Back in the olden days, people would look at their reflection in a pond or, if they were feeling brave, a mirror to gauge how their body was looking. Years later we had personal bathroom scales, and even more years later the in thing became calculating your BMI (Body Mass Index). I've done all these, but I still wasn?t satisfied, so when I got some vouchers through from My Points, I took myself off to Argos to invest in a Body Fat Monitor. The idea behind them is simple - weight is not really a good all round indication of health, because muscle weighs more than fat, so you may be above a healthy BMI and be a lot more in shape than a flabby so and so whose daily exercise involves lifting their arm and pressing a button on a remote control a few times. With the monitor, you can work out what percentage of your body is fat, and thus get a better picture of your overall body composition. It also helps when you lose weight to ensure it's fat that's being shed, not muscle. I have a Tanita, model UM-019 (list price £39.99) which offers both regular weighing and body fat analysis functions. You program it with a few details (gender, height, age) and it stores the info so that next time you can automatically bring up your profile - 2 different people can store their details but other family members can use it to by selecting the 'guest' function. The body fat part works by sending a (painless!) electric current through your body briefly, and timing how long it takes to bounce back (flabby fat slows it down a lot more than toned muscle). To do this you need to be bare foot, so although being a cheap model mine doesn't have a 'weigh only' function, you can achieve this by hopping on while wearing socks - it'll spit out your kg (or stones and pounds, or pounds - it has 3 settings to choose from) but not you % because it senses there?s material in the way and cannot calculate it. The model is really easy to use - th
e front has 3 buttons, and pressing each a handful of times allows you to program the required info. There's no on/off switch so you need to bring up your (or someone else's) profile each time before it will show the 0.00 display and let you get weighed. Afterwards it repeats the info a couple of times before switching itself off - handy for you since this happens automatically and thus saves battery power (4 x AA are needed, and come supplied with this model). They measure up to 21 stone 6 lb, in 2 lb increments and body fat is shown to the nearest 0.5% On the back of the box it tells you the recommended safe limits for men and women for different age groups, so you know what you should be aiming towards. The first time I tried it I was on the bottom borderline of what is healthy for an adult, something I found interesting since according to my BMI, I'm safely sitting in the middle of 'normal'. Evidently I have more muscle than I thought. The next morning I hopped on again, just because it's a new toy to play with, not because I was expecting a dramatic change. Somehow, through going to sleep for 9 hours, my body fat had increased 2%, which was slightly worrying. However I read the manual and it explained that readings will fluctuate depending on time of day, level of exercise in the last few hours, any meals eaten, hormones and so on. Each is still 'valid' though, as long as you compare like with like - so if you weigh yourself at the same time of the same day each week, you'll get readings which can be compared accurately. A good way to start is to 'weigh and fat' yourself every day for a month and record the values, then divide by the number of days to get your current %. From there you can go to measuring, say, once a week, and see if your fat level is increasing / decreasing as desired. I'm not that bothered about remaining absolutely static so as long as stay within 19% and 24% (for my details, 21 - 33%
is healthy) I'm happy. I like my new toy a lot, and so do all our friends. We even had it out at a dinner party recently because a guest absolutely *had* to have a go. My only gripe is that you're supposed to stand on it bare foot, and the material of which it is made is prone to retaining sweaty little toe prints that take a while to fade. Other than that it's fairly nice to look at - white with silver areas for your feet - and could comfortably fit into most bathroom décors. They're slightly bigger than other scales, but not annoyingly so. One thing I especially like is the display - it's digital and clear to read unlike those analogue needle ones. I bought the cheapest I could find because though I care, I'm not overly concerned about having the most technical gadgets. I'm not sure which functions more advanced models have, but this one certainly doesn't seem to be missing anything. It is easy to use and if your details change (as they will at least once a year - your age - and more if you're growing or shrinking or undergoing a sex change) you can update them in a matter of minutes. Don't use if you have a pacemaker or other implanted electrical device. Though you can use it safely if you've had, say, a boob job or a hip replacement, they don't guarantee that in these cases, the results will be truly accurate. Buy from the latest Argos catalogue, Boots (though it's a fiver more there) or any health and fitness style retailer. I've not encountered a single problem as yet, but the 3 year guarantee is still reassuring. It doesn't seem to complicated to claim on, either - just keep your till receipt and the warranty card, and they'll repair or replace it for you if it does develop a fault within this time.
I recently saw a survey in a magazine which claimed that over 50% of the adult population in Britain is overweight, and a good proportion classed as clinically obese (i.e. where the amount of body fat a person is carrying makes up more than 30% of the person’s total weight.) Although it is true that everyone needs a certain amount of body fat to remain healthy, it is also true that carrying too much fat can lead to all sorts of health problems, notably high blood pressure and heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritic conditions. Obesity is rapidly becoming a major problem in the Western world. Most of us who are concerned about gaining weight, or getting fat, tend to judge how we are doing by monitoring our weight on the bathroom scales. Unfortunately, this does not give us the whole picture. Body weight does not distinguish between fat and muscle (which weighs more than fat). As we age, we tend to lose muscle and gain fat, so it is possible to be of normal weight, but still be carrying too much body fat. Likewise, someone may seem to be a bit heavy, but have acceptable levels of body fat. Unlike weight, body fat stores are not easily visible…much of it tends to accumulate around internal organs, where it can cause problems. Clearly then, it is important to be able to measure your levels of body fat. Now you can do this at home. The Tanita Body Fat Monitor uses a method called Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis to measure body fat. Basically, a very low, safe electrical current is passed through the body. The current is able to pass freely through the fluids in muscle tissue but has difficulty passing through fat tissue. This resistance of the fat tissue is measured by the Monitor and when set against a person’s height and weight; it can compute their body fat percentage. Using the Monitor is simple. First of all, you will need to enter your personal details. Select ADULT or CHILD, then press the” set
220; button, then select MALE or FEMALE and press “ set,” and then enter your height using the arrow buttons and finally press “set”. Wait for the display to show ‘O.O.O’. The Monitor is now ready to give you your personal reading. Remove shoes and socks, or stockings, and, ensuring that your feet are clean and dry, step onto the scale. Take care to place your feet correctly onto the footplates. Your weight will then be displayed while the Monitor calculates your body fat levels. The display will count down from 5 to 1 and then your body fat percentage will be displayed (Eek!) Step off the scales and the display will alternately switch between your weight and your body fat percentage and then will automatically switch off. The Tanita Body Fat Monitor is reasonably accurate for home use, but there are conditions when it may give an inaccurate reading. The Monitor is not necessarily 100% accurate when used by children under the age of seven, elderly persons aged over seventy years, pregnant women, people on dialysis and people suffering from oedema (fluid retention.) Be aware also, that body fat levels do fluctuate during the day, after eating or taking a hot bath, after exercise, during illness and during menstruation. As much as possible, try to stick to the same time of the day to measure your body fat…it is recommended that you use the Monitor between late afternoon and early evening, before your evening meal, as there is generally less fluctuation in body weight and hydration at this time. The Monitor has a maximum capacity of 21st 6lbs (136kg) and weighs in graduations of 0.5lbs (200g) and the fat percentages are measured in 1%. The Monitor is powered by four AA batteries. Now, I suppose you’re wondering how much all this technology costs? Well, I have to say, it is not cheap. I purchased my Body Fat Monitor from Argos at a cost of £44.99(current catalogue price) I had been given
some money for my birthday and so I did not feel too guilty at splashing out. Having said that, there are some electronic bathroom scales which do not measure body fat which are nearly as expensive, so on balance, I am pleased with my purchase. Now, where is that diet magazine?
In today’s society many people are now beginning to actively look after their health, weight and take regular exercise. If you are one of these people - then you might benefit from owning the Tanita Body Fat Monitor/Scales. These have been developed in direct response to growing concerns about fat-related illness’, which include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and several forms of cancer. Unfortunately, unlike weight, body fat is not always visible and cannot be measured on ordinary scales. This monitor also gives you the convenience and privacy of being able to check and monitor your body fat within your own home. The Tanita Body Fat Monitor is more than just conventional scales; it can measure weight and also calculates your body fat percentage. So if you are trying to lose weight or are just keeping fit, then these scales will give you a more accurate picture and will help make sure that you are losing weight from fat and not from muscle. The monitor is able to calculate your body fat percentage, because you must stand on the metal plates that are on the scales with clean, bare feet. A small electrical current is sent through your body - which you cannot feel and so doesn’t hurt at all. These scales are intended for use by adults and children over 7 years. This product is NOT recommended for people that have pacemakers or any other medical equipment that has been implanted. The model that I am basing my opinion on is the Tanita BF-542 Family Body Fat Monitor/Scales. I have had this model for the past four years at least, and have found it to be very durable, and is very simple to programme and it allows up to four people to store their settings. It provides readings of body fat in increments of 1% and measures weight in stones, pounds or kilo’s. The maximum capacity is 136kg/21st 6lb. What you get ========== When you buy this monitor you get: - the mon
itor (obviously!) batteries - which are 4 x AA full instructions and detailed body fat information standard Manufacturer’s 1 year guarantee How it works ========== Storing your personal details ---------------------------------- When you first use these scales, you will need to enter some information about yourself, which will be used to calculate your body fat percentage. There are four buttons from which you can choose your own individual number on which to store your personal details. You are then asked to select either Adult or Child, either Male or Female and then your height. Your personal details are now stored and you can repeat the same with the other keys for the other family members. Next time that you want to weigh yourself, you just need to the button that you have designated to yourself. Measuring your Body Fat ------------------------------ To measure your body fat, you will need to remove your shoes and socks, and ensure that the soles of your feet are clean and dry. Tap your personal number button and the display will show your pre-programmed details, when the display has re-set itself to zero then it is ready for you to step on the metal plates that are on the scales. It only takes a few seconds and as mentioned before you do not feel anything, so if you hadn’t been told that it passes a small electrical current through you then you wouldn’t know. After a few seconds, your weight will be displayed and then also your body fat percentage. If you continue to standing on the monitor, then the display will alternate between these two readings, and when you step off then these will be displayed for a further three times and then the unit will automatically shut off. Using as Conventional Scales ----------------------------------- The Monitor can be used as conventional scales. There is a fifth button at the end of the four buttons containing
the personal information, which is used for weight only. Just tap this button before standing on it and you will get a conventional weight reading, with automatic shut off when stepping off. Accuracy ======= The Monitor may not be completely accurate as the scale is sensitive to hydration levels, so you will need to make sure that you use it at the same every week, under similar conditions. So although the scale may not be completely accurate, it is still a good way of keeping a record of changes in your body over time, as it is only approx. 2% inaccurate. Cost ==== These are very expensive for what they are. I must have paid over the odds for mine, which was a while ago now and also because they were out of a catalogue. I have seen them in the Argos catalogue for £49.99. Conclusion ========= I have to admit that if I had the choice again, then I wouldn’t choose to buy these scales again, I think they are more of a gimmick than anything - but I’m sure they are suitable for the right person, it just isn‘t me!