Archive for the 'Hydrostatic Weighing' Category

Bod Pod: Worthless in the Hands of a Boob

Mike on Oct 1st 2010

What I learned yesterday: the Bod Pod is a $40,000 piece of junk if the operator doesn’t know what he is doing. Recently I blogged about my experience in the Bod Pod, getting my body fat percentage measured. It is highly accurate, state-of-the-art, and has a margin of error similar to Hydrostatic Weighing (the gold standard of body composition testing). The only problem is, all of that is utterly wrong if the person operating it is a boob. What I didn’t mention in my earlier article about the Bod Pod was that while I was sitting there in my underwear waiting to be tested, the technician kept putting a cylinder into the pod, taking it out, putting it in, taking it out, and on and on at least half-a-dozen times, trying to calibrate the pod. He mumbled to himself constantly and then at one point said, “I’m afraid we might have to reschedule you because I can’t get it to work right…no one set it up this morning and it won’t let me continue.” Then he picked up the phone, made a quick call, and after about 15 seconds on the phone said, “What? It’s okay? Uh, okay.” Then he hung up the phone, cancelled out of the computer screen he was on, and started my test.

The results showed that I was at 44.9% body fat, which was 122 lbs of fat and 150 lbs of lean body mass (LBM). I was encouraged by the amount of body fat it meant I had already lost, but it was also disappointing because it meant that I still had something like 100 lbs more to lose. It really didn’t sound right to me, because that meant I should weigh in the 160s, which didn’t seem possible, but hey what do I know…I can’t argue with the Bod Pod, right? I assumed underneath all that fat I just wasn’t as muscular as I thought. So, I went on my way thinking I had a very long way to go. Fast-forward six weeks to my testing myself with a cheap, $35 bio-impedance analysis (BIA) monitor and a cheap set of skinfold calipers. The BIA monitor said I was 33.1% body fat and the skinfold calipers had me at 33-35%. Well, those HAD to be wrong! I mean, I was tested in a freaking BOD POD, man! The only problem was, when I started plugging hypothetical numbers into the skinfold caliper measurements (assuming I had measured wrong), it was impossible to get myself up to even 40% body fat, much less up to 45% to match the results of the Bod Pod analysis. Then I thought back to the operator’s “uh, okay” phone call and got very suspicious that he had screwed up my test.

My solution was to call the renowned Cooper Center in Dallas and schedule an appointment for hydrostatic weighing. Then I’d know once and for all, because it is the gold standard test that all the others are judged by, and because the Cooper Center most definitely knows what they are doing. They also do skinfold caliper measurements at the same time for comparison. It was an odd experience to say the least, but I’m glad I did it, because the underwater weighing put me at 33.3% and the skinfold calipers put me at 33.6%. That’s fully 12% below where the Bod Pod had me, and it means I need to lose between 46 and 70 more lbs rather than 87-107 lbs, depending on how low I want my body fat percentage to go (i.e. 9-19%). Rather than having a LBM 0f 150 lbs, I’m at 177 lbs. That’s 27 more lbs of muscle than the Bod Pod said. Quite a difference!

One final point. To be fair, I can’t call the operator a boob, because he was just doing what he was told. The boob is the person on the phone who, after a 15 second conversation, told him everything was fine and to do the test on me anyway. In the end Louanne called the facility and talked to the manager about it, and they’ve agreed to repeat the test for her next week for free. Go Louanne! They said they’ll test me too, but I don’t really care since I was just tested at the Cooper Clinic yesterday. What’s the point of another test, other than giving them the chance to prove to me that they might be able to get it right this time.

Below are some photos from yesterday. Click any image to see a larger version, or you can view the whole album on the Photos page.

First they took measurements at seven different points using skinfold calipers. If you ever have this done, get ready because they have to pinch you pretty hard to do it right.

When you do the test you have to exhale ALL the air out of your lungs while you are holding yourself completely under the water, then pause for a few seconds trying to be as still as you can. You have to do this several times. Some people can’t handle it because they feel like they are trying to “voluntarily drown themselves.” I had no problems with it, but I can completely understand why it might freak some people out. Louanne said after watching me she will NOT be doing it. I’ll probably repeat the test every six months or so.

Filed in Bod Pod,Body Composition,Hydrostatic Weighing | 8 responses so far