If you wanna lose weight, the body fat percentage displayed in the body fat percentage chart, will help you to determine if your weight loss goal is realistic.
P/S: Weight loss doesn't always mean fat loss.
Body fat percentage is more than just a number, a percentage.
It tells you the amount of body fat you carry and the difference it makes to your body shape, health and weight loss.
Body shape because if you've more fat, it takes up more space than muscle so you look “fatter" and bigger; vice versa, if you've more muscle, it takes up less space so you look leaner and more compact.
Say, you're a 5’ 6" tall, 140-lb woman who exercises (cardio strength training) regularly; you'll have a lower body fat percentage and look leaner than your female friend of same height and weight, who doesn't exercise.
Health because as your body fat percentage goes up, risk to your health increases, in particular in relation to overweight health problems like heart and kidney diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers.
Weight loss because it tells you, in reality, how much weight you should lose.
Say you're a 140-lb woman with 21% body fat and you want to shed 20 lbs.
Initial body fat: 140 lbs x 0.21 body fat = 29 lbs body fat.
Lean body mass: 140 lbs - 29 lb fat = 111 lbs lean body mass (bones, organs, tissues. . . )
Weight loss goal: 140 lbs - 20lbs = 120 lbs
As you can see, your goal of losing 20 lbs isn't realistic or healthy. At 120 lbs, you still require 111 lbs of lean body mass, but would only be carrying 9 lbs, or only 7.5% body fat. From the body fat percentage chart below, this is a dangerously low percentage.
The realistic goal would be for you to reduce your body fat from 21% to 15%.
140 lbs x 0.15 = 21 lbs of body fat
111 lbs lean body mass 21 lbs body fat = 132 lbs goal weight.
So, for you to achieve a lean, but healthy 15% fat, you would need to lose only 8 lbs of fat, by reducing your weight from your current 140 lbs to 132 lbs. If you lose more than 8 lbs, this means you could be losing lean body mass (usually metabolically active muscle), which isn't advisable.
Hence, before you plunge into losing weight, do take into account that “weight" consists of both lean body mass and body fat. Go for a realistic weight loss goal and preserve your precious muscle and lose only the fat.
Here's the body fat percentage chart showing body fat ranges and their associated categories:
Essential fat - 10 to 12%
Athletes - 14 to 20%
Fitness - 21 to 24%
Acceptable - 25 to 31%
Obese - 32% plus
Essential fat - 2 to 4%
Athletes - 6 to 13%
Fitness - 14 to 17%
Acceptable - 18 to 25%
Obese - 26% plus
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