5

votes

Body fat doesn't match up with mirror?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 20, 2011 at 9:46 PM

I have been eating paleo 80-90% of the time since June. When I cheat it's usually with sugar in the form of candy/chocolate.

I recently had hydrostatic body fat testing done and I am at around 11% body fat (I am female). I recognize that this is very low. I'm relatively athletic and work out 3-4 times a week doing Crossfit.

Here is my question. Despite having had a sharp increase in muscle mass over the past few months, I still have a ring of fat around my middle. I have no muscle definition there and continue to jiggle. This is in sharp contrast with the rest of my body. Given my workout schedule, etc., I had expected that I might see some definition around now.

Any suggestions on how to address my belly fat issue? Do you think this is related to diet? Diabetes and premature cardiac death run rampant in my family, so my difficulty losing the belly fat is of concern, above and beyond my vanity.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 24, 2011
at 10:31 PM

who said amenorrhea?

8632c87a833f1d30f5fa8d4768d10c45

(575)

on January 21, 2011
at 06:11 PM

female fitness competitors complete around this level of BF% and they look ripped, no jiggle, lots of muscle definition,and they usually do not maintain it long-term. If a woman is reporting excess fat at 11% BF, then all I can say is - Pictures please.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on January 21, 2011
at 05:43 PM

11% is extremely low for a female. I agree it smacks of error. You should ask for a retest.

7df8f3cc7f1475c3ecbbd4a4feb87d04

(514)

on January 21, 2011
at 04:02 AM

Could it be some loose/sagging skin rather than actual fat?

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:00 AM

amen to this: mirror is my go to to gauge progress. find a pose and lighting you get hit again and again so you can eliminate variables and gauge every week/month/year/whatever you want.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:51 PM

I don't think amenorrhea is good at any time. It brings along a whole host of other problems.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:25 PM

That's likely our culprit then. Especially with how active you are. Be sure to come back and let us know about your results from sleeping more :)

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:22 PM

My understanding is only a concern when time for childbirth.

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:10 PM

My doc was taken aback by the body fat percentage. He rushed to weigh me when I gave him my body fat % and seemed reassured when he found that my BMI is still on the high side (still normal, but on the border of overweight). I had also gained a few pounds from my last check up, despite being much smaller in regards to inches. I am 6'0 and a size 8, so while appearing quite thin, I am not emaciated and have defined muscle mass everywhere but my belly. So, maybe I'm just destined to have a larger belly!

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:10 PM

Then I go with Stephen's suggestion.

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on January 20, 2011
at 11:04 PM

So, your doctor is ok with this low body fat percentage? So I guess you are naturally very thin? Anyway, as a guy with a very persistent beer belly, I feel your pain :-)

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:03 PM

I dropped from a small size 14 to an 8... but didn't actually lose any weight. At this point I am gaining weight from where I was when I started.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:01 PM

what if that was some computer glitch that showed "11" instead of say "21"?

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:00 PM

Makes sense. My average sleep per night is prob 5-6 hours.

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:57 PM

LOL! I did consider body dysmorphia! It seemed so niggly to be upset about this. I have had a few children, so considered the possibility it was merely extra skin, but was recently informed by my doc that it is, in fact, fat deposit.

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:55 PM

I'm doing weight training roughly 3x a week with short metcons (usually couplets like bodyweight + weighted exercise or running + weighted exercise). Usually 1x a week I'm doing a longer metcon with weights. Lifts are usually 5x3 or 5x5 or something similar, 3 different exercises per week. My max backsquat is 185, deadlift 245, power clean 145. C&J is about 125, struggling with the jerk. Usually doing some body weight exercises on my own 3x a week (pull ups, pushups, toes to bar, b/c I struggle with those). I run a mile, hard, before the WOD 2x a week to build cardio

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:52 PM

I'm doing weight training roughly 3x a week with short, intense cardio metcons. Usually 1x a week I'm doing a longer cardio metcon with weights. So, back squat, deadlift, push press over one week, usually 5x3 or 5x5 or something similar. My max backsquat is 185, deadlift 245, power clean 145. C&J is about 125, struggling with the jerk. Usually doing some body weight exercises on my own 3x a week (pull ups, pushups, toes to bar, b/c I struggle with those). I run a mile, hard, before the WOD 2x a week to build cardio.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:50 PM

Also, sleeping more and better will help you to reduce your consumption of sugar. ;)

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:49 PM

This was going to be my answer too.

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:49 PM

Nope, no hormonal birth control.

8632c87a833f1d30f5fa8d4768d10c45

(575)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:35 PM

11% BF, and you still have jiggle? Was the machine broken?

0ee98c251b5eef357445aefec99c5d7b

(888)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:22 PM

was just about to say the same thing. definitively signs of some kind of suboptimal hormone expression.

F8c63410ad2ade1978775862befb95ff

on January 20, 2011
at 10:15 PM

What exercises are you doing at Crossfit? What numbers for rep/set/weight?

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16 Answers

best answer

13
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on January 20, 2011
at 09:53 PM

Cortisol.

Stress.

Solution: Sleep, ALOT more. Shoot for 10hrs. Take a nap.

Take steps to reduce chronic stress beyond that. My last step to seeing my abs was sleeping more.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:50 PM

Also, sleeping more and better will help you to reduce your consumption of sugar. ;)

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:49 PM

This was going to be my answer too.

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:00 PM

Makes sense. My average sleep per night is prob 5-6 hours.

0ee98c251b5eef357445aefec99c5d7b

(888)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:22 PM

was just about to say the same thing. definitively signs of some kind of suboptimal hormone expression.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:25 PM

That's likely our culprit then. Especially with how active you are. Be sure to come back and let us know about your results from sleeping more :)

best answer

1
1cbb6b2a813475d6c0b17fd5e898dc50

on January 20, 2011
at 11:33 PM

I remember a year ago Mark Sisson from Marks Daily Apple did a bodyfat test. I don't know if you have ever seen him or not but he is ripped. He asked readers to guess his bodyfat and the average guess was 6-7%. The test showed 11% (I just remember the actual being really high) if I remember correctly. Any way long story short, the results could be off. It's a machine ran by a human so errors can occur. If it's correct then congrats on the results!

2
Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:57 PM

I really doubt this is correct. I am at 18-20 percent body fat and a size 4. You would probably also present with amenorrhea, which you don't mention.

And in the end, what does a number matter? As I think you are seeing with the scale, a mirror or tape measure is a much better gauge of progress. I've gained about 15 pounds in the last few months, but no increase in body fat.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:00 AM

amen to this: mirror is my go to to gauge progress. find a pose and lighting you get hit again and again so you can eliminate variables and gauge every week/month/year/whatever you want.

2
Medium avatar

on January 20, 2011
at 10:48 PM

11% seems far too low for a female.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:22 PM

My understanding is only a concern when time for childbirth.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:51 PM

I don't think amenorrhea is good at any time. It brings along a whole host of other problems.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 24, 2011
at 10:31 PM

who said amenorrhea?

1
F6419e6bbef7d94700e6adc80ee9e09c

on January 21, 2011
at 12:12 AM

11% is VERY low for a female!! I do think those machines have glitches. I eat stricly paleo, do crossfit 2-3 times per week and I am very small, not a hard body but i have a flat stomach, wear a size 4 pant. Anyway when I started crossfit my body fat was 28%, I had one this same test done and the result came back that I was 30% bodyfat and at risk!!! I'm not in denial, I know the machine was wrong, there's not way possible. I'm in better shape now then I have every been and when I was out of shape I was at 28%. I would try to do it again if you can.

1
9f2b5def0bc7fd8ad615637d1ffeb9ec

on January 20, 2011
at 10:49 PM

I would support the recommendations on sleep, cortisol, and other hormones, but at the same time, sometimes lower ab fat is just the last to go.

1
1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

on January 20, 2011
at 10:43 PM

Do you happen to take hormonal birth control?

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:10 PM

Then I go with Stephen's suggestion.

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:49 PM

Nope, no hormonal birth control.

0
150a0d1209bb174ba42c4efcc9982ebb

on January 30, 2013
at 08:36 PM

I'm also at 11% body fat, it's stress and cortisol levels after training. You need to take Glycine in your protein shake after training 5g should do it. I had the same problem, my corisol level came down, my belly fat did too! Also watch your sugar intake, straight to the tummy!

0
75e3f20e0cfce0f7e5e09be7008146ae

(0)

on January 22, 2013
at 03:43 AM

I also just tested at 11% which I believe (because I have gained almost 9 lbs and 11% is an increase over 7.5%). I also have a big (relatively speaking) belly -- 26-27" despite the fact that I am 4'11" and 91 lbs. I have always been an apple rather than a pear, but it is hard for me to believe that my body fat is still too low when my waist size is consistently 4-6 sizes higher than my bust or hips. Maybe it's the sleep issue, I definitely don't get enough. I'm post-menopausal, so birthing a kid or lack of periods not an issue. I found your site as I'm trying to figure out do I really need to put on more fat, and can I do that without it all going to the belly?

0
312e1f83a2104ed9133341ad3d2cab68

on June 25, 2012
at 04:21 AM

I'm a size 00/XS, 5'7, weigh in at 119 lbs, and I consistently have 11-12% body fat on a Tanita scale. I also still have a tiny fat deposit under my belly button after having a child. I have pretty serious muscle everywhere else, and my stomach is completely flat except for the tiny lower belly "fat roll" that stubbornly sticks around.

I just wanted to let you know that it is possible to be at a super low body fat percentage and still have trouble spots - that fat has to go somewhere, right?

0
034c678bff434ab3781e3f1771018af9

(279)

on January 24, 2011
at 08:33 PM

Doing too much cardio can be taxing and doesn't necessarily reduce bodyfat. You're on the right track with increasing your lean muscle mass. You should check out Body By Science for more on the topic.

0
A089b683ee0498f2b21b7edfa300e405

on January 21, 2011
at 03:55 AM

The fact that you are so worried about not losing that belly ring of fat is perhaps the reason for cortisol and stress in my opinion. Just let go for a while. Go about your life with wild abandon and focus on other things, while maintaining the lifestyle you are leading now. It took me over 8 weeks to lose some stubborn spots, but what ultimately helped was just not thinking about it. Easier said than done - but worth a try. And I would second Stephen's suggestion on sleep.

0
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on January 20, 2011
at 10:55 PM

Did you lose a lot of weight to get to this weight/body fat? I have excess skin that "jiggles" that I will probably never get rid of.

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:03 PM

I dropped from a small size 14 to an 8... but didn't actually lose any weight. At this point I am gaining weight from where I was when I started.

0
F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on January 20, 2011
at 10:50 PM

Few female athletes go below 14% bodyfat. 11% is extremely low for a woman!

Is it possible that you just have loose skin from dieting, or is it even possible that you have body dysmorhpia? Please check with a doctor!

Also, the flabby bits - as pointed out by Stephen-Aegis - might be caused by cortisol. Too much exercise and/or starvation will increase cortisol levels in your body.

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on January 20, 2011
at 11:04 PM

So, your doctor is ok with this low body fat percentage? So I guess you are naturally very thin? Anyway, as a guy with a very persistent beer belly, I feel your pain :-)

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 11:10 PM

My doc was taken aback by the body fat percentage. He rushed to weigh me when I gave him my body fat % and seemed reassured when he found that my BMI is still on the high side (still normal, but on the border of overweight). I had also gained a few pounds from my last check up, despite being much smaller in regards to inches. I am 6'0 and a size 8, so while appearing quite thin, I am not emaciated and have defined muscle mass everywhere but my belly. So, maybe I'm just destined to have a larger belly!

77f83ec328459dce702216709762e202

(571)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:57 PM

LOL! I did consider body dysmorphia! It seemed so niggly to be upset about this. I have had a few children, so considered the possibility it was merely extra skin, but was recently informed by my doc that it is, in fact, fat deposit.

8632c87a833f1d30f5fa8d4768d10c45

(575)

on January 21, 2011
at 06:11 PM

female fitness competitors complete around this level of BF% and they look ripped, no jiggle, lots of muscle definition,and they usually do not maintain it long-term. If a woman is reporting excess fat at 11% BF, then all I can say is - Pictures please.

0
Aad9337259693114bd0ebf30f39198d7

on January 20, 2011
at 10:06 PM

Myotic Crunches and Cat Vomit (4 Hour Body)

(I might be kidding)

-1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 22, 2013
at 03:49 AM

LOL. You are looking like 99% of Paleoidiots- like a bag of deflated shit. You are losing weight but water and muscle weight,

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