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Low BMI but high body fat. Do I need to take action?

(29 Posts)
peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 09:31:14

First time posting on this board so hello all. smile

I'm trying to conceive at the moment, so my health has become a bit of an obsession for me!

I'm 5,4, and at the moment I weigh 7 and a half stone. This gives me a current BMI of 18. I know that this is technically underweight (even though I feel fit and healthy) and I really want to do something about it to improve my conception chances. I'm 37, so time is not on my side.

However, according to the calculations I have done online, my current body fat percentage is 25.6%. This is apparently at the upper limit of the acceptable range.

Should I be concerned? I'm really worried that I'm secretly really unhealthy without even knowing it. I eat quite healthy (even more so at the moment) and I also exercise by doing loads of walking, and also aerobics, circuits, horse riding. I'm fairly toned as well (not athlete standard, but not a lot of jiggle) So quite surprised my body fat is so high.

I'm now thinking I need to get my body fat down, but how would I do that without my BMI going lower? Am I just worrying over nothing?

Any help or reassurance would be much appreciated. smile

PinkyPlumet Sat 09-Jul-16 09:46:52

Are you eating a very fatty diet? How active are you? I would try eating high carb low(er) fat. So lots of rice, potatoes fruit etc and try to up your fitness levels!

GeekLove Sat 09-Jul-16 09:55:58

Don't worry too much about fat unless you are eating a lot of processed foods which have the more harmful trans fats in. Look more to cutting out sugar, particularly hidden sugar. 25.6% is actually ok for a woman but is it more internal (visceral) fat rather than subcutaneous fat?

Anyway it wouldn't do any harm to up fitness levels.

peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 10:00:17

I definitely don't eat a high fat diet PinkyPlumet. I'm a strict vegetarian. I eat very little processed food, no while rice, pasta etc and very little diary. I've been upping my fruit and veg intake recently as well and I already eat wholegrain rice, pasta etc.

I'm also pretty active. I walk my dog twice a day, work out 3/4 times a week, horse ride (including walking four miles to the stables several times a week) If anything I've scaled back on exercise because friends and family were starting to tell me I'd lost a few too many pounds.

It's genuinely baffling me. I have a GP appointment booked next week, so I'm going to speak to her about it. Thank you for your reply though. smile

SpinnakerInTheEther Sat 09-Jul-16 10:00:23

Don't worry because you are in the 'acceptable' range. I have been outside the acceptable range for body fat, thought healthy BMI and size 12 to 14 (though a bit taller than you) for years. I suspect many people are. Unless you have an actual MRI fat percentage readings are notoriously inaccurate.

But as to what you can do, regarding any concern, I would suggest weights to build more muscle and strengthen.

SpinnakerInTheEther Sat 09-Jul-16 10:05:10

Just remembered, also, when I was a slightly lower fat percentage than you (years ago) and trying to conceive, I did not conceive until I put a little weight on. I'm not sure enough is known concerning fat percentages.

peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 10:07:14

I definitely don't eat a lot of processed foods GeekLove. I try my best to avoid them.

I have the myfittnesspal app and it always says my trans fat levels are zero. However my sugar is always over the recommended amount (although it's slowly coming down) I think it's due to the fact I eat quite a bit of fruit most days. I'm addicted to apples, oranges and grapes. Perhaps I need to mix it up a little bit more.

It must be internal fat because I really don't think I look fat on the outside. My best friend was actually telling me I was looking a bit too thin, but that you can still be a skinny fat person? :/

I will try and up my exercise levels, but I'm honestly wary of losing more weight.

PreAdvent13610 Sat 09-Jul-16 10:09:57

Good idea to speak to your GP.
BMI 18, toned and low jiggle you may be a little underweight. Do not try and lose weight, keep active and build up a little muscle. Eat healthy fats such as salmon and oodles of colourful veg.
Have you ever had an eating disorder? Sorry to ask but most people with a BMI that low would not bother to try and find out their body fat %.

peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 10:13:53

I didn't have an MRI reading SpinnikerInTheEther (great username btw) Hopefully that means it's just a bit inaccurate?

You're right...I probably shouldn't stress too much about it. This trying to conceive business is driving me a bit bonkers I think. smile

I do already do weights a couple of times a week, so will definitely continue with that. I do love my hand weights!

The weight and trying to conceive things is a real puzzler isn't it? Can I ask if you were already in a healthy BMI when you gained weight to conceive? I'm concerned that my BMI is too low for optimum fertility, even though I'm apparently fine body fat wise. Confusing!

SpinnakerInTheEther Sat 09-Jul-16 10:14:19

Michael Mosely's '8 week Blood sugar diet', tackles visceral fat, here:

However, if you don't need to lose weight and are trying to conceive I would suggest the less rigid Mediterranean version.

SpinnakerInTheEther Sat 09-Jul-16 10:16:36

Yes, I was a healthy BMI when trying to conceive, I went from 8st 4 and conceived at nearer 9st at a height of 5ft 7.

peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 10:19:48

I have had an eating disorder in the past Preadvent. I'm also aware that my relationship with food is still far from healthy. I've been trying really hard lately to improve my eating as I desperately want a baby.

I wouldn't normally check my body fat. I checked because of trying to conceive and I read you need a minimum of 20%. I was concerned mine might be lower due to my low BMI.

I'm trying to add more veg in at the moment. I prefer fruit, but I know that's bad sugar wise. I have bags of veg in fridge at the moment. smile I can't eat salmon as I'm a vegetarian, but I'm trying to eat more nuts, tofu etc. Also just ordered some veggie omega 3 oil.

Thank you for all the replies. You guys are brilliant. smile

peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 10:26:45

Mediterranean diet looks good Spinnaker . I've been trying to follow principles along those lines for a while now, I will keep at it! (minus the fish and meat)

Looks like your small weight gain may prove the point about it boosting fertility. Can I ask how you gained the weight? I could do with some tips that don't involve stuffing myself with biscuits (although that would be glorious)

Shiningexample Sat 09-Jul-16 10:30:27

I doubt that your body fat really is too high, I'm wondering how you measured it?

MajesticWhine Sat 09-Jul-16 10:30:31

The upper range of acceptable for your age is around 32 / 33%.
Source :
don't try and reduce it, that could adversely affect your fertility.

Dandelionsmakeyouwee Sat 09-Jul-16 10:40:42

I thought vegetarians ate fish and vegans didn't?

SpinnakerInTheEther Sat 09-Jul-16 10:53:28

My weight gain was not that carefully thought out, I went on holiday so ate out a lot grin. I ate a pretty low carb diet at the time though - so bread, potatoes and white rice / pasta did not feature a lot. I ate mainly meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables and berry fruits plus a very small amount of chocolate after meals.

peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 10:59:17

I measured it from an online calculator Shiningexample. Probably not the best way to do it really.

I don't think I will try and reduce it MajesticWhine. It would probably be a very unwise decision. I'm just utterly paranoid about all things fertility related right now.

Vegetarians don't eat meat or fish Dandelions. A vegan consumes no animal products at all. I was pretty much following a vegan diet until recently, but I've added in eggs and cheese etc whilst trying to conceive.

peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 11:04:57

I will tell my DP that he needs to book us a holiday asap then Spinnaker. Preferably an all inclusive cruise where you can't get away from the food. smile

Meat really does help with weight gain doesn't it? I've lost over half a stone since I turned veggie. I'm even struggling to add in egg and cheese because I've barely eaten them either for two years and they don't really agree with me anymore.

Perhaps I should just eat seven bags of nuts drizzled in olive oil every day! smile I'd live off chocolate quite frankly if I thought I could get away with it!

sleepwhenidie Sat 09-Jul-16 11:05:35

As other pp's have said, don't worry about the fat you are eating. And definitely don't try to lose weight. I would try introducing some resistance training, body weight is fine (eg squats, push ups, planks, triceps dips) and try and increase the amount of protein you eat, which is challenging for vegetarians- focus on full fat dairy, raw nuts, chickpeas, lentils, peas, may find you actually gain a little weight but your body composition will change to be a higher muscle:fat ratio. You are probably fine anyway, but these things can only improve your health smile.

SpinnakerInTheEther Sat 09-Jul-16 11:11:35

One thing to watch out for is high density fructose / corn or maize syrups used in baked products, cereal products and fruit drinks. The body can find it difficult to process this type of excess sugar which leads to excess fat being stored in around the liver (visceral fat). So check any cereal products and baked goods you might eat.

DoctoraNova Sat 09-Jul-16 11:12:15

You need fat to make sex hormones (the hormones that control ovulation, periods, prepare the womb etc). Your body makes them in your fat cells as well as from cholesterol. Talk to your GP about it and get blood work done if you're worried about being "skinny fat" with a history of and eating disorder.

Good luck with conception, it's an emotional rollercoaster.

Thefitfatty Sat 09-Jul-16 11:15:18

At our age the only thing you should consider doing is introducing strength training into your routine, and maybe upping your protein a bit. Building muscle mass is just a good rule of thumb for women in their 30's & 40's in general, regardless of weight.

SpinnakerInTheEther Sat 09-Jul-16 11:15:23

Meat does contain lots of protein. I don't know how much complete protein you are managing to consume as a veggie but that might be worth looking at.

If you like rich mousse type desserts you could look at some low carb versions of chocolate 'cake' and mousse - they usually contain quite a lots of eggs. Ditto pancakes using coconut flour.

peskyfeelings Sat 09-Jul-16 12:01:40

I already do strength training. Mostly hand-weights, light leg weights, push ups, planks, triceps dips etc. I aim for three times a week, but must admit I don't always manage it!

DoctoraNova. I will definitely mention it to my GP. Thank you for your good wishes. smile

Spinnakar. I always get told by the myfitnesspal app that I am under my daily allowance for protein. I'll look into the mousse suggestions. I also love pancakes, so that's a really good idea. I will keep an eye out for the fructose. I've cut out fruit juices and cereal (had to curb my coco pops addiction) I'm reining in my biscuit habit as well. That's not an easy task. I hope this future baby appreciates my sacrifice! ;)

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