Monday, December 30, 2013

DXA Body Scan

Trigger warning...I'm talking about weight-related issues.   


So, as I have been on the hunt to find the right balance between my weight and health, I decided to have a DXA body composition scan.  I recognize that this may be troubling to many in the HAES world, but there's nothing wrong with me deciding that I need to eat healthier food or exercise more, and wanting some way to actually track my progress.  The DXA scan is supposed to be a more accurate body fat measurement tool than calipers or water displacement.  I recognize that BMI doesn't tell an accurate story.  Weight alone clearly doesn't tell an accurate story.  Neither do my waist measurements.  So I decided to x-ray myself (don't worry, it doesn't give off any more x-rays than your cell phone).  Not just to find out the fat content of my body, but to see how strong my bones are, and to see if I'm carrying around the new enemy, visceral fat.  I also wanted to see if they could give me a more accurate basal metabolic rate so that I could figure out how many calories my body actually needs to eat every day.

Last Saturday, I went to the Bone Density and Body Composition Center in Redwood City and paid $85 for my scan and read-out.  It was a pleasant experience.  I just had to lay on a table while I was essentially photocopied for 7-8 minutes.  I so rarely sit still, it was actually kind of nice and I could have taken a nap.

My results were pretty much what I expected.  My body fat is 49% (I figured it would be around there).  The "healthy" goal for women my age is around 30-33%.  The news I was more eager to hear:  my bones are pretty strong.  They weigh 6.4 pounds.  So much for saying I'm "big boned."  Bones don't weigh as much as I had hoped.  I was explaining my bone spur issue and she said that bone spurs aren't always indicative of osteoporosis.  But it is good to keep an eye on things.  

I apparently have been misunderstanding the difference between the Basal Metabolic Rate and Resting Metabolic Rate.  When I asked the tech to give me my BMR, she corrected me to say RMR.  


"These two terms are used interchangeably, although they are not technically the same. Resting metabolic rate is really what most lay people mean when they say basal metabolic rate, and I talk here only about resting metabolic rate (RMR). Basal metabolic rate is a precise calculation with a precise definition; RMR is close enough for practical purposes.

Resting metabolic rate is the energy required by an animal to stay alive with no activity. Therefore, your real metabolic rate is always significantly higher than your RMR. Calculating RMR is a very useful first step in calculating your real metabolic rate.  Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is one of the main contributing components of energy expenditure (around 70%)."

Also from

"Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, in the post-absorptive state (meaning that the digestive system is inactive, which requires about twelve hours of fasting). 

The release of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, brain and the rest of the nervous system, liver, kidneys, sex organs, muscles and skin. BMR decreases with age and with the loss of lean body mass. Increasing muscle mass increases BMR."

So my RESTING Metabolic Rate, based on the measurements taken during this scan is 1,938 calories.  It's really not that far off from my calculations found in THIS blog post.  I think I was using something around 1,985 to estimate my daily caloric intake.  Now, to find out how many calories you should actually eat every day, I chose to use the "light" multiplier (exercise 1-3 times per week, even though I exercise more than that).  That gives me a daily calorie goal of 2,667.  I have been shooting to eat around 2,230 calories each day.  I am also not guilting myself if I go over, although most days, I am right on track.  This has lead to a loss of approximately five pounds in the last couple of months.  Like I've complained many times before, I don't lose weight quickly, and I am learning to be okay with that.  

Side note:  I did have a Facebook friend e-mail me after the blog post mentioned above to express concern.  Here is a paragraph from her e-mail:  "I read your post again, and everything screams «restricting». I feel sad for you because I understand all too well, and me too I am fucking fed up and I do think that this weight doesn’t work for me because my feet are always in pain. Yes, I miss being able to wear a size 11. But  you know what? Size 11, I wore when I was in Europe and I was eating full fat everything, occasional glass of wine, everything in moderation. BUT. I was training 4-5 times a week full intensity on machines and walking 3 hours a week, and I was 20 years old, not nearly 30. I had time to do that because I was on vacation and did not work, my guy was paying everything for me (this is a whole other story and I still hurt from the heartbreak I had to endure, 4 years and a half +a wonderful new guy later.) I had ideal conditions."

I do agree that I am restricting my calories.  However, I don't feel like I am doing it in an unhealthy way.  I don't believe that I should just be able to eat whatever I want whenever I want it, because my body would tell me to eat cookies all day.  So, yes, I am restricting, because if I just let my compulsive self eat every time I felt the urge, I would easily gain 100 pounds.  Even Health At Every Size can't agree that I should just pick up whatever I feel like shoving in my mouth any time I feel the smallest twinge of anxiety.  That's not healthy either.

Now, on to the evil belly fat.  That visceral fat that covers your organs and is reportedly more dangerous than subcutaneous fat.  Ummmm....I have some.  Whatever that means, I don't know.  Check out the diagram of my visceral fat to the left.  It's funny to me to see how my subcutaneous fat sits.  Since I had my lower body lift/tummy tuck, if I gain weight, it all has to go to my back because the scar is so tight.  This proves I have tons of back fat!  Stupid back fat. 

So I guess the purpose of one of these scans is to give you a jumping off point.  I will be checking again in six months after sticking to a healthy eating and exercise plan.  I am nervous and frustrated because I am possibly facing a bone spur in my other foot now, which might wreck my plans to workout more.  I have a doctor's appointment in two weeks to find out.  In the meantime, all I can do is continue what I'm doing.  Yoga, pole and cycling.  Those are what work for me and that's what I will continue to do.  I realize that talking about weight loss is uncomfortable for some, but this is my journey and these are the these choices I make for myself.  


  1. That was very informative! I really do hope that you don't have another bone spur and can get back into doing the yoga and pole that you enjoy!

    1. I got a four page's pretty interesting, although probably not super helpful until I do a follow up in a few months. I will do all my eating right and exercising and check again in June to see where I am. :-D

      I'm actually hoping I broke my foot and that's all it is. In April, I stepped down REALLY hard on my other foot and couldn't walk for two days. With all the limping I was doing, then when it got SUPER cold here, suddenly the pain went from a 4 to an 8 or 9 on some days. So at least if it's a hairline fracture, maybe they can just boot me and no surgery on that foot!