By Lauren Denos: 10/2/2014 (Ask Lauren)

Dear Lauren,

I had my BMI done and it says that I am overweight, but I don't understand how that can be. I am in good shape. Why would my BMI be so high, is this a mistake?

Thank you,


Hello Jolie,

First off, the BMI is not a very accurate calculation of your body fat to muscle ratio. On the BMI scale, many people who are muscular are shown as overweight or obese. If you want to get a better calculation, use some of the other body fat measurement tools. The three most accurate methods are:

  1. DEXA (Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) is just what it sounds like. It is using x-ray technology to test your body mass. This method is usually used to test bone density for osteoporosis, but it does calculate the amount of body fat and lean mass as well. The good thing with this test is it can tell you the percentage of each body part. This testing needs to be done in a laboratory setting and therefore will cost you.
  2. Hydrostatic weighing or water dunking is the most accurate you will get, but many people do not want to spend the money or time to get this done.
  3. Similar to hydrostatic testing, Air-Displacement Plethysmography is similar to water dunking; but, instead of using water displacement to figure out your body mass, they use air. Like the water dunking above, you will not find this testing everywhere, and it is more costly and time consuming than the calipers and bioimpedance machine.

"But Lauren, no one offers those or they're expensive."

They are the most accurate but not the most common. There are two other methods you are likely to find nearby. They're not as accurate as the ones above, but accurate enough to be useful for most people.

Caliper testing can be done by a trainer at your gym, and does not require a lot of high tech equipment. The down side to calipers is that they need to pinch your skin to get the reading, and it is uncomfortable. If people are very overweight, it may not work. With the calipers, you want to make sure you go with the 10 site skin fold test, this can be helpful because everyone carries weight in different areas.

A bioimpedance machine calculates your body fat through electrical feedback. The pro to this is that it is easy, comfortable, and it does not matter how “big” you are. The con is that it can be less accurate. You can get this done by a trainer, or you can buy one yourself. Costs with this varies, but you can usually find them for under $100.

Overall, do not stress about your exact body fat percentage, unless you have a specific reason to. If you have health issues that make it necessary, or if you are going to be doing fitness competitions, then you do need to pay close attention to it. If you really want to test it, then do it no more than once a month. Most people stress themselves out way too much over their body fat percentage and weight. It becomes very unproductive.

Do you feel good and do you like the way you look? This question, along with many others, are more important than what a body mass test says.



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