Other Ways to Determine Obesity

Skinfold thickness– This test involves pinching your body fat to determine how much of it sits on top of your muscle. It is a useful way of figuring out where your biggest fat deposits are. This test is more accurate than BMI, but also less pleasant and not as cheap.
DEXA Scan– DEXA stands for Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry because it uses the absorption properties of your body to figure out which bits are fat and which are muscles. It is incredibly accurate, but too expensive and inconvenient to be used widely
Air-displacement plethysmography– This method uses air displacement to figure out the size of your body. “It’s kind of like a dunk tank, where you can see how much water an object displaces to determine its volume, except it’s you inside a small chamber with a little window you can peek out of” (Chodosh, 2018). The system takes into account how much you’re breathing in and out. You just sit there breathing normally and while the system uses basic chemistry principles to figure out your total volume. Both air- and water-displacement can calculate your body’s density based on its volume and weight, and from that determine your body fat percentage. It is accurate, easy, automated, but again quite expensive and impractical for use in a standard doctor’s office.
Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio– This is not a way of measuring overall body fat percentage, because it only looks at your waist measurement, but it is effective for assessing health problems related to obesity. Measuring your waist circumference, especially when you compare it to how wide your hips are, gives doctors quite an accurate sense of how at-risk you are for various obesity-related problems in a way that BMI just doesn’t.

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