Ya Gotta Play With Numbers, Rejoice in the Math, and Revel in the Research!

Curious Cats ©2011My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Arts; I majored in Library Science and Drama.  Which means [drumroll please] I have a B.A. in L.S.D.!  Honest!  I’m not kidding.  Neat huh? 🙂

One nice thing about getting a liberal arts degree was that only one semester of the lowest level of algebra was required. Yay! Yippee! Woo Hoo!

So, who knew that years later I would actually *need* some of that math to become fit!  The other thing that college taught me is how to do research.  Which is a good thing, I guess, since I’m a Librarian.  A big chunk of my job is finding information.  But who knew that I’d be using that skill set to get healthy?

After writing Setting Goals: You gotta do the math! Ugh!,  it occurred to me that I’ve been using some fitness formulas, terms and guidelines without really defining or explaining them.  This post will elaborate on the following points:

  • How I arrived at a goal of 194 lbs and 12% Body Fat
  • The maximum safe amount you should plan on losing per week is 1% of your total body mass.
  • When losing weight the goal is to lose body fat, not muscle; in other words your “lean body mass” should remain fairly constant.
  • The “Healthy at Every Size” Movement.  It is important to “listen” to your body; weight and body fat are only two indicators of health, they should not be relied upon to the exclusion of other factors.

Warning to the sleep deprived or easily bored.  This post, out of necessity, is going to ramble on for a while.  Fasten your seat belts…   Here we go…!  Wheeee!!!! 🙂

I’m not posting all this minutia (good word right?) for no reason; I figure there is someone out there who might actually do a Google Search and need the information.  Plus there is that future book deal to consider… …Hey Random House!  You readin’ this?  Oprah?  Have your staff call me!

I mean folks aren’t just born with this knowledge; there was a point in my own journey towards being healthy where I didn’t know this stuff either.  I had to work out how it was done, even if now it seems straight forward.  So if you’re at the point where you need all the gritty detail, then awesome, I’m glad I could help.  🙂  Everybody else, just read the funny bits and let your eyes glaze over when you get to the math.  Sssssssnnnnnnnzzzzzzzzz

Total Body Mass

Man on Scale [CC]Total Body Mass (TBM) is the total amount you weigh.  Yes, we’re talking about that pesky number peeking up at you when you step on the bathroom scale.  TBM is composed of muscle, bones, organs and fluids.

By the way, on Earth, if you measure your “weight” and measure your “mass” you get the same number.   Scientists take that kind of stuff very seriously.  However, since I’m not a scientist, we’ll shall all agree to overlook it when I, your ever so humble blog author, like most of the English-speaking world, uses the two words as synonyms.

For all the math examples in this post, I’m going to use my numbers from last week.  This past Tuesday, I weighed myself twice.  Tuesday morning I weighed 283.5 lbs.  Tuesday night I weighed 283 lbs.  So my average for the day was 283.25.

(AM weight + PM weight) / 2 = Average Daily Weight

(283.5 +283) / 2 = 283.25

At the end of each week, I take all the daily averages and come up with a Weekly Average.  Averages are sometimes referred to as the “mean”  (NOTE to the “mathematically challenged”…  There are links throughout this article which take you to a really easy to understand website that explains how do the mathematical operations. Just click on them if you need the info.  FYI, I cheat.  I set up the formulas in Excel and just type in the numbers.  The computer does the rest.  But it does help if you understand what the computer is doing when it does the math for you.)

(Mon Avg + Tue Avg + Wed Avg + Thu Avg + Fri Avg + Sat Avg + Sun Avg) / 7 = Weekly Average Weight

(284.00 + 284.25 + 284.50 + 284.50 + 283.75 + 283.00 + 283.25) / 7 = 283.89

Since averages can sometimes include unusual highs or lows, especially when it comes to body fat (which we’ll get to later), I also calculate a Weekly Median Weight:

283.00,  283.25,  283.75,  284.00,  284.25,  284.50,  284.50

Median (Middle number)

The final number I gather from one week’s worth of data is the Average Daily Weight from the last day of the week.  This gives me three “weights” for each week:

Average Weekly Weight: 283.89
Weekly Median Weight: 284.00
Last Daily Average: 283.25

I use the smallest number of the three for my “weekly weigh-in at home”.    I also have a weekly weigh-in at Jenny Craig.

I know that this may seem like a lot of extra work.  Most people just weigh-in once a week and they’re done with it.  And if that works for ya, then Woo Hoo!  I, however, need more constant feedback.  If your reaction to all this is “OMG, he’s nuts!”  Then Bless Ya sweetie.  But if your reaction is “OMG, he so totally rocks!”  Woo Hoo!  Then Bless Ya too sweetie.  🙂  This process works for me, and that’s what counts.  Counts!  Get it?  I made a punny!  ROFLMAO at my own cleverness!  But I digress…

Body Fat Mass

Body Fat Calipers [CC]Usually shortened to “Body Fat“.  This measurement is usually given as a percentage of total body mass.  But with a simple calculation it can, if you choose,  be converted to pounds.  (Note to my friends from Europe and most of the rest of the world.  Hey, I live in Texas, part of the United States (the best part).  We’re still using this crazy system we got from the British and haven’t converted to the Metric system.  *sigh*  The formulas still work if you plug in kilos instead of pounds.)

Check out my post Measuring Body Fat…. Eeeeeeewwwwww!!!!!! for a full explanation on how Body Fat is measured.  However you measure it, once you got the raw numbers you can do the math.

Calculating daily and weekly averages, and medians for Body Fat is basically the same as doing it with pounds (see above).  However, I use two different electrical impedance devices to measure my body fat which gives me four daily numbers instead of two, as with TBM.   There is quite a bit of variance in the day-to-day numbers and between the two devices.  By using averages and the median, the variances are minimized and I can more accurately gauge trends, up or down, even if an individual daily measurement is off.

From Tuesday, I have four measurements: two, AM & PM, using my Omron handheld (37.9% and 37.6%) and two, AM & PM using my Tanita scale (45.5% and 44.5%).  Now let’s do the math.

(Omron AM Body Fat + Omron PM Body Fat) /2 = Omron Average Body Fat
(Tanita Body Fat 2 + Tanita Body Fat 2) /2 = Tanita Average Body Fat
(Tanita Average Body Fat + Omron Average Body Fat) /2 = Daily Average Body Fat %

Let’s plug-in the actual numbers from Tuesday:

(37.6% + 37.9%) / 2 =  37.75 % [Omron Average]
(44.5% + 45.5%) / 2 = 45 % [Tanita Average]
(37.75 % + 45 %) /2 = 41.38 [Daily Average]

You’ll note that the two devices give a fairly different figure.  Which, as I’ve mentioned, is why I do the averaging.  I calculate the weekly averages and the weekly median Body Fat the same way I did with Total Body Mass.  Here are the three final numbers for the week:

Weekly Average BF = 40.92 %
Weekly Median BF = 41.20 %
Last Daily Average BF = 41.38 %

Again, I use the lowest of the three figures as my “official at home measurement.”  To calculate the pounds of body fat you do this:

Total Body Weight * Daily Body Fat % in decimal form = Body Fat Weight

Let’s do the math and see that horrible number.  *SIGH*   First we have to convert the percentage to a decimal.  You first remove the % sign then divide the number by 100:

41.20 / 100 = .4120

But there is an easier way which basically does nothing but  move the decimal two spaces to the LEFT.  Now that we have the decimal here’s the rest:

283.25 * .4120= 116.699

Which we round up to [drumroll please]:

116.70 lbs of Fat.

OMG!!!!!!!!!  Eeeeeeeeeewwwwwwww   Iiiiiiiiicccccccccchhhhhh  BLECH  PA-TOOIE!!!!!

That’s a lot of fat!  Hell that’s a WHOLE person!  A small person, but a person nonetheless.  No wonder my knees ache when I go up the stairs!  

Holy deep-fried Twinkies Batman!

Still with me?  I hope so!  Do you feel like you’re on that show where they race around the world?  Don’t worry, we’re almost done.  🙂  To wake you up, I’ve stuck in a gratuitous display of man flesh down below.  Check out those abs!  Hubba-Hubba!

But I digress….  😉

Lean Body Mass

Male Torso (CC)If you could grab a huge vacuum hose and suck out all the fat from your body, what you’d have left is your “lean body mass” comprised of muscle, bones, organs and fluids.  Here’s the formula to calculate Lean Body Mass:

Total Body Mass (lbs) – Body Fat Mass (lbs) = Lean Body Mass (lbs)

283.25 – 106.56 = 176.04

I bet you’re saying about now that this whole math thing is easier than you first thought!  It’s easy, right?  Is this process making sense yet?

I sure hope so because my fingers are getting numb from all this typing!  And my eyes are getting crossed from all the proof-reading.  AND… if this post isn’t helping SOMEONE OUT THERE!!!!,  I’m gonna be peeved. Perturbed. Upset even.  And then I’ll get all depressed and have to console myself with a whole chocolate pecan pie from Whole Foods (which is quite yummy by the way) BUT which while organic and all that is still a WHOLE PIE and I’ll gain back the 2.25 lbs I’ve lost so far and it will all be YOUR FAULT, dear readers, all 14 of you who are actually reading this blog!

So don’t sit there laughing at all my silliness and rolling THINE EYES at my DIET DRAMA DIVA-ness, [insert image of me doing a huge dramatic sigh while pressing my forearm against my head and swooning across the desk]  “I’m ready for my close up Mr. DeMille!”

Get your hands on that little mousey thing and click on SUBSCRIBE over there on the right hand column up at the top!  Or clicky clicky clicky on the LIKE button down at the bottom of the post or better yet leave me a comment so I know that at least I gave you a chuckle.  Save me from the Chocolate Pecan Pie!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My fate is in your hands.

But, I digress.  I do that a lot don’t I?  [GRIN]

*ahem*  Back to the topic at hand…

My Goal of 194 lbs and 12% Body Fat

Me at the Hotter than Hell 100 ©2011Me at the Hotter than Hell 100 ©2011I did a post a while back called What is a Healthy Body Fat Percentage?   There are a lot of different guidelines out there; if you ask four experts you’ll get a dozen answers.

After I read the information, looked back over photos and records I’d kept from when I was really into cycling.  I mean REALLY into it.  I’d normally ride 40-50 miles on a Saturday.   By the end of the cycling season I’d be doing Metric Centuries (100 km) which is roughly 60 miles and I even rode in the Hotter than Hell 100, doing a full Century.  That’s 100 miles folks.  So, I was a skinny little twink!  In other words, I was very fit and very healthy.  It literally was the time of my life when I felt best physically.

Now, I no longer cycle, but instead I compete in Country Western Dance.  I’m a seven time World Champion (five in line dance, and two in couples with my FAB-u-LUS dance partner).  But I don’t feel like it.  Over the years, while working toward winning those Championships, my weight has gone up and down and up and down and up.  I’d really like to get back down so I look like the athlete that you see in those two photos above.  But before making my final goal for myself, I wanted to know what is the Body Fat Ranges for Athletes?  I did some research and here is a summary of what I found.  Anyone who wants to see the full set of raw numbers email me and I’ll send you the spreadsheet, but here is the short version:

Table showing Body Fat Medians General Population ©2011

Table showing Body Fat Medians for Males in the General Population ©2011

Table showing Body Fat Medians for Male Athletes ©2011

Table showing Body Fat Medians for Male Athletes ©2011

(Ladies, sorry, I’m a guy; I didn’t do the math for the ladies–I’ll do it sometime later this weekend and add to the page.)  After reviewing the data ranges, I finally arrived at my goal:

194 lbs / 12 % Body Fat


The 1% Rule…

One Percent ©2011When you’re losing weight, you need to be careful that you don’t lose more than 1% of your Total Body Mass per week. One Percent is a safe amount to lose weekly.  Have you heard the advice to “Loose no more than 1-2 pounds per week?”  Well, that 1-2 pounds is basically the 1% Rule, but generalized for the “general public.” It is much better if you calculate the exact number for yourself.

To calculate that you just take your total body weight and multiply by .01.  Using my weight for this week as an example:  283.25 * .01 = 2.83 lbs.  So the maximum I should lose this week is just under 3 lbs.  As time marches on, and your total weight drops, so will your “weekly maximum safe amount.”

Maintaining Lean Body Mass

Torso (CC)The goal when becoming healthy, and probably losing some weight in the process, is to ensure that what you’re losing is body fat, not muscle.

With a weight of 283.25 and a body fat percentage of 41.20%, my lean body mass right now is 166.6.  With a goal of 194 lbs and 12% my lean body mass will be 170.2 which means that, assuming everything goes as planned, I’ll actually gain some muscle during my journey to a “healthy me.”

Healthy At Every Size

HAES - Healthy At Every Size LogoThere is a growing recognition that humans come in all shapes and sizes.  Well, Duh!  And that for some, you can be 100% healthy by every quantifiable measurement such as flexibility, Resting Heart Rate, Cholesterol Levels, Muscle tone and strength, etc. and still be fat!!!!    The goal is to be healthy; make good choices and treat your body right–live a healthy lifestyle and whatever your size, rejoice in it.  To summarize:  Healthy and any size from skinny to fat.  Awesome!   Unhealthy and any size from skinny to fat!  Bad, bad, bad.  Get your body moving toward a healthy you!

That’s what I’m doing.  And, because when I was at my healthiest, I was pretty skinny, I know that I’ll lose weight along the way to a healthy me.   There’s no question about that.  However, pay attention dear readers, all 6 of you who are actually reading this blog, IF I don’t get to those numbers that’s ok.  As long as I feel healthy then that’s awesome!   As long as all the quantitative measurements like a smaller waistline, better flexibility, more energy, no high blood pressure, and better more restful sleep, all say I’m healthy, then who really gives a flip what the final number turns out to be.

Reveling in Research

Now is a good time to point out something about my blog.  There are end notes.  Yes, I do look up stuff (like the whole “mass vs weight” thing up above) and check my facts before posting them here on my blog.  *GASP*  EEEeeeeekkk it’s a Librarian on the Loose!  *ahem*  At the end of every blog post there are usually “Related Links and Articles” where you can find more information about the topic of the day.  That thar is whatcha call REE-SIRch. (insert Texas drawl)


So there you go.  You know the math, you know how the numbers work.  And you’ve got lots of research down below to keep you busy.  I wish you luck on your journey to fitness and health.  I hope you’re enjoying riding along on my journey.  It’s going to be interesting, at lest from where I sit!  LOL  And hopefully you’ll find my journey informative and maybe a little entertaining.

See ya on the dance floor!

Related Links / Articles


About TxCowboyDancer

Professional Dance Instructor teaching Country, Ballroom, Swing, Latin and Line Dance. Eleven time Country Dance World Champion.

Posted on Sat, Dec 17, 2011, in Misc and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Join the discussion or just say "Howdy"

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: