If I am 250 pounds with 35% body fat, should I focus on losing weight?

In terms of maintaining health, your main focus should be decreasing your overall body fat. Although the scale serves as an easy method of tracking weight, it does not differentiate between body fat and lean body mass. The true indicator of health would be how much body fat you are carrying around. In your case, you have 163 pounds of muscle, bone, and organs (lean body mass) and 87 pounds of fat. For a male, acceptable body fat percentages is between 21% and 24%. Over 25% is considered clinically obese. You should first set a goal of getting to the healthy range of 24%. To determine how many pounds you would have to lose to drop your percentage to 24%, you will have to complete some simple calculations. First, take your lean body mass (163 pounds) and divide it by 0.76. (The 0.76 is derived from the fact that with 24% body fat your lean body mass will comprise 76% or ).76 of your overall body weight. You can change the percent/decimal according to your fat percentage goals.) This will give you your overall weight with 24% body fat. In this case, your weight would be about 215 pounds. By subtracting your original weight to your target weight, you can find your weight loss goal. For this situation you would look to move from 250 pounds to 215 pounds, which would require losing 35 pounds.

Women (% fat):

  • Essential Fat- 10-12%
  • Athletes - 14-20%
  • Fitness - 21-24%
  • Acceptable - 25-31%
  • Obese - 32%+

Men (% fat):

  • Essential Fat - 2-4%
  • Athletes - 6-13%
  • Fitness - 14-17%
  • Acceptable - 18-25%
  • Obese - 25%+

Knowing your body fat percentage can also help you determine if your weight loss goals are realistic. Remember, weight loss doesn't always mean fat loss.

For example, let's say you are a 130 pound woman with 23% body fat, and your goal is to lose 20 pounds.

Initial body fat
130 pounds x 0.23 body fat = 30 pounds body fat

Lean body mass
130 pounds total - 30 pounds fat = 100 pounds lean body mass (bones,

Goal 130 pounds - 20 pounds = 110 pounds

As you can see, the goal of losing 20 pounds is not realistic or healthy. At
110 pounds, this woman still requires 100 pounds of lean body mass, but would only be carrying 10 pounds, or only 9% body fat. From the body fat chart above, you can see that this is a dangerously low percentage.

A better goal might be for the woman to reduce her body fat from 23%
to 18%. In this case:
130 pounds x 0.18 = 23 pounds body fat
100 pounds lean body mass + 23 pounds body fat = 123 pounds goal

So, for this individual to achieve a lean, but healthy 18% fat, she would
need to lose only 7 pounds of fat, reducing her weight from her current 130 pounds to 123 pounds. Losing more than 7 pounds means losing lean body mass (usually metabolically-active muscle tissue), which is clearly not desirable.

So before you decide that you need to "lose weight", remember to consider that "weight" consists of both lean body mass and body fat. Try to keep your weight loss goals realistic, and remember, keep the calorie-burning muscle, and lose only the fat.

Continue Learning about Exercise For Weight Loss

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.