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When You Pinch an Inch of Flesh, It Isn't Always Fat

The Skinny on Fat: Should You Only Be Able to Pinch an Inch?

We are pumped to share one of our fave stories from Self here on FitSugar!

Someone recently reported to us that their doctor told them they shouldn't be able to pinch more than an inch of fat anywhere on their body.

We've heard that old saying — "pinch an inch!" — but if that's true, boy, are we in trouble!

To find out if this is a legit way to judge body composition and what our other options are, we called on exercise physiologist Fabio Comana, spokesman for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

The verdict: Good news, ladies . . . pinching an inch is NOT an accurate marker of your body composition. Deep exhale! Phew.


To learn why keep on reading!
For one, says Comana, not everyone carries her weight in the same place, so you need to check a minimum of three sites (generally front of the thigh, right above the hip bone, and the triceps). Even then, without calipers and specific training, it's impossible to know how much of what you're grabbing is skin and how much is actually fat. Other factors also need to be considered, such as age and skin elasticity.

"It's a very complicated algorithm," he says. In other words, an accurate reading requires a very smart, very savvy personal trainer or a house call from Comana himself. To get a general read on your overall body composition, Comana recommends checking your Waist-to-Hip Ratio and your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI has received a bit of a media smackdown recently for being inaccurate. But, according to Comana, unless you're under 18, over 65, or muscular enough to kick Christian Bale's butt, it's a solid way to evaluate your body composition.

Have you ever done the pinch test? Do you judge your weight by numbers or by how you feel?

Hungry for more information on working out and eating right? Read these stories at

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
Spectra Spectra 6 years
I lost a lot of weight, too. Even though it was a long time ago, I can grab a piece of skin on my tummy and pull it really far. It's kind of cool, but it would probably skew the "pinch an inch" thing.
BeamerCG BeamerCG 6 years
I remeber having to do this in college and my lab partner ended up including muscle as well as skin and fat. ouch.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 6 years
I heard that when I was about 8 and still randomly pinch myself.
amber512 amber512 6 years
I've tried the pinch test, but I've lost over 90 pounds a lot of it is skin. So I don't think I could be accurate in this!
Hotlegs-Runner Hotlegs-Runner 6 years
I am such a data freak, so yes numbers do matter. The numbers that appear when I calculate my BMI and those that appear on my scale. =) ♥.•:*¨*:•.♥
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