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Tanita fat monitor/scaleI can’t say that I am in the best possible physical condition, but I do work hard at staying fit. When I received a Tanita Body Fat Monitor/Scale as a gift this week, I hope it was more about my love of gadgets than a different implication. The theory behind having a way to measure how much body fat you have is that it is an important element of your fitness. Weight alone is not a clear indicator of good health because it does not distinguish between pounds that come from body fat and those that come from lean body mass or muscle. Too much fat is often called obesity, and most health experts would agree that obesity puts a person at risk for many serious medical conditions.

Obesity can cause heart disease, diabetes and even certain forms of cancer. In fact, it is said that obesity contributes to at least half the chronic diseases in western society. Tanita, which claims to be the world leader in precision electronic scales, says that being “overweight” means an excess of total body weight based on population averages for heights and body frame. sizes. Athletes and very muscular people may be overweight, but that does not mean they are over fat. Obesity means an excess of body fat regardless of weight. Tanita also says that appearances can be deceiving — a person may look “fat” and yet have an acceptable level of body fat.

There are various ways to measure body fat. The painful way is to use calipers and squeeze your body in various places to take measurements. A very expensive way is to submerge yourself in a water tank and measure the displacement — obviously not a good approach for home. The Tanita device uses a technique they call “Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis”.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis or BIA is claimed to be the most reliable method of checking your body fat. BIA measures the impedance (similar to resistance) to an electrical signal as it travels through the water that is found in muscle and fat. The more muscle a person has, the more water their body can hold. The greater the amount of water in a person’s body, the easier it is for the current to pass through it. The more fat, the more resistance to the current. The factors that go into determining the percentage of body fat include a person’s weight, height, age, gender and body type

Tanita’s device looks like a normal bathroom scale. While you are weighing yourself, an electrical signal (far too weak to even feel) passes through your body via your feet. Before using the scale for the first time you enter your age, gender, height, and whether you are a “normal” person or an athlete. Weight is displayed on the LCD screen and five seconds later your percentage of body fat appears. Hopefully, after the holiday season, my reading will represent an upper limit that will be easy to make progress against.