Anna Victoria has made it clear she’s not a fan of scales. The superstar fitness blogger and trainer doesn’t weigh herself, and urges her followers not to obsess over how much they weigh either.
Victoria’s onto something: A scale can tell you your total weight, sure, but it can’t tell you much more. It won’t reflect how much muscle you’ve gained thanks to a new strength training routine, or how much fat you’ve lost after making healthy diet swaps.
Instead, Victoria recommends finding out how much body fat you’re carrying around, and then tracking that number monthly. You can do so with body composition tests, which reveal how much of your total weight is fat compared to muscle, bone, and water. These tests can be done with at-home gadgets, or devices at fitness centers—or with more high-tech machines at weight loss clinics and research facilities.
In a new YouTube video, Victoria, who’s no stranger to baring all online, set out to measure her body composition using a bunch of different tests or tools–and got six different results, ranging from 14.2% to 26.4% body fat.
The lowest result surprised her, she says in the video, but hardcore female athletes are often in the body fat percentage range of 14% to 20%. Everyday exercisers are typically around 21% to 24% fat, while women with a body fat percentage of 32% and higher are considered obese, according to the American Council on Exercise. (Male athletes are usually around 6% to 13% fat, while men with 25% body fat or higher are considered obese.)
RELATED: 13 Best (and Worst) Ways to Measure Body Fat
There’s research to suggest that body fat percentage is actually a better measure of health than the number on the scale. A 2016 showed that people with more body fat were more likely to die early than people with less fat, regardless of how much they weighed. The good news is that your percent body fat is totally modifiable, says John A. Shepherd, PhD, director of the Body Composition, Exercise Physiology, and Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the University of California San Francisco.
“Body composition is one of the most modifiable risk factors we have for many common diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer,” he explains. “A lot of our disease risk factors–like genetic risk factors or family history–you can’t do anything about.” It’s worth knowing your body fat percentage, he says, so you can be aware of how it might affect your health–and then get to work changing it.
So how do you measure your body composition? Here are the six methods Victoria tried, and her surprisingly variable results.
This test involves expelling all the air from your lungs and then being submerged in water. The water displacement gives your technician an idea of how much of your body is fat compared to lean mass. Yes, hydrostatic weighing is as inconvenient as it sounds—and it’s not all that easy to find a facility to perform this test, either.
Victoria’s results: 14.2%
Bioeletrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
BIA machines send an electrical current through your body (don’t worry, you don’t feel a thing) to measure fat. The technology can be extremely accurate when used in a weight-loss lab setting, but at-home scales and handheld devices you might remember from gym class aren’t always so spot-on.