Note: I was provided a no-cost DEXA SCAN in exhange for my honest review here.
You know how sometimes, you’re talking to your husband about how much you want a slice of chocolate cake, and suddenly one appears as an ad in your social media newsfeed? Or, you’re talking with a friend about your desire to move to a tropical island where it never snows, and all of a sudden…all you see on TV are ads for Hawaii properties to buy?
(The whole remarketing, bots-are-listening to us thing can be scary but I’ll admit…sometimes I’m thankful for the lead on that chocolate cake.)
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I mentioned to a personal trainer friend that I was interested in having a body composition scan, since I’ve put in so much hard work in the last 24 months — dialing in my nutrition, lifting heavy, backing down on cardio, etc. She told me about DEXA SCAN, which measures body fat, muscle and bone composition and more.
48 hours later, an email appeared in my inbox — and yes, I asked my friend and she had nothing to do with it — from a PR agency, asking if I was interested in trying it at their cost.
DUH. YES PLEASE.
I used the DEXA SCAN location finder to pick and then book an appointment at a testing center in my area, which turned out to be DEXA FIT, outside of Tampa, Florida. I was able to schedule it online, fill out all of the assessmemnt forms ahead of time and get a list of things to do and not do before the scan.
DEXA Fit also offers a VO2max text and RMR Metabolic testing, which I really wish I’d done, along with the hormone and microbiome testing. I’ll probably go back and do those soon, since I love knowing what’s happening with my body!
The scan itself was totally painless, only took 7 minutes, and didn’t even require me to get undressed. The tech asked me to remove my Apple Watch, shoes and bra (it had an underwire) but everything else stayed on. I relaxed on the table while the body scanner did its work — X-ray mapping my body (no calipers, no tape measure, no pain). The tech did velcro my feet together, very gently, and asked me to keep my eyes closed and my arms still at my sides.
As soon as the scan was over, the tech had my results and went over everything. I was able to learn about:
- My VAT (visceral adipose tissue), which is a predictor of longevity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease
- My bone/skeletal strength, including my risk of osteopenia and osteopororis
- Muscle symmetry in each region of my body
- My true body type (I would have learned if I was still “skinny fat” like I was back in my old dieting days, and which is not great)
- My lean, fat and bone mass (more precise than BMI and hydrostatic weighing)
I am going to share some of my results because I think they’re interesting, and because honestly…I’m pretty proud of how strong and lean I am, since I have moved my fitness goals away from weight loss, but toward strength, lean muscle mass and a more healthy body.
But this is so critical to me. SCREW the scale. SCREW comparisons. If looking at my numbers triggers anything in you — negativity, self-doubt, Body unKindness, etc. — close the post. I love the data for the data’s sake. It’s like analytics for the blog. If my goal is A, is what I’m doing getting me there? If not, I evaluate and consider changes.
This is my body, my experience, and is only meant to be taken as such.
It is so fascinating to me to look at where I’m symmetrical (my arms), where I’m less so (my legs) and also, my overall lean muscle mass. There’s more detail here:
A few other highlights:
- My total percentage of body fat is 17.1
- My total fat mass is 23.1 pounds
- My total lean mass is 106.9 pounds
That’s a total mass of 134.8 (my weight at the time of the scan). And it proves that weight is just a number, unless it’s given context. Fat can be healthy. Skinny can be unhealthy.
So, we go to the Android/Gynoid measurements, which show my A/G ratio — and that tells me what body type I have. No surprise to me, since I am the one who is constantly trying to figure out how I can be a TwoElve in sizing, I am pear-shaped.
That’s actually good when it comes to health. It means that the fat I carry is not belly fat, wrapped around my midsection. It tends to be stored in my legs, as you can see in my scan:
(Yup, that’s my real body!)
And my VAT — the visceral adipose tissue — shows a total fat mass of 0.09 pounds. My tech gave me a big thumbs up for that.
There is one area of concern, and it’s not related to my weight or muscle mass. It’s about my bone density.
When the tech looked at my scan, she asked if I had a family history of osteoporosis or osteopenia, and I confidently said nope. She asked me if I was sure, and I confidently said yup. Because I know my history. I know what everyone in my family has had and battled and I’d never heard of any bone density issues. She looked the data again and told me it probably wouldn’t hurt to talk with my doctor at my next well visit, and ask about getting my Vitamin D levels tested.
I called my mom on the way home and…it turns out we do have a history of osteopenia on her side of the family, which means that the scan probably revealed something I wouldn’t have known about unless/until I started experiencing broken bones in my older age.
Luckily, I have some amazing friends and health experts (ahem, Emily Field) who have already given me some very helpful tips on Vitamin D supplements (and how/when to take them — that’s important!), so I can take action before my next lab tests, which I will be asking my doctor for.
I left the center with a printout of my results, but also had an online portal where I could get additional analysis, like more detailed body composition breakouts and an overall look at the results, which is basically the same as the printout but a bit easier to follow:
It also saves my scan so if I ever go back for another, I’ll be able to compare and look at trends. (I’m told this is especially appealing to those training for bodybuilding or figure competitions, or for elite athletes who are very interested in low body fat.)
If you’re interested in a DEXA SCAN, they’re fairly affordable — it varies by location but my cost would have been $150 had it not been covered for this review — and you can find local testing centers at DEXASCAN.com.
A few final notes about DEXA:
- It stands for Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry and it uses two kinds of waves to determine what is bone and what is lean muscle — that’s your body composition. It’s technology that was first introduced in the ’80s.
- DEXA is FDA-approved and uses safe, very low doses of the x-ray beams…however, your location may limit how many you can have in a given time period. The radiation dose is 1/10th of what is in a standard chest x-ray, or the same amount of natural radiation you are probably exposed to every day.
- Make sure you look at the dos and don’ts before you go to your appointment (like, do NOT take calcium supplements for 24 hours, and do NOT work out before the scan).
- Insurance companies usually don’t cover this but your HSA/FSA account may be eligible.
- Unlike an MRI or CT Scan, the DEXA is almost silent and does just has a wand, or arm, that goes over your body. I basically napped (very different from the more invasive tests I had when doctors found lumps in my breast!).
- The scan is not safe if you’re pregnant, but is if you’re breastfeeding.