Recently, I was asked to bring skinfold calipers to a social gathering. Ann (not her real name), a young mother who had succeeded in losing 50 pounds by diet and exercise, wanted me to measure her body fat. She wanted to lose 10 more pounds, but her mother and other relatives had been making comments she was too thin.

The calipers provided unbiased data and Ann was actually shocked to learn she was a very lean 16% body fat. Because her physique had always been on the heavier side, she still saw herself as being bigger than she was. She ascribed to the belief “I’ll always be too fat, and never be too thin.” Not the case. She now was thin-enough and had no need to be thinner-yet.

Body fat measurements can be a helpful tool to give dieters the data they need so they know when to stop dieting. Ann could now believe her weight was indeed low and she could focus more on building muscle than on losing fat.

I encouraged Ann to allow her body a 5 pound weight range, to account for muscular growth. I offered to do repeated body fat measurements, to help her through the after-the-diet stage when the scale goes up as muscles get rebuilt.

If you, too, have lost a lot of weight, you might want to seek a sport dietitian who can measure your body fat, to give you data regarding a good weight for your body. The referral network at www.SCANdpg.org can help you find a local sports dietitian.

Nancy Clark