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Track Weight, Body Fat For Four People Customize

Reviewing: Tanita Tbf 551 Body Fat Monitor/ Scale  |  Rating:
Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Exercise & Diets Expertise:
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The Tanita Body Fat Monitor / Scale was out of our budget range, but I bought it anyway and have never regretted the decision.

Our family scales had been a series of the $10 box store variety. Most recently we had ended up using a “vintage” spring type scale that was older than I am because it was the most accurate scale in the house. It was also nearly unreadable from the decades of grime which had unavoidably settled in the open housing which revealed a cardboard rotating drum with the weights marked on it. (If you can picture this, I know how old you are!)

So for Christmas a few years ago I spent $150, yes $150, on a family present, a good scale. We really enjoy knowing that we are getting accurate readings. I especially like being able to see my weight in small increments, not just having to settle for “about XXX pounds.” Body fat percent is very helpful for me as a reminder of how out-of-shape I can get over the winter even if the weight doesn’t fluctuate too much. If you are serious about tracking either of these statistics, this scale is accurate and easy to read.

Physically the scale is 12 inches square and about 2 inches thick. It comes with special feet to attach if you plan to use it in a carpeted room (although they recommend not using it on thick carpet, and suggest that a hard surface is preferred). The case is slightly textured hard plastic with metal plates for your feet. It has to have those to make electrical contact to measure the body fat. There is a dip switch on the underside which allows you to select pounds, kilograms, or British stone weight. Weight limit is 300 pounds. The display area is 3" x 1/5" with 1" LCD numbers. It is not backlit, but unless your bathroom is really, really dimly lit it seems easy enough to read.

It cleans easily with a damp cloth. It claims to be coated with a chemical agent that inhibits the growth of bacteria. There is automatic shut off. Six AA batteries are required. We have owned this scale for about eight years and I’ve replaced them once, with two people using it regularly. The display flashes Lo when they need to be changed.

This scale has five toe switches on the front. One is for weight alone. The other four are programmable for four individuals. By using “set” buttons on the top (you are unlikely to hit these by accident with your toes), you can select your height, and gender. You also make a selection based on whether you are a child, adult, or “athlete.” Athlete is defined as someone who engages in vigorous physical activity for more than 10 hours a week, or someone whose heart rate is under 60 bpm. It is very easy to set, no more difficult than a digital watch.

To take a measurement you need to be barefoot, with dry feet. Tap the toe switch for your personal settings and wait for the scale to register first your settings (so you can verify that you pushed the correct switch) and then 0.0 (just a second or two). Step on the scale being sure that the balls and heels of your feet contact the metal plates. First your weight will appear in 0.2 pound increments. Remain in place without lifting your feet and in another few seconds your body fat percentage will appear also in 0.2 increments. Then it will flash several times between the two values so you have another chance to make note of the numbers.

The scale comes with good directions. In fact there is an entire booklet about how to interpret your numbers, how body fat varies with time of day, etc. The scale takes the body fat measurement by passing a low voltage current through your body (you don’t feel it). There are different levels of resistance to that current by muscle and fat, and that difference is used, with the information you programmed in, to determine your fat percentage. The measurement is affected by water levels in the body, so there are suggestions as to how to understand these fluctuations, which will be greater for women than men.

There is also a sample worksheet to determine your own baselines, and to develop goals and a monitoring strategy. It’s nothing really special, but it can help you know how to get started.

The unit has a one-year warranty.

Tanita Corporation - A Full Line Scale Company