Have you ever wondered how “fat” you really are?

body comp

These past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get everything ready for my tenure as the CSA Fitness Center’s new resident dietitian.  In addition to finalizing my marketing materials (I’m really excited about my posters & business cards!), updating my assessment forms and getting my office ready, one thing I’ve been doing is familiarizing myself with a tool I plan to use pretty regularly during my appointments – the Tanita body composition analysis machine.

This is pretty cool because I happen to fancy myself a bit of an expert when it comes to body composition analysis.  In my former life as the coordinator of the Human Nutrition Research Unit at the University of Alberta in Canada I provided researchers access to a wide range of equipment (DXA, BOD POD, PEA POD, BIA and skinfold calipers) that allowed them to measure and track their study participant’s body composition.

And before we get too far into this discussion, for all intents when people refer to body composition, they are referring to an individual’s percent body fat.  Of course, depending on the method used to measure it, you can determine other things too, but body fat is usually what clinicians are looking at when they say body composition.  The generally accepted healthy levels of fat are around 10-20% for men and 20-30% for women.

There are lots of reasons why knowing someone’s percent body fat is useful.  The most important is that percent body fat is a much better indicator of overall health than body weight or BMI (as I’ve previously discussed here).  It’s entirely possible for individuals of similar weights to have widely different levels of body fat and if we didn’t actually measure it, we’d have no way of knowing this.

Another circumstance where I find it particularly useful is the scenario when you have someone who has undergone significant lifestyle changes (ie. increased activity and/or eating healthier), but there has been minimal impact on their body weight.  This can be very discouraging for the person involved.  Measuring their body composition can show them that despite the lack of weight loss, they’ve almost certainly experienced a substantial shift in their body composition, which can help get them back on track again.

Now as you may have guessed, all of the methods used to determine someone’s percent body fat are indirect measurements and thus approximations.  After all it’s not like we can physically separate and weigh all the fat in someone’s body – at least not while they’re alive!  Some of these measurements are better than others (DXA is usually considered the best), but depending on the situation they all can be useful.

The Tanita machine we have at CSA uses what is called BIA or Bioelectrical Impedence Analysis to measure someone’s body composition.  You’ll often find these sorts of machines in gyms or fitness facilities.  They’re nice because they’re portable, easy to operate, quick and require a relatively low burden on the patient/client (all you have to do is stand, barefoot, on what looks like a scale).

The way BIA works is by sending a small electrical charge through the participant when they stand on the scale.  As that current flows through the individual it will be impeded a certain amount.  The more body fat an individual has the greater the current will be impeded.

The major limitation of BIA is that it is very dependent on someone’s hydration status, as water is the primary conduit for the electrical current to flow through.  Because fluid levels can vary quite a bit over the course of the day it’s really important for clients to have subsequent tests done at the same time of day as their first test.  Prior to testing it’s also necessary for them to refrain from engaging in exercise or drinking alcohol for at least 12 hours and not to eat for 3 hours.  Testing should also be avoided if women are menstruating.  But if these conditions are met, BIA can give reasonably accurate and reliable results.

The thing that’s nice about the particular Tanita model we have at CSA is that it provides lots of other useful information for the client, including BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate – the number of daily calories required for basal functions like breathing, heart beating, etc), a Visceral Fat rating (Visceral Fat is the type of fat found on your organs and is more likely to cause disease than the fat found under your skin (subcutaneous fat)) and your Metabolic Age (which is kind of a fun measure that approximates how your metabolism compares to that of the average person at that age).

I must admit, I’m really happy to be teaming up with the CSA Fitness Center because I think being able to add body composition analysis to my regular counselling sessions will be a nice bonus for my clients.

If you’re in Cairo and you want to meet to discuss your nutrition goals (and have your body composition measured!), don’t hesitate to get in touch – +20 109 822 1661 or just stop by the CSA Fitness Center’s front desk.  Hope to see you soon 🙂




Summer 2015

Well my New Years resolution to write a post every week hit a bit of a snag.  I was doing so well too.  Aside from a one week lapse in early April, I’d held true to my promise for about 6 months.  I honestly had every intention of continuing to write over the summer break, but with all the travelling we did, days quickly turned into weeks and now here we are, almost 2 months since my last entry.

Anyways, I guess it’s time to get back on the horse.  From here on out, I plan to post something here every week, at least as long as our travelling doesn’t get too much in the way :-).

Now that that’s out of the way, you might be curious what I’ve been up to?  Well, it’s been a lot!


At the end of June my wife and I headed to Europe for 3 weeks.  We started in Brussels, then headed to Paris for a few days.  After that we went east to the city of Strasbourg, where we embarked on a week-long, self-guided cycling tour of the Alsace region.  We ended our tour in Mullhouse, France near the Swiss and German borders and then took a train over to Freiburg, Germany in the Black Forest.  From there we went north again, with stops in Heidelberg and Cologne before returning to Brussels so we could fly back to Cairo.

I’ll never get tired of travelling in Europe.  Aside from it being a little pricey, it really is a fantastic region to visit.  There is so much to do & see and it’s really easy to get around, which after living in Egypt for 2 years is a nice feature.

A few of the big highlights of the trip were:

  • The Eiffel Tower – There’s a reason why this is one of the most visited monuments in the world.  The views from it are amazing.  I’d totally recommend saving a few bucks and the lines by climbing the stairs to the 2nd level viewing platforms instead of taking the elevators up.DSCN6782
  • Palace at Versailles – French opulence at its grandest.  If the monarchs were living like this while people were starving, it’s easy to understand the motivation for the French Revolution.  I couldn’t get over the size of it.  An amazing surprise was the Queen’s cottages near the Petite Trianon palace.  They’re something right out of a fairy tale.DSCN7044DSCN7113
  • Days 3-4 of our Alsace cycling tour – The entire trip was awesome, but these two days were exactly what I pictured when we decided to cycle through vineyards and medieval villages in France.  The town of Riquewhir was among the best of the dozens of towns we passed through.DSCN7373DSCN7470
  • Triberg, Germany – We only decided to head here for a day trip from Freiburg last minute and we’re really glad we did.  Triberg is in the Black Forest and is home to the original Black Forest Cake recipe (which we tasted!), Germany’s highest waterfalls and the world’s largest cuckoo clock.  The day we were there they also happened to have a parade and town fair, complete with bratwursts and beer gardens – it doesn’t get much more German than that!DSCN7689DSCN7703
  • Heidelberg Schloss – Bar none, this is one of the coolest castles we’ve ever toured. The location is so picturesque. It’s surrounded by lush green forests, perched on the hillside overlooking Heidelberg’s old town and the Neckar river.  It also has the worlds largest wine cask in it’s cellar and a surprisingly interesting museum of pharmacy.DSCN7823DSCN7797
  • Cologne – Cologne felt like it would be a really cool city to live in.  It was a place that was heavily bombed during WWII, so it definitely has more of a modern feel than most of the places we visited on this trip.  The Kolner Dom was one of the most impressive cathedrals we visited on this trip.DSCN7959


So after departing Brussels, we transferred planes in Amsterdam and made our way back to Cairo for a short 24 hour stopover before heading to Canada.  It was an exhausting 48 hours to be sure!

For our 3 week visit back home this year we decided to stay in Ontario, rather than including a trip out to Alberta to check-in on our condo.  This helped make our itinerary a little more manageable, but it was still quite busy.  Thank god, our parents now live pretty close to one another – only about 1 hour apart – because in the past we couldn’t see both sets on the same trip.

We spent most of our time in the Haliburton/Peterborough area, but were also able to get out to Toronto, Richmond Hill, Waterloo and Ottawa for some visits.  We really enjoyed being able to catch up with some old friends that we hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  Haliburton is a really pretty area. I don’t think I could live there myself, but it’s a great place to spend a couple of weeks in the summer.  We even managed an awesome day kayaking around the Thousand Islands near Gananoque.DSCN7970DSCN8175DSCF3849

Back in Cairo

And now we’re back in Cairo.  We arrived 10 days ago, in the middle of a ridiculous heat wave – 40C+ not including the humidity.  Things seem to have cooled down to more manageable temperatures (mid- to high-30’s), but it’s still difficult to be entirely comfortable.

I was back to work at CSA the day after arriving and put in a full week this past week.  If you’ll recall, I’ll be starting my nutrition counselling services out of the CSA’s Fitness Center September 1st, so in addition to my regular responsibilities, I’m trying to get things all ready for that.  We’ve been promoting my services for the last couple of months in Oasis magazine so we’re already getting some calls, which is nice.  I had a meeting with the Fitness Center manager to iron out all the details a couple days ago, so everything is finally starting to feel real.  It’s been a long time coming but I’m pretty excited.  I also updated my logo.  What do you think?  I’m really happy with how it turned out.

dietitian abroad logo

Also for anyone interested, I created a Facebook page for Dietitian Abroad.  I’m using it to promote the blog and share other interesting nutrition-related content.  Please feel free to head over there and check it out.

Like Dietitian Abroad on Facebook.

Until next week (I promise) 🙂