summer of strength: assessment (aka: the “before”)

Posted on May 30, 2011 in Fitness

I actually wrote this post on the day of the tornado, but didn’t get around to publishing it until now. Now that is it Memorial Day—the unofficial start of summer—I figured it was time to really buckle-down on formulating the Summer of Strength (SoS) plan. I don’t want to lose focus on summer goals just because some silly natural disaster came through. Although, keeping up with the SoS could be more challenging now because, currently, our home gym looks like this:

So…lots of body weight exercises, I guess? Anyway, onto the before!


If you missed the challenge introduction, head over here to read about my Summer of Strength!

I write about a lot of personal stuff on this blog. You’ve heard about how I met my husband, my holiday depression and how I use Bisquick to make biscuits (gasp!), but honestly, this post is one of the hardest I’ve ever had to write.

Because this post is all about numbers.

I’ve been judged because of my numbers my entire life. I think most women are. We hide our weight, change our age, alter our height, push up our boobs, squeeze in our stomach, all to achieve a different number. For the longest time, I let my numbers define me. Before I started educating myself on a holistic, healthy life, my numbers carried so much meaning. My numbers were my personality, my confidence and my definition.

As people commented on my numbers, it just reinforced my thought that they defined me. And the more I focused on them, the more everyone around me seemed to focus on them. It was a nasty cycle.

I’ve now grown past that thanks, in large part, to the blog community and seeing so many beautiful, strong, intelligent and powerful women in every shape, size and type.

Now that I have the knowledge to look past the numbers, I know that they don’t define me. Just because the BMI calculator says I’m morbidly obese, it doesn’t mean I’m anywhere near death. And just because the size 14 tag on my skirt may say “fast food fan” to some people, I know that size 14 to me means nothing more than a way of picking out some clothes. So why am I so terrified to share my numbers, now?

Because I’m not sure a lot of society is caught up to where I am. In a world of fashion magazines and size 2 sample sales, hearing that a woman is over 200 pounds is unheard of.  200 pounds is the magical dividing line between “chubby” and “oh crap, she really let herself go.” At 223.4 pounds, I’m not supposed to be proud of my weight. I’m supposed to lie on my driver’s license and suck in my stomach as I walk down the hallway.

But I am proud of my 223.4 pounds. I am 223.4 pounds of tall, confident, strong, and kinda kick-ass lady. This 223.4 pounds has carried me to finish four 5Ks and a half marathon. This 223.4 pounds is a healthy cooking machine. Do I want to be 223.4 pounds the rest of my life? I’m not sure. I am sure that I want to be the strongest, healthiest and fittest version of my body I can be. Maybe I’ll be that at 223.4 pounds. Maybe that’ll be at 150 pounds. There is no way of telling.

Now that I’ve vanquished the hold that my numbers have on me, they take on a whole different meaning. Instead of determining my confidence, they are now research in my journey to be the best me I can be. Instead of letting the scale determine my self-worth, the scale can now tell me if I’m properly hydrated, if I am eating too much sodium or if I’m fueling properly. So these numbers that have haunted me for so long, are now that very things that guide me to being a fitter, healthier, and happier person.

So with all of that as a background, here are my starting numbers and measurements for my Summer of Strength Challenge:

  • Weight: 223.4 pounds
  • Lean Weight: 134.8 pounds
  • Body Fat Percentage: 39.7%
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories I burn just by “existing”): 1689 calories
  • Bicep: R-14.25″ L-13.5″
  • Bust: 42″
  • Chest: 37.5″
  • Waist: 37″
  • Hips: 47″
  • Thigh: R-28″ L-28″
  • Calf: R-17.5″ L-17.5″

I also took some “before” photos. I’m not 100% sure I’ll see much progress in these. I’m guessing my biggest jump will be in my numbers and measurements, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to take them. About 4 hours after I took these photos, the ceiling opened up and started pouring in rain and insulation right where I’m standing. Tornado fun!

So how are my starting numbers? Well, they are okay. My 39.7% body fat percentage is actually lower than I expected and tremendously improved over 2 years ago when I was hovering around 50% body fat. According to my little chart, 39.7% puts me in the “excess fat” category. 23-30% is considered what is acceptable for a healthy (but not super lean) woman.

Want to know how I got my accurate body fat percentage measurement? The BOD POD! On the morning of Tornado Wednesday, Babyface and I headed up to Indianapolis to get my assessments done at IUPUI. You may have seen them use the BOD POD on The Biggest Loser to help assess contestants at the beginning of the show.

What’s the BOD POD? From their website:

The BOD POD Gold Standard Body Composition Tracking System uses patented Air Displacement Plethysmography for determining percent fat and fat-free mass in adults and children. The simple, 5-minute test consists of measuring the subject’s mass (weight) using a very accurate electronic scale, and volume, which is determined by sitting inside the BOD POD chamber. From these two measurements, the subject’s body composition is calculated.

Very cool! What the test meant for me? I put on my some spandex and swimcap and tried to put my claustrophobia out of my mind for a bit (don’t worry, there is a panic button inside the pod just in case you can’t handle the tight space).

All I had to do was step on a highly accurate scale and then sit in the BOD POD for two 40-second sessions. The computer did some crunching and then I was done!

I was given a sheet with all my measurements.

I love nerdy stuff like this! At the end of the Summer of Strength, I’ll come back to the BOD POD to get an accurate measurement of how far I’ve come. Want to get your own BOD POD assessment done? Look here to see a testing center near you. The cost is set by the location doing the testing. I contacted four different local centers and the costs ranged from $40-$15 per assessment. The $15 was a discount for being affiliated with Indiana University.

Coming up next? My goals for the Summer of Strength based on these starting numbers!


Would you get a BOD POD test done? How about sharing the results with the world?

8 Comments

  1. I did a bioimpedance analysis at my naturopath and shared my results on my blog last year. I was actually pleasantly surprised by my % of muscle mass. I didn’t get a follow up done though but I know that right now I’m in not quite as good shape as I was this time last year:

    http://gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday/2010/03/day-64/

  2. I am so doing this! Found 2 close to St. Louis, thanks for the link. All through your post I was chanting “YOU GO GIRL!” and “where can I get in one of those things?”.

    I am off now to do my measurements!

  3. I really admire the way you’ve decided to not let the numbers define you and how you have the courage to post your numbers.

    I am working on the same sort of acceptance with myself but I’ve got a long way to go :)

  4. I think it’s fabulous that you’re proud of what you weigh!

  5. It’s so refreshing to see how PROUD you are of your numbers! It’s taken me a really long time to get to the point that I don’t take-to-heart what my numbers are – and I’m actually very similar to yours, just a few inches taller! I’ve always weighed more than my husband (more than any guy I ever dated actually) – and until I reached my early 30s and started living an active life I was ashamed. But now? Yes, I weigh 215.8 lbs and I couldn’t care less. Do I want to get that number down? Yes. But I’m not going to be ashamed of where I am today.

    Thanks for this Cassie!

  6. You are awesome!!!!!
    I would totally do the test!

  7. WONDERFUL post, Cassie. Thank you for putting this on the internet for us all!!

    Now I will read it again.

  8. I can’t believe that I didn’t see this post when you originally posted it. I LOVE it. And I love you. But you knew that already. Also, I like that we’re the same height. :)

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