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Body Fat Percentage

At the beginning of my fitness journey, I went to my gym and got my body fat percentage measured. At the time, my BMI was juuuust at 25 which didn't bother me so much, but my body fat percentage came out at 34% which surprised me. Today I found this photo
and frankly I feel like I look a lot more like the 25-26% than the 34-35%. So now I don't know where I'm at. I mean, I'd be inclined to believe the measurement above a random photo on the internet, but 34% also seemed excessive for my weight and over-all fitness level.

For background, I'm 163 cm (5'4") and SW 67 kilos (147.7 lbs), CW 64 kilos (141 lbs) and current GW 60 kilos (132 lbs).

I guess my question is, how accurate are those body-measurement scales at the gym, how accurate does that infographic seem, and/or should I even care?


  • Xellercin
    Xellercin Posts: 173 Member
    edited November 25
    No, you should not care and the infographic means nothing.

    It looks like that infographic went out of its way to find the most unflattering photos possible of the last categories. It seems like it was put together by someone pretty fat shaming who values really athletic bodies, because they also could have put photos of really low muscle mass men and women for all of the categories instead. Most low body fat people aren't totally ripped.

    That infographic is designed to promote a certain muscular body type, not to represent what those body fat percentages look like on average.

    It's not like everyone under 26% body fat looks frickin' amazing and then a few percentage points above doesn't. That's not how it works in the population.

    Just focus on your body, your health, and what's best for you.

    If you really want to reference your body, check out My Body Gallery and see photos of real bodies the same weight and height ranges as you. They don't have body fat% but it can help calibrate you to just how different certain weights look on different people.
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,071 Member
    Those devices are measuring your body's electrical resistance and not your body composition.
    Based on the impedance recorded a whole series of estimates are then made.
    Variations in hydration levels can have dramatic impact on the guesstimate.

    Sometimes they can be reasonable.
    Sometimes they can give a believable trend (if used under controlled and consistent conditions).
    Sometime the believable trend may have individual rogue readings that need to be excluded.
    Sometimes they can be just laughably inaccurate some of the time or even all of the time.

    A one off or infrequent reading tells you very, very little.

    The infographic works better at low body fat percentages. For normal to high BF% people's fat distribution is just too individual to give much of a guide to the actual number.

    TBH if you are at, or close to, goal weight just looking in the mirror tells you more - or at least the direction you want to go. Progress photos with same pose, lighting and clothing can show your trend over time.
  • JBanx256
    JBanx256 Posts: 734 Member
    There are a variety of those infographics floating around (here's a different one):


    The thing is, everyone stores their bodyfat a little differently than the next person, so the woman in the pic I just posted who is 34% looks considerably different than the one who is 34% in the one you posted (FWIW, there's a LOT of photoshop involved too - especially look at some of the thinner models' "edges" (meaning where their bodies/limbs stop compared to the backgrounds) and their angles are unnatural; as someone else pointed out, posing, lighting, etc are all influencing factors). They could both be "accurate" in the sense of the models pictured being in that bf range, but that doesn't necessarily translate to what it's going to look like on you personally.

    Also, don't put too much stock into any bf measurement they do at your gym. Whatever method they used, there is a margin of error (different methods have wildly varying margins of error, but none of them are dead-on).
  • springlering62
    springlering62 Posts: 4,146 Member
    edited November 25
    Don’t get too wrapped up in BF%. It can mess with your mind.

    First of all, those handheld devices or impedance scales are notoriously unreliable and inaccurate- including the Bluetooth ones most of us have in our bathrooms.

    The so called gold standards are the DEXA and the water chamber (can’t remember what they’re called but they measure via displacement of water ), but even they can return some funky results.

    When I reached 145 or 150 in 2019, I “rewarded” myself with a DEXA scan. I was sure I’d be around 20%. I was devastated to find it was 29.4% BF. It wasn’t a reward at all. It was punishment. I’d lost 80+ pounds, but dammit, I’d failed. I cracked down and worked harder.

    In 2020, I was down to 127lbs. My DEXA BF% result was 21.9%. I also looked skeletal and cadaverous and unhealthy and my trainer was threatening to drop me.

    I did one three weeks ago at 134lbs on the home scale (139 I think on the DEXA- also a surprise) and had gone back up to 24.something% Once again, devastated.

    But this time, only momentarily. I had to laugh. It had reached the point of being ridiculous.

    I am not doing any more scans. I am tired of placing my value in an arbitrary number. Was I less healthy than last year? Nope. Healthier. Did I look fat? Nope. Am I planning to compete as a bodybuilder? Lol….no…. It’s all this 59 year old can do to wear a crop top to a hot class without dying of exposure, mortification and embarrassment.

    Looking in the mirror was- still is- hard for me. I don’t see what others see. I have to look at photos and pretend I’m someone else looking at me, trying to see what they see, and gauge my reaction if I met me on the street. How do I look? Even that kind of critique is awkward. We are our own worst critics. (That’s how a lot of us got fat.)

    Be very careful investing your self worth in a graph or number or a pictorial. Most of them are hogwash.

    You’d look at this graph from my Bluetooth scale and assume I’d packed on weight. I was only up a six pounds from a family food-heavy visit ( and four of them already dropped in less than a week, btw. Haven’t weighed in in several days.)

    My Renpho home Bluetooth scale shows my BF% bouncing around, currently at 17.4%, versus the far more accurate DEXA scan three weeks ago that showed 24+%..

    That’s a 7+% difference between the two measurement sources, not even taking into account the extra “visit” pounds this week.


    There’s several graphs from my scale that have barely moved at all, or have gone UP in the three years and seventy pounds lost since I invested in an inexpensive impedance scale.

    The one that really pisses me off is the so called “metabolic age” calculation. Mine won’t change. I can tell you, I’m in a damn sight better condition and health than I was three years ago. Every time I see that graph I want to hurl my phone across the room. BTW my throwing skills have improved vastly with weight training. I don’t think I’d be picked last in Dodgeball these days, lmao.

    Use data for information, don’t set your heart and soul in it.
  • Speakeasy76
    Speakeasy76 Posts: 917 Member
    Like others have said, I've stopped taking a whole lot of stock in those numbers. I know that the percentage that is supposedly measured on my scale directly correlates with my weight--if it goes up so does the body fat by the same degree, and vice versa. I know that's not accurate. I also have looked at the pictures and can't really determine anything, since I have a lot more muscle definition in the top half vs. the lower half. I could be anywhere from 20-25% based on those pictures. However, I did some thing a few months ago where I took a picture of myself and an app supposedly estimated my body fat, and it was like 29 or 30%. I was extremely depressed, as I've been strength training seriously for a few years now. I'm 45 now, but had my bodyfat determined by the caliper method back in college. I was maybe about the same weight, but I know I was not as muscular, and my body fat was around 21-22%. I thought about having a Dexa Scan, but then asked myself what I would do if I didn't like the number. I decided it just wasn't worth it, because it's not like I was really going to change anything about what I'm doing now. I'm not going to do cutting or bulking, but just continue to try and eat well, eat enough protein, not overeat and progressively overload using a smart strength training program.