Body Composition Testing and Losing the Goal Weight Mentality (Part Two)

So where did we leave off — ah yes, Weight Watchers thinks I should weigh between 135 and 169 lbs.

I made what I thought to be a realistic compromise and said 175 sounded better. Actually it still sounded cringe-worthy to me, but cringe-worthy enough that I could get over it because I’d have reached my goal weight.

Goal weight, goal weight, goal weight!

God I’m sick of hearing that phrase.

I consider myself a reasonably informed person. I seek out many sources before I make decisions. I’m open to new things, and of course like a good little member of Corporate America I try to make my goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable BLAH BLAH BLAH. (Can we all agree that I don’t need help in the Setting Goals Department? Thank you!)

But this Friday lunch-break experiment sort of blew the “Attainable” nature of this particular goal out of the water.

Let’s Talk About Goal Weight vs. Reality

Let’s take a look at these numbers for a second and make a few assumptions, shall we? Within that goal weight (175 lbs) I’m looking to have the bulk of my body be lean body mass (bones, water, muscle) and of course some body fat. This is normal and necessary to live and also I don’t fancy myself to have Sarah Connor aspirations.

Whoa, it just got 1990s up in here! I fear that reference may make me sound 80 years old. But dude, she’s still kind of an OG badass, right? (Also though, much thinner than I remember. Hmmmm.)


So there are healthy recommendations everywhere for body fat, but generally you will find 19-26% is acceptable depending on your athletic goals. Let’s split the difference and say I’d like to be 175 lbs with 23% body fat.

Sounds average, right? (God, just to be average! Yes!) Now let’s do math!


(Jesus, first a Terminator reference and now LOLcatz. My credibility is dropping FAST. :))

A quick bit of multiplication on this goal of 23% body fat at a weight of 175 lbs would put me at 41 lbs of fat on my body, along with 134 of lean body mass.

Sounds reasonable, right? I know they make supermodels that weigh less than 41 lbs, but I have finally (GOD, FINALLY!) given up my supermodel aspirations. So I think we’re good.

134 lbs of lean mass. 41 lbs of fat.

This has been the goal I have seen as attainable. Let’s talk about reality for a second, shall we?

Friday’s test informed me that I CURRENTLY, as in right this very second, am sitting on 147 lbs of Lean Body Mass. I’m probably sitting in a cubicle in an uncomfortable desk chair, but still — sitting on 147 lbs of lean mass.


Fist bump, please.

The idea of that is major. That’s 147 lbs that I don’t want to get rid of! So first of all, WEIGHT WATCHERS, how the hell am I supposed to reach for that range that starts at 135 lbs? (Again, Weight Watchers: SUCK IT.) I couldn’t weigh 135 lbs if I had 0% body fat. It’s physically impossible.

Now let’s look at the high end of that range. To weigh 169 lbs I would be rocking about 13% body fat. Wanna see what that looks like? I hear Annie Thorisdottr only has 13% body fat.

Granted she only weighs 150 lbs, but the thing is, I’m pretty sure she eats barbells for breakfast. I am more interested in a life where I get to eat bacon for breakfast, and lift barbells when I feel like it. And this, I think, is where the turning point for me lies.

What are my goals for my LIFE? And how can those intersect with my goals for my BODY?

New Approach // New Goals

  • I would like to be healthy in the most basic sense (ie: lacking ailments)
  • I would like to have most of my health indicators not raise egregious red flags with the medical community. I mean listen, I’m not that invested in the majority of the medical community’s opinion anyway, but let’s just say I don’t want to be lectured about obesity every time I have a cold, you know?
  • I would like to complete athletic endeavors comfortably and for fun
  • I would like my clothes fit well (because I LOVE clothes)
  • I would like a closet that stays relatively the same size over time (Barring things like pregnancy, of course. I’m not crazy)
  • I would like to maintain a lifestyle that prioritizes treating my body well
  • I would like my body fat to be in the 20-25% range

Holy shit you guys, do you know how freeing that is? I’m already making tons of progress in many of these areas!  I prioritize treating my body well! My clothes fit well! I complete athletic endeavors all week long without batting an eyelash. I’m halfway there! And you know what…the others will come over time.

Letting Go

Aside from measuring my body fat and lean mass last Friday, this test did give me a new “goal weight” based on my lean body mass. That new goal:

189-198 lbs.

Yeesh! That still sounds heavy to me! But you know what else? It also sounds FUCKING REALISTIC. And very, very close I might add. It is a far more reasonable goal to “get over how heavy it sounds to be a fit bad ass who weighs 200 lbs” than it is to try and mold myself into a Weight Watchers/Dr’s Office/BMI “Healthy Weight Bracket.” So screw it. I’m not even going to worry about it anymore. In fact, I am pledging in this very moment to LET GO OF THE GOAL WEIGHT MENTALITY. I have other things to focus on, and this idea of a goal weight is only a distraction.

Yes, my body fat percentage is still in the 30s and I want that to go down. Lean Body Mass is great, but I am still concerned about body fat. But, honestly, can you imagine what it was 100 lbs ago? I’m trending in the right direction, so I’m just going to trust that it will go down. I’m going to concentrate on making more performance based goals, tweaking my diet based on how I feel and not what the scale says, and working hard on getting more hydrated. That was the other aspect of the test that was informative. I’m pretty darn dehydrated. I’m not particularly surprised, but it was a confirmation for me that will lead to action.

Wanna Test Yourself?

I can’t recommend this test highly enough. If you are making strides to be healthier, you just can’t go wrong with getting an overall picture of your physical make up. The scale can only tell you a certain amount, and even those fancy scales that say they are measuring your body fat and hydration levels in your own bathroom are not usually calibrated correctly. Do yourself a favor and find a place that does some kind of Bioelectrical impedance testing. Calipers can have a 5-7% rate of error because they don’t measure hidden body fat. Dunk tanks are more accurate but are inconvenient. I stepped on a scale (no problem doing that! ha!) and held on to some crazy electric devices for about 3 minutes, and voila! PAGES AND PAGES OF INFORMATION.

It’s changed the game, you all. And I’m kind of excited about it. When was the last time you said THAT when you stepped off the scale? Get some information that will actually help you instead of messing with your mind. It’s totally worth it!


Did I leave any questions unanswered? Let me know what you think!

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33 comments to Body Composition Testing and Losing the Goal Weight Mentality (Part Two)

  • kara t.
    June 12, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Girl, you are STRONG and your hard work paying off. I have learn to let go of numbers completely but recognize that a number on the scale can sometimes help me identify progress. The whole thing is hard for me because people can tell you that you look good or that you’re obsessing but you and I both know that it’s not just about fitting a mold.. but being lighter to do pull ups and burpees, stronger to lift heavier, etc. Just remember that your goals are YOURS and no one would tell you which ones should be most important to you, or that even if you hit those goals that you have to settle there. Keep up the hard work :)

    • Holly
      June 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      You are totally right! And every once in a while I do think to myself “Man, if only I was a little bit lighter this would be so much easier!” (Hello pull ups!) But then I go an lift a ridiculous amount of weight and think to myself, “Somewhere out there, there is a tiny gal wishing she had an extra 20 lbs of muscle.” :)

  • Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie
    June 12, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Congrats Holly! It’s great to hear (read…) you throw your old expectations out the window in favor of more realistic and attainable ones. And your progress is great, congrats!!!

    • Holly
      June 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      I owe quite a bit of my progress to all of those lovely chuckleheads over at ARCFit, so you know this means you are inadvertently responsible. :)

  • Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan
    June 12, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Holly! These two posts are brilliant. Thank you for sharing and for setting such a beautiful example for all of us.

    • Holly
      June 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Well I certainly wouldn’t be making all of these positive changes if I hadn’t found good mentors like you early on! Thanks for always being so supportive — it really makes a difference!

  • Beth
    June 12, 2012 at 8:10 am

    What a great post! I have been beating myself up over a non-moving scale even though old clothes are starting to fit again, mostly because of an upcoming September wedding. My dress fits like a glove and looks awesome; isn’t I can easily forget how great I feel in it when those silly numbers pop up. I’m going to find a place in Seattle and do this as soon as I get a chance and set some real goals for myself.

    • Holly
      June 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Oh do it, do it! I really think it’s going to be a game changer for me. I’m over giving the scale power!

  • AllieNic @ Frisky Lemon
    June 12, 2012 at 8:35 am

    All I have to say is that you’re awesome! This is such a great post! Brave and definitely strong!

  • Body Composition Testing and Losing the Goal Weight Mentality (Part One)
    June 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

    […] Here’s Part Two) Share Posted in Health + Fitness, Weight Loss | 13 Comments […]

  • Mariah
    June 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Holly! I LOVE this post. You are fearless and determined… I can’t wait to see you smash your new goals! As a side note, I wonder what it would be like to eat barbells for breakfast… 😉

  • sizzle
    June 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

    This is just what I needed to read. You are so right on. I actually decided last week that I would only weigh myself once a month. I was getting way too tied to the numbers and letting it negatively impact my self-perception. As in, if I felt good in my body then got on the scale to a larger number than I wanted, I’d wallow. I don’t need that bs! I’m exercising and eating right and have been under a lot of stress so I’m just focusing on positives right now.

    • Holly
      June 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      What makes it so hard is that you know the scale only tells part of the story, but when you are in a situation where you know that ultimately you do NEED to drop some lbs, its hard to know when you are heathily monitoring a goal and when it is making you completely nutso! I’m hoping keeping an eye on my overall body composition will satisfy my need to see positive trends, but will help me give up the scale torture. We shall see…

  • Lindsay
    June 12, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I love this post so much!!! We’ve become so trained to equate healthy with skinny, to believe that we have to fit into a predetermined box to be strong and fit and healthy. I love that you’re breaking those boxes…it inspires me to do the same. Thank you so much for being so honest.

    • Holly
      June 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      Yeah, the word skinny sort of irritates me. That’s an entire post in itself, I’m sure. One I’ve probably already written, but I think as a society we need to come up with some NEW ADJECTIVES! :)

  • AndreAnna
    June 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    So, basically what I’m hearing is that you and I are BASICALLY Iceland Annie with love handles?


  • Mary
    June 18, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Holly, I saw this series of posts linked from Mel, and they are changing my life! I’m 5’10, I’ve lost 100 pounds (right now, I hover around 200), and I’ve started lifting heavy during the last year. I also have PWWSD (Post-Weight Watchers-Stress Disorder) and find myself constantly worrying about how in the hell I’m going to get to 170 (like you, the UPPER limit of the range WW assigned to me). I’m going to hunt down a body composition test ASAP. Also, thanks for writing this!

    • Holly
      June 18, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Mary! And seriously, do it! It is just so HELPFUL instead of arbitrary like the WW ranges, which don’t account for the density of muscle or body fat or ANY OF IT, ugh! And by the way I love PWWSD! Best acronym ever, I’m using that! :)

  • Where I Finally Learn The Lessons About The Scale and BMI That You All Accepted A Long Time Ago (PART 1) :
    June 19, 2012 at 5:15 am

    […] started with this article from Holly. She got a body composition done (something I want to do ASAP now) and then compared […]

  • Heather@YSP
    June 19, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Thank you SO MUCH for this. I have been KILLING myself over the BMI charts (thanks for calling me OBESE, you twit) and weight ranges and WW ideals… for years. I’ve lost 50 pounds, then got stuck in a total mire. Now I’m getting stronger and slimmer every day, but a recent misstep (onto the scale) nearly derailed me because it showed a gain, and since I still have 50lbs to lose (according to BMI) I was SO upset. Now I’m starting to realize I may need to reframe my goals. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Numbers… | Yummy Sushi Pajamas
    June 19, 2012 at 6:50 am

    […] I read THIS GENIUS POST (go on, go!), which I found because Kim linked to it, which pretty much makes me want to leave work […]

  • Friday Favorites | j. Frances Design :: Jillian Frances Withee
    June 22, 2012 at 11:38 am

    […] Holly Would if She Could is my one of my must read blogs that focuses on healthy living. If you’ve ever struggled with weight loss and felt like you couldn’t meet the ideal weight for your height, you will find her posts on body composition and letting go of her goal weight so inspiring. Part One & Part Two. […]

  • Mel
    June 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    LOVE YOU. I had a DEXA (x-ray) body scan last year right around this time, and was at 5’5″, 168 lb, 27% body fat. Around September 2011, I literally starved myself down 18 lb. Got to 150. Size 8. Fuckingfantastic. I kept it off about 6 months before it crept back on. Today I weigh 165 lb. I know I am stronger than back then (I dropped Crossfit because it was chronically injuring me, and now do Oly-lifting). Your post inspired me to go back to the DEXA clinic and get rescanned, out of curiosity, to see what is going on with me now!

    • Holly
      June 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Oh yay! I hope it goes well! It makes so much more sense to base your goals off of lean body mass since that’s the stuff you don’t WANT TO LOSE! :) I don’t know why it took me so long to figure that out. Hope it is enlightening.

  • Mel
    June 26, 2012 at 6:37 am

    I did some calculations and if I lost 3 lb then I lost ~1% body fat, down to 26%… interesting since my pants feel tighter, but WHO KNOWS. I know women’s hormones and all that junk can be a lot more complicated, among other things…

  • Tiffany Precissi
    July 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Late comment alert.. So I just found an old body comp analysis from 2010 when I did a dunk test. As of 9/28/2010 my lean lb was 153.2lbs. I certainly still have a lot of fat lbs to lose but I am curious to see what my lean lb is now. I think I might have to make a trip to the place you did to see. That dunk test was extremely uncomfortable.

  • At the halfway point… | Coffee & Sunshine
    July 3, 2012 at 1:08 am

    […] read about the BMI the more ridiculous it seems (check this out, for example). My friend Holly had her body composition analyzed and I found it really, really inspiring. While the BMI may be a good baseline, I’m not sure […]

  • June Progress + July Intentions
    July 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

    […] *Keep at least one weekend day to yourself – If you have to say no to things, people will understand. *Get back to clean eating 7 days a week – my weeks are pretty dialed in but the weekends tend to lack some focus. *Make some performance based fitness goals – I’ll talk more about this later, but I touched on it a bit here. […]





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