I realized early last week that my weigh-in appointment was rapidly approaching. At my last visit, I was yet again complaining to Dr. Z about how I would like to increase my lean muscle and reduce my fat percentage … blah blah blah. I feel like a broken record and I haven’t figured out what to do about it. Frankly, just maintaining the weight loss has been challenging enough and I don’t have much time, energy, focus, or money to do anything about it. I was hoping the iron supplement to pull me out of anemia would be enough – and it has definitely helped – but there is a lot of work to be done.
Being analytic like I am, I wanted to get a good idea of where I stood. I’ve heard countless times that the body composition scales that are at the office are good, but may not tell the whole story. One of the best ways to get an accurate measurement of body fat is through a DEXA or DXA (Dual-emission X-ray absorptiometry) scan. You can read more information about it here. This is an excerpt from that website:
About DXA Scanning
A DXA scan (formerly known as DEXA scanning) is a low-dose x-ray. In fact, total radiation exposure is less than a daily dose from environmental sources. The DXA scan procedure is relatively quick and generally takes less than seven minutes (depending on body size).
The individual being tested remains fully clothed and lies still in a supine position for the duration of the x-ray. At the end of the study, a technician will provide you with a printout of your results.
Dr. Ziltzer and I have discussed this test several times and he referred me to a sports medicine office down the street from Scottsdale Weight Loss to have the DXA scan performed, if I wanted to get an accurate number. Earlier last week as I realized my appointment with Dr. Z was this week, I decided that I could not go back in yet another time without having done any work on my end to make some changes … or at least figure out where I actually stood. So, I called the office to schedule a DXA scan. Since I wanted to compare that reading with what the Tanita scale measured at Scottsdale Weight Loss as close to the same time as possible, I called SWLC and re-scheduled my appointment from late last week to 30 minutes after my DXA scan should be completed. There would be no second-guessing any other factors that could change my body composition. As an added piece of data, I quickly ran into Koko Fit Club on the way to the DXA scan and jumped on the Koko Fit Check to see where that reading was within the same time span – all food/hydration intake and clothing being constant. Yes, yet again my engineering geeky-ness is showing.
I had to fill out an incredibly large amount of paperwork to get the DXA scan – I guess I was technically becoming a new patient even though I just wanted the scan. They started with a blood pressure measurement then had me get on their scale. Now, since this was a weigh in day with Dr. Ziltzer, you can believe I had been on the scale this morning already (actually twice, to be honest). My first-thing-in-the-morning weight was 176.2. Not exactly the 175 I was hoping for but my clean eating the past two days had knocked me down to well within my “green zone”. Post-breakfast but before dressing, a quick jump on the scale showed me at 176.4…only a .2 pound gain from my morning shake. That’s fine. So, you can imagine my reaction to when their scale at the sports med clinic weighed me at 184 pounds! Are you kidding me?! He insisted that his scale was “calibrated”. OK, well I know lots of scales and I’ve never seen one that different (I know I didn’t have 7 pounds of clothes on). Oddly enough, and I’ll get back to this later, when I finally weighed in at SWLC, my weight was exactly the same as last month (177 – fully clothed) – despite my home scale reading a 1.4 pound difference than it did before my appointment last month. I clearly remember being disappointed in the reading last month and now I see proof of the discrepancy today…I was expecting to see at least a 1.4 pound gain based on that. Oh well. Yet another reason to not get too fixated on the numbers…
So, after even more questions about my health history, exercise, etc., the guy finally led me to the DXA machine. I had been instructed to wear “loose fitting clothing and no metal” which eliminated all of my bras because they have under-wire. I ended up just wearing a tank top with a little built in support. I laid down on the bed of the scanner and he positioned my arms and legs how he wanted them. The DXA machine is the same device that is used to measure bone density to test for osteoporosis. I asked the guy if he would also be measuring that while I was being radiated but he said, no – the machine is set up and programmed differently when measuring body composition and is not measuring the spine and bones like a bone density test would. I thought it would be nice to kill 2 birds with one stone – but I am a bit young to be getting bone density scans anyway. Then he told me hold as still as possible – but keep breathing. He said the scan would take about 6 minutes but it seemed much shorter than that. It was quite possibly the most relaxed I would be all day. Starting at the top of my head, the scanner arm worked it’s way slowly down my body along the side of the bed – I guess similar to an MRI or CT scan except the arm moved instead of the whole bed. When the machine was done, I got up and he met me back in his office.
Now, I will admit to hoping that the lack of change in my body fat of late was due to a measurement error. I know my arms are more muscle-y and I just feel tighter. My readings from the Tanita have had my body fat at an unacceptably high 34+% lately. Even Dr. Ziltzer told me that the Tanita only measures up one leg and down the other and isn’t taking my arms into consideration. Well, my hopes were dashed when he handed me my paperwork. I can honestly say, right or wrong, it was the same “shame” I felt on Day 1 when I walked into Scottsdale Weight Loss and saw my starting numbers and blood-work. The freaking DXA shows me at 38.4% body fat! I was crushed. It was actually worse than I thought.
At the top of the 2nd page was yet another blow….a chart showing me as “Overweight” again. Yeah, I thought I was out of that classification but the giant scale discrepancy has put me back in that category again.
Following that were a bunch of “Recommendations” which, again, made me feel like I was back on Day 1. Instructions for a beginner exercise about starting out gradually and walk my neighborhood, etc. Yeah, I’m running a half marathon this weekend. Ugh.
Here are some other numbers and information from my report. I might need to do a little more research on all of this and I also need to match it up more closely with what the Tanita and Koko Fit Check read today. I have been assured that the DXA is the most accurate. So any fat % number I get in the future from those other scales, I guess I’ll have to add about 4% to that. I did do a little reading and I guess it is pretty common for non-DXA tools to under-estimate body fat. I would be interested to see what a caliper measurement on my arm reads about now…
So, you might wonder how much this great news cost me. The answer is $75. Seemed like a reasonable amount to pay and I am glad I did it. I just wish the results had not changed my mood so much. I spent this weekend feeling pretty good about things. I did well with my eating for the most part. I had lots of nice complements at a Halloween party about my weight and many made comments thinking I was still losing weight – had to assure them that I was definitely not losing any more. I went to the Success Club meeting Monday night and got my head screwed on straight again and really do KNOW that this process is WAY more than a number – on a scale or body composition printout. I guess what was depressing is that if you were to pick up my results printout, you might not realize how far I had come. How strong I had gotten. How many meal replacements I had consumed. How many weights I have lifted and miles I have run. How much thought and consideration I put into my weight/health/progress to get to the point of even lying down on the DXA table. So I need to remember that I have come a long way and that there will always always be work to be done, this is just a snapshot in time.
I did head straight to Dr. Z’s office for that appointment but that is another blog post in itself….
<TO BE CONTINUED>