Day 15 of 21 Days of Health
The Skinny on Body Fat Levels
During those tender teenage years when us ladies were starting to grow our curves, the age old saying from our mothers about how women are blessed with curves hit us hard because today’s media often portrays the “beautiful” woman as a “skinny” woman, making those curves undesirable to us growing up. Our mothers were right to an extent, women are supposed to have some body fat. How much is too much? How much is too little?
Interesting visual on approximate body fat percentages:
We all know that obesity (too high body fat) can literally kill you by the health problems it causes. A body fat that is too low can also cause complications, both fatal and life-altering.
Women have a higher body fat than men for the purpose of reproduction. Hormones, your breasts, your uterus, and ovulation (releasing an egg each month) all play a role.
In both men and women there is a body fat percentage that is “essential to human life.” This amount of fat is needed by the body for basic physiological functions.
No two people are the same, and someone else’s unhealthy could be healthy for you, and you’d both be borderline on the charts. Every person’s body is made differently, and body fat is gained in different proportions on everyone. One woman with may need to get down to 10% body fat to see her abs while another woman can see her abs at 16% body fat. Everyone is built differently. Just as there are normal limits for blood test levels, there are normal limits for body fat, and everyone fits into the range differently.
What body fat percentage is too low?
- Women: Approx. less than 12-14%
- Men: Approx. less than 5-8%
What body fat percentage is too high?
- Women: More than 32%
- Men: More than 25%
Great chart from ACE (American Council on Exercise) on body fat:
(Again, everyone is different, but these are average numbers.)
If you don’t test your body fat, how do you know if your body fat is too low?
- Low energy (chronic fatigue)
- Loss of menstrual period or change in period characteristics (flow, etc)
- Palpitations (from electrolyte imbalances)
- Sleep Disturbance
- Cold hands & feet
Complications of too low body fat for too long:
- Metabolic Damage
- Infertility (loss of period for extended length of time)
- Osteoporosis/Bone loss
- Cardiac Problems
- Fluid & Electrolyte Imbalances
I have learned that as long as you have a healthy lifestyle filled with working out, clean eating, rest days, happiness, family and FEEL healthy – that’s the best gauge of all. Every single person is different, but it’s important to remember that although we’re bombarded with how bad obesity (too much body fat) is for you, there’s an opposite side of the equation, and too little body fat can be just as detrimental. I have learned that moderation and balance in everything could not be more important, and that FEELING healthy is the most important thing.
Do you measure your body fat percentage? Have you ever been too high or too low?
I don’t measure my body fat % and never have, I use the mirror and my jeans to gauge my progress.
I have been too low. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food at one point and ate WAY too little calorie-wise and my carbs were way too low. In turn, over about 9 mths I became underweight and my body fat was way too low. I luckily have the most wonderful man in my life who gave me the wake up call I needed, which allowed me to heal myself and re-learn how to love myself. I have written posts about this in the past, here is one of my most personal posts:
Remember, being too low body fat can be just as harmful has having too much body fat. Moderation and balance is key to a healthy and happy life!
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- Do you measure your body fat level? I don’t – I use my jeans and the mirror as a gauge
- Have you ever measured your body fat levels? Nope!
- Do you feel healthy? Yes.
- Give me your thoughts on the skinny and fat of it all!