Dr Susan Baxter
How to Measure or Calculate Your Body Fat Percentage (And Lower It!)
Updated: Feb 28
Weighing yourself is one of the easiest ways to check on your weight loss, but as you progress and want to get healthier or have specific fitness goals, you need to measure or calculate your body fat percentage.
Weight and fat are two different things that need to be measured differently. Weight loss can be anything that lowers your weight, including water, fat, muscle, and even just chopping your arm off (that is not my advice).
A healthier body or if you have specific goals will require you to measure your body fat percentage to keep track of results, so you know you’re going in the right direction.
Follow along as I show you how to measure or calculate your body fat percentage and lower your body fat.
How to Measure or Calculate Your Body Fat Percentage
It’s possible to measure or calculate your body fat percentage in several different ways. The cost involved in each method can vary from free to fairly expensive if you need to check often.
The most important thing if you’re just looking to lower your body fat percentage is to find a method that works for you and is easily accessible. The actual figure is often not important, but the direction it goes in is what you want to keep track of.
I’m providing the four most common and accessible methods to you. There are certainly other options, but they are harder to access and may cost a lot more money.
Most methods, when used correctly, offer a somewhat accurate value for your body fat percentage.
Using a basic tape measure used for sewing, not construction, can let you check measurements on your body. You can then use an online calculator to check your body fat percentage.
As long as you have a standard scale to check your weight, know how tall you are, and purchase a cheap tape measure, this is the easiest and cheapest option to keep track of your body fat percentage.
When taking measurements, the tape measure should be fully touching your skin but should not be pulled tight, and keep the location and tightness of your measurements the same each time.
This measurement style isn’t going to give you an exact body fat percentage but will let you track if your body fat is going up or down and your progress.
Body Fat Scale
Body fat scales can be used to check your weight and body fat percentage. They’re a slightly expensive option compared to a regular scale, but they’re a once-off expense that you can use as often as you like.
Body fat scales are not exact and can affect where you store your fat and even how hydrated you are when you check.
If you store a lot of fat on your upper body but have very skinny legs, then a body fat scale may not be ideal for you. Also, remember to stay hydrated when you use the scale, as dehydration can cause it to put you in a higher body fat range than you really are.
Calipers are a cheap and more accurate test than a tape measure for your body fat percentage, but they can be more difficult to use unless you have somebody helping you.
You’ll need to buy some calipers and then take measurements over your body. You can then use an online calculator to check your body fat percentage.
You can find calculators that only require three sites to be measured, or for a more accurate measurement, you can find calculators that require seven different spots on your body to be checked.
The body fat percentage measured by calipers is often highly accurate if the measurements are taken correctly.
DEXA scans are one of the most common and easily accessible methods for accurately measuring your body fat percentage to an exact degree without any effort or miscalculation on your part.
Many fitness enthusiasts use DEXA scans, and there are businesses in most cities that will perform a scan for around $100-$150 per scan. So this may be a scan to use once or twice a year to check full progress.
You will lay clothed on a table as a machine scans your entire body and produces a report. You will see your body fat percentage, muscle mass, and anything else adding to your weight. You’ll see a percentage overall and on different parts of your body.
The DEXA scan will tell you the body fat percentage for each leg, arm, and torso, along with how much muscle is on each body part. So it’s an interesting scan to get and allows you to see any uneven areas of your body.
How Can I Lower My Body Fat Percentage?
Lowering your body fat percentage is possible, and you don’t need to spend any money or buy any expensive supplements, foods, or workout plans. Instead, you can do everything yourself with a bit of dedication and a consistent approach.
Reduce how much and what you’re eating, which doesn’t mean starving yourself but does mean considering how much food you’re eating each day and what that food is.
Find an online calculator to gauge how many calories you should eat each day and then track how many calories you are eating.
Switch processed high-calorie foods with more natural options that are lower in calories. This allows you to stay full without having to consume too much.
Add a serving of Metamucil or fiber to the start of each meal to make you feel fuller and improve digestion.
Stop drinking soda and orange juice; replace them with water or diet soda.
Add a 30+ minute walk to your day.
Start going to the gym for cardio or weight training. Increased muscle requires more energy to maintain, allowing you to burn more fat.
Yard work, cleaning, or any movement can contribute to your daily exercise requirements.
Conclusion On Body Fat Percentage
Having a healthy body fat percentage can improve your life by making you feel better and perform more of the activities you want each day. You’ll also be at a lower risk of many health-related diseases or illnesses, especially as you get older.
Don’t try to lower your body fat too quickly. Instead, try to incorporate a healthy eating and exercise plan into your daily life and keep it up consistently so that you don’t slide back into old habits if you make the process too hard and fast when you first begin.
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