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Access and attack fat: Obesity is on the rise, what's your current condition?


Using numbers to discover health conditions and risks.

Lose weight! Lose inches around your waistline! Get rid of that stubborn fat!

It’s no surprise that companies and fitness professionals are trying to create the ultimate fat loss product. An intervention is necessary. Obesity has become an epidemic in America, accounting for more than a quarter of health care costs.

According to the CDC thirty-two states had prevalence equal or greater than 25% in 2008. Excess body fat associated with obesity poses health risks including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. To protect yourself from the risks of obesity and excess fat the first step is determine your current body fat levels and then take the appropriate actions.

There are numerous ways to determine your body fat levels. One of the most accurate ways of doing so is underwater weighing. This procedure is based on the fact that a leaner person will weigh more underwater. The pitfall is that this procedure can be less accessible and costly.

A more common practice used is the skin-fold test; fitness professionals such as personal trainers, athletic trainers, or dieticians can administer this test. By using calipers to measure skin folds of subcutaneous fat at various sites, one can tally their totals and determine their body fat percentage.

Body Fat Percentage Chart: Which category are you in?

Women      Men        Category

10-13%      2-5%       Essential Fat
14-20%      6-13%     Athletes
21-24%      14-17%   Fitness
25-31%     18-24%    Average
32%& up   25%&up  Obese

Tests that you can simply perform at home include waist-to-hip-ratio and body mass index. These tests do not give a figure for body fat percentage, but can indicate levels of obesity.

Waist-to-hip ratio: Unwanted belly fat has been deemed detrimental to health since abdominal fat in particular is linked to negative health conditions. To perform this assessment use a measuring tape and measure:

1. The smallest part of the waist
2. The largest part of the hips

Next, divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. A ration above 0.80 for women and above 0.95 for men may put individuals as risk for a number of diseases (NASM).

Body Mass Index: This formula is based on your weight and height. To determine your body mass index use the formula:
Body weight (kg)/height (in meters squared)
So to do this first divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to determine your weight in kilograms.

Next, take your height in inches and multiply it by 2.54 to equal your height in centimeters.

Divide your height in centimeters by 100 to determine your height in meters.

Use the original formula to determine your BMI.

BMI Obesity Classifications:

25-30: Mild
30-35: Moderate
>35: Severe

If you find yourself to obese, on the verge, or perfectly healthy it’s still crucial to engage in activity to promote good health, vitality, and prevent health risks.

There are simple guidelines in regards to physical activity that I’m sure you’ve heard. While these statements can be simply implied, they are not always that easy to adhere to. It’s important to know why these guidelines are established and how they affect your health to understand fat metabolism and reach the goal of fat loss. With understanding you can manipulate factors and ensure success rather than being left in the “danger zone.” Unfortunately, due to the increase and recent rise of obesity in America, you’re not alone.

Fat Attack

Okay, choosing the “fat-loss program” on the elliptical at level 1 is not going to melt the fat. If you were previously sedentary you may respond to this, but not for long. As your body adapts to physical activity it needs to be constantly challenged to increase calorie expenditure and physiological benefits. This phenomenon is called the “overload principle.” To lose weight and attack fat remember to keep challenging yourself by doing one of the following for an allotted amount of time and then switching it up: increase frequency of exercise, exercise duration, or exercise intensity.

If you really want to understand how our bodies burn fat we have to do it- Let’s get physiological to answer a few a questions.

Why is recommended to engage in 30 minutes or more of continuous moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week (ACSM).

Approximately 75% of American adults do not do this! 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise could be a walk around the neighborhood or even a vigorous mall trip!

Fat is the primary fuel source during prolonged low-intensity activity (greater than 30 minutes). Fat becomes the main source for energy during this type of activity (Powers, 62). This occurs due to the breakdown of free fatty acids through through the process of lipolysis. It’s essential to reduce excess body fat to avoid health risks.

Moderate intensity exercises are recommended, because you want to be able to sustain the activity long enough to get the benefits, but still keep it challenging.

Why is it also acceptable to engage in 20 minutes of vigorous intense cardio at least 3 days per week and do 8-10 strength exercises (8-12 reps) 2x/week ? (ACSM).

While studies have shown that fat is the primary fuel source for low-intensity exercise, we mustn’t forget about the golden rule of weight loss: calories out must exceed calories in.”

Intense cardio exercise at a higher intensity (75-85% maximum heart rate) burns more calories overall in less time. This is an efficient way to work out and blast fat when you’re short on time. Plus, your metabolism stays revved for a longer period of time after the exercise due to the fact that your body is trying to recover from oxygen debt and clear away lactic acid (the reason why you’re breathing so hard and your muscles burn).

Strength training is recommended not only to keep you strong and prevent muscle imbalances and injuries, but it also incinerates fat. As we age, we lose muscle mass. This decrease in lean muscle mass, strength, functionality, and increase in body fat is termed sarcopenia.

Lean muscle mass burns more calories than fat even at rest. This is why body composition assessments are vital. A person can have a small frame and appear “skinny,” but in fact can be what is termed “skinny fat,” meaning their body composition is not ideal.

By strengthening and toning your muscles you actually become smaller (unless you’re a bodybuilder and want to gain super hypertrophy), because muscle takes up less space than fat! Muscle is more dense than fat. If two people are the same weight, but one has a lower body fat percentage they will appear much more fit; this is why it’s advantageous to focus on reaching ideal body composition levels rather than always being worried about the number on the scale. Weight fluctuates very easily due to various factors like hydration levels, food intake/day, altitude, etc.

Shredding the Fat

There is no pill or miracle that can make you wake up the next morning in perfect health with a perfect physique. What is perfect anyways?! If you’re at square one and want to “attack the fat,” don’t try to complicate things. Start easy and build up.

1. Assess your current condition: Determine where your body composition is
2. Commit to following one of the basic ACSM guidelines: a) work out at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week b) participate in 20 minutes of intense cardio 3 times per week and strength train 2 times per week. REMEMBER: you must stick to your goals; one week of work isn’t going to cut it
3. Start at a level that is challenging and keep progressing to continue to get results!
4. Don’t forget about the importance of nutrition and golden rule of weight loss: More calories out than in!
5. Seek help from a fitness professional in needed to help you progress at a safe level and receive results in a timely manner.
6. Stay motivated- work out with a friend/family member, do activities you enjoy.


Clark, M, Lucett, S, Corn, R. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Baltimore, MD. 2008.

American Council On Exercise. ACE Personal Trainer Manual. 3rd. ed. 2003.

Powers, Scott. Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application To Fitness And Performance. 7th ed. McGraw Hill. New York, NY. 2009. Accessed September 21, 2009.