2011 NOV 25 Withings Scale and Body Fat Measurement Accuracy

I recently picked up a Withings Weight and Body Fat Scale, because I like gadgets. :-) The reviews on it were pretty good, except for many complaints about body fat measurement accuracy. The good news is there is a very simple way to resolve this issue.

First, a little background: the Withings scale, like pretty much any of the others like it, uses bioelectrical impedance analysis to do its body fat measurement. This method is highly sensitive to things such as recent eating, exercise, and hydration. The key to stabilizing the numbers and making them useful is to make these factors as constant as possible. Here’s what I do to do that (credits to Four-Hour Body for introducing me to this idea):

  1. Take my measurements the same time of day, about a half an hour after I wake up.
  2. Immediately on waking up, I drink a large quantity of water (about 32oz). Right before weighing a half hour later, I urinate to get rid of any excess water.
  3. No eating, drinking, or exercise during the half hour period between drinking and weighing.

With this technique, my measurements have come out very consistent. The only caveat I have is that the numbers the Withings scale produces are much higher than other scales I’ve used (12-13% vs. 16-17% for the Withings). This doesn’t appear to invalidate analyzing trends, though. Besides, the absolute numbers for any body fat measurement method are pretty much bogus anyway; it’s the trend that matters.

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