Why You Should Forget About Your Body Fat Percentage?

Learning about your body can help you achieve optimal health, but sometimes, digesting the overwhelming amount of body-focused content on social media can have undesired consequences. On social media, influencers, activists, and everyday users promote varying beliefs and sentiments about body image with vigor and enthusiasm that rallies followers (per Well+Good). Body positivity has caught on in popular discourse, and a number of calculators for determining health have been shared and disputed, from body mass index (BMI) to body fat percentage.

Your body composition is the makeup of bones, muscle, and fat, and medical professionals agree that it's important to be informed about your body's proportions (via WebMD). Within your body, there are proteins, minerals, water, and two types of fat. There's non-fat mass, also called essential fat, which is needed for your body to thrive. It is stored within your muscles, bones, intestines, and organs. The other type is called fat mass, or stored fat, and it's necessary for your body to have the energy it needs to function. Stored fat is found in adipose tissue and serves to insulate your body and organs. Since stored fat is found just below your skin, it's the fat that is most often associated with body image. As body fat percentage takes off on social media, the focus on fat can be triggering for people experiencing body dysmorphia.

Body dysmorphia can be exacerbated

The intense focus on fitting into a specific equation or measuring up to data sets can be overwhelming for anyone. However, the pressure can have negative effects on people who experience body dysmorphia or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). The Mayo Clinic describes BDD as a mental health diagnosis constituted by intense focus or perseveration over perceived defects in one's appearance. The focus on one or more flaws and the dedication to finding a potential fix can induce strong feelings of distress and avoidance of social environments. BDD can be treated with both medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Refraining from engaging in situations — including social media activity — that activate distress can also help.

It is recommended that people experiencing body dysmorphia and BDD avoid body fat percentage calculations. Social media content about the body fat marker also has the potential to exacerbate symptoms of body dysmorphia, reports Well+Good. It should be noted that social media doesn't cause BDD, but it has been found to intensify symptoms of the condition (per Rush). If you experience body dysmorphia, you should forget about your body fat percentage and focus on evidence-based avenues for alleviating anxiety and thoughts of inferiority.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).