be 165 and 30% body fat because coming from 44%, that was a huge improvement, even though I would still be considered barely in the "acceptable" range.
I was told to bring the smallest bathing suit I was comfortable in (uh, what?) and a change of clothes to my appointment. When I picked out the suit, I dutifully picked out one (actually pieces from two different suits) that were small, however, there was nothing "comfortable" about how I would feel in said suit. I decided that wasn't important. I wanted the least amount of fabric possible so that I would find out what my fat weighed, not what the bubbles hiding in my suit weighed.
When I arrived, just to add to my feelings of vulnerability (remember the extra 5 pounds, puffy eyes and too-small swimsuit in my bag?) the guys waiting to measure me were adorable young college boys. Nuff said. So we went through all the preliminary paperwork and questions and came to the moment of horror. Change into your bathing suit and let us know when you're ready. Ok. Mind over matter...I was so self conscious, but I needed this information. So I did as I was told.
When the guys were back in the room with me, we all walked over to the huge, metal tank and I climbed up a short flight of stairs to get to the top of the tank. I climbed inside and was happy to find the water very warm. There was a swingset-type swing dangling into the tank. I was told to sit on the swing holding a 10 pound weight on my lap. I then had to blow all the air out of my lungs and submerge my head completely while continuing to expel as much air from my lungs as possible. Once I stopped exhaling, a few seconds passed and then I was instructed to raise my head and breathe. This process was repeated another 4 times and then I got out of the tank and changed back in to dry clothes.
After plugging in all the numbers, the guys told me I could come over and they would show me the results. You know what they told me? They told me I am not fat. They gave me a number that I had just given them earlier as an "ultimate" goal for myself after a lot more hard work. They gave me a number that changed the way I looked later when I looked in the mirror. They gave me a number that immediately made me "acceptable" and "moderately lean."
They told me that my body fat is 25%.
Did you hear that? I said my body fat is 25%. That is "normal" and "average." That is NOT "obese" or "fat."
In an instant I went from "huge, fat, and gross" (in my mind) to "moderately lean." Wow.
So now, I have a new goal. Having found out that my lean body mass is 137 pounds right now, I decided that I am going to shoot for 20% body fat. That gives me a new goal of 170 pounds. Before,I thought 165 pounds sounded like a good starting point for a goal to reach. I was going to try to get there and then reassess, thinking that maybe I would land somewhere around 150. Now I know that 150 wouldn't be healthy for me, but 170 will be.
So, I'm excited that I have real number to work with in my goal to be healthy and strong. I feel great in spite of the 5 pound gain this week. I know the 5 pounds isn't due to anything I overate, it's probably just all the exercise (I've been VERY sore this week) causing my body to retain water. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing which is working hard and eating a healthy, clean diet.