Sunday 27 April 2014

Body Composition Testing & Weight Loss Update

It's now been 7 months since I began shifting my baby weight and I'm pleased to report that I'm now 3 stones and 12 lbs lighter than I was when Bert arrived. I've shifted all my baby weight, and more - and am now the lightest I've been since I was teenager. I feel really fired up, excited and in control of my eating/exercise life for the first time ever. I have realised that I can eat ALL of the foods I love, as long as I eat them in moderation, and exercise to compensate. The balancing act isn't always easy to do/get right, and I still have hungry days, treat days, and days when I'm over my calories; but mostly I'm balancing well and seeing great results. 

Part of this move towards a healthy weight and a healthy attitude to food and exercise has also been about understanding the science of our bodies: how they work, and how science plays a huge role in successful weight loss. 

When I was at my biggest, I didn't want to understand the science: I didn't want to know the numbers - I was ashamed of how high they would be, and that knowing the scale of what those numbers represented would frighten me back to binge eating and burying my head in the sand. 

Now I'm a lot lighter, and much healthier than I was, I decided it was time to face the music. And I booked myself, my cousin Vicky and my best friend Liz into The Body Hub at The University of Bedfordshire for body composition analysis. This testing would tell me:

-my EXACT weight
-my body fat percentage
-how much muscle I have in my body and where
-my EXACT body water  

and hopefully provide me with some helpful advice for how to improve these numbers, and where I sit on the scale in terms of normal - obese. 

The testing was done by the BOD POD which is an Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) that uses whole-body densitometry to determine body composition (fat vs. lean). Similar in principle to underwater weighing, the BOD POD measures body mass (weight) using a very precise scale, and volume by sitting inside the BOD POD. Body density can then be calculated:

Density = Mass/Volume

Once the overall density of the body is determined, the relative proportions of body fat and lean body mass are calculated. 

The BOD POD looks basically like a large egg that you sit inside (in your swimwear & a swimming hat) for a few minutes while the testing is done. 


Here we are just before the testing, in our robes, pretending we're at a spa rather than at the university getting our body fat percentage tested…

Me and Lovely Liz

Me and my cousin Vicky 

And here I am in my VERY fetching swimming hat - I hadn't worn one of these since I was about 7 years old, I guessed my readers would appreciate a laugh - so here you go…


And so we all took it in turns to sit inside the pod, and the testing began.

After the BOD POD test we used state-of-the-art Tanita Body Composition scales to get a quick but detailed reading of our overall body composition to take away with us that day, and then awaited our BOD POD reports via email a week later. 

The BOD POD's readings are as exact as you are going to get, the pods are used throughout the sporting and athletics world, and are the most trusted method of body composition analysis. So, although the Tanita scales are good (they work by sending a tiny current through your body and measuring how quickly the current travels through your body to determine which bits are fat and which are muscle), the data they provide isn't quite as accurate and reliable. It was handy however to get a general overview of our composition on the day.

It's now two weeks since I had the testing, and I've received my data report, which I'm now ready to share with my readers. 

(Note: I would NEVER have shared this information when I was at my biggest, I was lacking in confidence, and thought if I hid the numbers no one would work out how over weight and unhealthy I was. Silly me. What I've now realised is that you shouldn't be afraid of knowing this data, you should use it as a tool for improvement, for measuring your achievements and for truly understanding your body and what it is made up of.)

My BOD POD Body Composition Results

HEIGHT: 165.7 cm tall 
WEIGHT: 186 lbs (13 stone 4 lbs)
LEAN MASS: 107 lbs (7 stone 9 lbs)
FAT MASS: 79.5 lbs (5 stone 9.5 lbs)
BMI (Body Mass Index): 30.8
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): 1642 kcal (this means that my body uses 1642 calories a day to function at its lowest level i.e in a coma)

Here are the normative values for percent body fat and body mass index:

Percent Body Fat (%)
Body Mass Index
Less than 17
Less than 18.5
17 - 28
18.5 - 24.9
Moderately Overweight
28 - 33
25.0 - 29.9
Greater than 33
Greater than 30.0

Knowing that I still have 2 stone 4 lbs to lose until I reach my 11 stone target, it was obvious to me that I would still be classed as 'overweight', and that I have a long way to go yet. But, I was surprised to finally be out of the 'morbidly obese' category for BMI, and I'm now only 0.8 away from being 'moderately overweight' which for me is a huge achievement! My body fat percentage is high, as expected, and is something I'm now determined to lower. 

What I find really interesting about body fat percentage is that you can't know that number just by standing on a scale - a moderate sized person who classes themselves as a normal weight may in fact still have quite a high body fat percentage, and on the other hand, someone who is classed as 'overweight' because they are heavy may have a low body fat percentage and lots of muscle (which weighs more than fat).

My priority over the next 3 months is to concentrate on fat burning, and reduce my fat percentage and weight. Eventually I will also concentrate on building lean mass (muscle) with incorporating some resistance exercise into my routine. Increased lean mass will increase my basal metabolic rate (BMR), this is the energy the body requires at rest, so as your lean mass increases your resting metabolism will increase and therefore aid fat loss! Science is WONDERFUL

The advice in my BOD POD report tells me that the absolute best way to burn fat is by doing 45-90 minutes brisk walking 5 times a week - I was so pleased to read this, as this is what I've been doing since having Bert, as is the only exercise I honestly enjoy enough to do regularly. The next challenge for me is to find resistance exercise I can a) manage with my 3 slipped discs, and b) enjoy enough to do regularly. 

I feel empowered by knowing my personal results, and I'm excited about returning in 3 months time for a repeat test to see what difference I have made.


I'm still using the My Fitness Pal app on my phone to count all of my calories- even on 'treat days' when I know I will eat over my calorie goal, I still count all my calories so that I know exactly how 'bad' my day has been, and what calories I need to make up later in the week to ensure I still make a loss. 

My daily calorie goal is now at the very lowest you are recommended to eat each day at 1210 calories. I exercise on top of this - sometimes I bank these calories (to make a bigger loss that week) and sometimes I eat the excess calories on days when 1210 kcal just doesn't seem like enough. Either way, I try hard to ensure my net calories are 1210 exactly. 

I try to get out for long brisk walks every day - I will maybe have one or two rest days a week where I will either do a shorter walk of about half an hour, or no walking at all. 

This week I'm setting myself a new challenge to use our cross trainer for 30 mins at a time, 4 times (monday-thursday). I am desperate to find lower impact exercise that I find as easy to incorporate into my daily routine as I do walking - the lower the impact for me the better, as my 3 slipped discs are causing me lots of pain on a daily basis and the constant pavement pounding isn't helping at all. I'm hoping adding the cross trainer in, and slightly reducing the amount of walking will help me to cope with the back pain.


You've probably heard the term 'clean eating' as it's being brandished around left, right and centre at the moment. It seems to be a very fashionable term. Basically, it's a way of eating that means you avoid ALL processed foods and instead enjoy a diet of lean meats, fishes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. If it grew, or was once alive then you can eat it, if it's been processed then you can't. 

In theory it all sounds great, but in practise I know I would find this incredibly difficult to stick to 100% of the time. Instead, I've vowed to try to 'think clean' as much of the time as I can manage. I've scoured the internet for 'clean eating' inspiration and recipes, and will be testing some of these out over the next few weeks (blog posts to follow). I have also decided to try having 2 'bread free' days each week - bread is my nemesis  and I food I would find impossible to cut out completely. I have switched to only brown bread over the past 7 months (having an occasional treat of white bread), but now, two days a week I will have no bread at all. I'll let you know how I get on. 

I can't be virtuous 100% of the time, but I will, and have been, making a much more conscious effort to eat cleaner foods, and prepare cleaner meals.


So, onwards and upwards - my body composition may not be amazing, but it's certainly a hell of a lot healthier than it was 7 months ago when I was 3 stone 12 lbs heavier. I know exactly what I need to do to improve my body fat %, BMI, and overall weight and I'm excited to see what I can achieve in the next 3 months. 

I'll update you again after my next BOD POD visit!

Do you struggle with weight loss? Are you on a similar journey to me? I'd love to hear from you. 

Mrs B


You can arrange your own visit to The Body Hub at The University of Bedfordshire by contacting 

BOD POD testing costs £50.