Fitness Assessment and Real Body Age

It’s been 3 weeks since I started my diet and exercise program. I thought surely I would loose 2 pounds a week and by now would be down 6 pounds. My goal is to loose 20 pounds by reducing my body fat percentage by 13%. By now I expected to be almost a third of the way there. Not even close! I’ve lost 1 pound and my body fat percentage has gone up 1%, which means I’m losing muscle instead of fat.

When I joined the fitness club I was paired with a personal trainer to help me reach my goals. He did a physical assessment which told me my body fat percentage (measured by using calipers at the waist, thigh and tricep), weight, flexibility and “real age” of my body. My real age was very depressing because I look 15-20 years younger than I am, but my body is 6 years older than my actual age; the majority of the 6 years is based on my weight. So if I lose weight I can lose years—much cheaper than plastic surgery!

I also joined, a free online calorie counter, diet and exercise journal so I could track my calories in and calories out. According to a nutritionist I went to a few years ago, I should never let my daily calories fall below 1200 or my body would store fat, thinking I was starving. So I set my goal at 1200 calories per day for food. I didn’t set a goal for exercise, just determined to make an effort to exercise and go to the club at least 5 days a week. My husband and I started going to the club and exercising on the machines. We also joined fitness classes that meet M-W-F each week and we play squash for an hour (burns 850 calories per hour) every time we go. I’ve also been on the treadmill a couple of times on my own. All that for 1 pound of weight loss and a 1% increase in body fat. Depressing.

So this week I whined to my trainer that I was ready to toss it all. It was just too hard for me to lose weight because I’m only 5’1″. I could stay home and eat ice cream and do this good! So he suggested that maybe I’m working too hard when I exercise. Maybe instead of burning fat—which is what I want to do— I’m burning muscle. I’ve been using my heart rate monitor and I’m rarely in the fat burning zone shown on the machines, I’m always way above. So he said those zones are only estimates and that everyone is different. He suggested that I get tested to find out my true maximum heart rate, the level of exercise at which I’m actually burning fat, and my actual resting metabolism (how many calories I burn at rest). By taking the test I won’t be guessing any more on how much I can eat and how hard I can exercise to lose fat. So I agreed to have the test done. I don’t want to keep spinning my wheels.

Tomorrow I have the metabolism and cardio test. I have to fast 12 hours before. I’m really looking forward to seeing how close the tables on the machines are to my actual max heart rate using the 220-your age formula. Check back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about the test and how I did.

In order to track my progress I weighed myself when I got home from the initial assessment to see if my home scales matched the weight and body fat percentage he calculated—which they did. (My scale measures both weight and body fat.) I was surprised, I always assumed the calibrations were voodoo!