When you may not wish to be “normal”

Brad Pilon‘s published some recent data, drawn from a 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, on the average body fat % of the general population.

Now, usually we say “Oh, average for a woman is around 21-25%” or some similar number.

Actually, the US female average is… wait for it… around 40-42%.

Yes, that means for the average American female, NEARLY HALF HER BODY IS FAT. Only 60% is everything else: skeleton, organs, muscles, whatever she ate for lunch, etc.

This is why, whenever I hear people say smugly, “Oh, body mass index doesn’t account for muscle,” I want to ask them if they are actually hard-training NFL athletes or bodybuilders, because 99% of the time, BMI actually does correlate fairly well with % body fat.

Sure, the individual numbers may be slightly off. Maybe you’re really 31.5% fat and not 32% or 30%. This study used DEXA to measure body fat, which is very accurate. You may never have access to this kind of precise measurement technique.

But if your BMI is way higher than it should be, and you’re not on steroids and in the gym every day, there’s an excellent chance that you’re probably carrying too much body fat. (And, in many cases, you’re still carrying too much fat even with the steroids and gym rattery. Have you seen some of those offseason bodybuilders?)

No, your skeleton is probably not “too dense”. No, you are probably not a rippling pile of woman-steak. If you’re way into the BMI red zone, if you’re not an elite hard-training athlete, and if you’re American, you may wish to reconsider your nutrition program.

40% is not health at any size. 40% is well out of the physiological range of your body’s ability to handle its bidness.

40% body fat means that your glucose metabolism is in big trouble; your destructive cytokines are running amok; your reproductive hormones are out of whack; your liver is redecorating its house with big steatotic globs of lipids; your arteries are landscaping with atherosclerotic plaques; your airway is compressed; your joints are screaming “Ouch!” and you’re a walking inflammatory state.

If you’re “normal”, you may want to think about how to become a weirdo. If you’re “normal”, and working on abnormality, kudos to you — keep up the good work!