I don’t feel as fat (note: I said “as fat”) as the standard charts say I am. These charts are used by doctors and they’re usually pretty firm in their opinion that the charts are right.

These charts use a person’s height and weight to identify one’s body mass index or BMI.  BMI is a percentage that tells us what percent of our total body weight is made up of fat. BMI is a measure that can tell a person whether she/he is within a healthy range or at risk of ailments related to obesity. One thing to note is that every person has to have some fat (essential fat) in the body. I’ve read that for men it is 2-5% and for women it is 10-12%. Here is what the BMI calculator at the Centers for Disease Control says about me:

CDC BMI Calculator

Obese!  Yikes! That is worse than being called fat in my book. But I don’t think of myself as obese. These calculators can’t be right!

I did some research into bodybuilders.  Arnold Shwarzenegger (yes, the actor who was in his early career was perhaps one of the greatest bodybuilders ever) weighed 235 pounds at 6’2″ tall. According to the same BMI calculator Shwarzenegger was – during his prime – at 30% BMI.  Here are the results:

Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 1.18.38 PM

Here is what Arnold Shwarzenegger looked like at 6’2″ and 235 pounds:


Does he look obese? I think not. In this picture Arnold is probably at 12-13% BMI (that’s my ballpark guess; he’s not shredded but he is very lean).

I’m using Shwarzenegger’s physique and stats to point out that these calculators do not take into consideration a person’s muscle mass (or rather, they assume a very average amount of muscle). For those of us who strength train this can be problematic. That was my contention for myself.

To get an accurate measurement I did some research and found that one of the most accurate ways of determining one’s BMI is through hydrostatic underwater weighing. The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Human Performance Laboratory defines this as follows: “hydrostatic underwater weighing, or hydrostatic testing, determines a person’s total body density using Archimedes’ Principle of displacement. Hydrostatic underwater weighing has been considered the gold standard for body composition assessment.”

The image atop this post is the testing tank.

I went into the UIC Human Performance Laboratory last week and had myself tested. The test confirmed what I believed to be true, but it also gave me specifics that I can use to improve myself. Here is what the test showed:


According to the hydrostatic weighing at UIC Human Performance Laboratory my current BMI is 27.4%***. My fat-free mass is 166 pounds which is 8 pounds more than what the height-weight charts suggest I should weigh (with a 18-20% BMI)!

I’m glad I got this test done. It gives me the kind of details that can boost my effort at self-improvement. As they say “if you can measure it, then you can improve it!” That observation applies in many aspects of our lives including our health and fitness.

I would like to get down to a BMI level where I am below the average but still not necessarily at the fitness athlete levels. According to the folks at UIC Human Performance Laboratory I need to lose 33 pounds to achieve a BMI of 15%.

This is my goal and I’m giving myself until June 30, 2018 to reach it.

*** My hunch is that this testing has some margin of error because the way the test is done. If the individual being tested does not follow the pre-testing dietary guidelines or does not execute his part of the test (where one is required to exhale as much air as possible while submerged), then the numbers can come be off by a bit (likely the fat-free body mass being a bit greater than what it really is).