November 17, 2018

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Opinion

Getting the scoop on your insides

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TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Melina Elliott and Erica Henderson at Body Measures.</p></p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Melina Elliott and Erica Henderson at Body Measures.

Melina Elliott and Erica Henderson are on a mission.

They’ve quit their research jobs, and are confident their new, one-of-a-kind business, Body Measure (1086 St. Mary’s Rd.), will tell Winnipeggers everything they’ve ever wanted to know — or not know — about their bodies.

It’s believed to be the first company in Canada to offer three high-tech tests — Dexa scan for internal body composition, Fit3D exam for external body composition, and resting metabolic rate (RMR) — in a single location.

“It’s really exciting to be starting something brand new that no one has done before, and to be starting it in Winnipeg. We’re very passionate about it,” Henderson said, after running an overweight Free Press columnist through all three state-of-the-art tests at the St. Vital facility.

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Melina Elliott and Erica Henderson are on a mission.

They’ve quit their research jobs, and are confident their new, one-of-a-kind business, Body Measure (1086 St. Mary’s Rd.), will tell Winnipeggers everything they’ve ever wanted to know — or not know — about their bodies.

It’s believed to be the first company in Canada to offer three high-tech tests — Dexa scan for internal body composition, Fit3D exam for external body composition, and resting metabolic rate (RMR) — in a single location.

"It’s really exciting to be starting something brand new that no one has done before, and to be starting it in Winnipeg. We’re very passionate about it," Henderson said, after running an overweight Free Press columnist through all three state-of-the-art tests at the St. Vital facility.

Advocates say the benefit of undergoing such scientific testing is discovering whether you’re at risk for obesity-related illnesses, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes or osteoporosis, a disease that weakens the body’s bones.

The results — contained in a detailed eight-page report — also provide the motivation and information clients need to make lifestyle changes required to shed excess pounds and set goals to improve health.

"The Fit3D shows you who you are on the outside," Elliott said. "The Dexa machine gives you your internal body composition, who you are on the inside. The resting metabolic rate machine shows you how your body runs and how efficiently."

Their unique business plan was born during the five years Elliott, a research co-ordinator, and Henderson, an X-ray technologist, spent working together on the Canadian longitudinal study on aging in the faculty of medicine at the University of Manitoba.

That groundbreaking research relied heavily on a pricey Dexa machine — dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry — a scanner that provides detailed information on bone density, the percentage of body and visceral fat and lean muscle mass.

The research partners found themselves swamped with requests from Manitobans eager for a chance to have their bodies scanned by such a machine, leading to a light-bulb moment.

"So many people were volunteering for this test in our research that we said, ‘We should do something with this,’" Henderson said.

"We were sitting in Melina’s office one day and I just said, ‘Wouldn’t this be a cool business? People want to know about their body composition.’

"Then we decided to write a letter to Manitoba Health just to make sure it was OK that we did it. About six weeks later, they got back to us and gave us the OK."

In February, they started talking about opening a business and they took the plunge a few months later. Body Measure held its grand opening Sept. 28.

"So, we quit our jobs and started a business," Elliott said. "I had gone to grad school to get the job I had (at the U of M); I thought I was going to be in that job forever.

"When I told people that I was leaving... people thought I was insane."

On a personal note, Elliott knows only too well the impact such tests can have on a person’s physical and emotional health.

"A year and a half ago, Erica scanned me," she said, smiling at the memory. "I didn’t really want to, because I didn’t really want to know. I’ve been overweight my whole life, but I finally did it at her urging. She scanned me and printed off the whole report.

"I knew exactly what I was looking at. I knew exactly where it was pointing me — huge risk factors for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It was just this huge light-bulb moment for me to say, ‘Whoa, woman, what do you want with your life? Do you want to head down this road where you can practically guarantee diabetes, or do you want to make a big change?’

"So, I’ve lost 83 pounds in the last year, and I’ve monitored it with the Dexa scanner. I’ve been able to track my progress and see the change in my whole body composition and watch the visceral fat number drop.

"Nothing else in my life had inspired me enough, motivated me enough and kept me focused. I know I’m not the only one who needs scientific data to motivate themselves to take action."

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Doug Speirs in the Dexa scanner, aided by Erica Henderson at Body Measures. The DEXA scanner provides information on bone density, the percentage of body and visceral fat and lean muscle mass.</p></p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Doug Speirs in the Dexa scanner, aided by Erica Henderson at Body Measures. The DEXA scanner provides information on bone density, the percentage of body and visceral fat and lean muscle mass.

When you walk through the front door, it looks and feels like a health spa. But instead of manicures and pedicures and facials, clients undergo state-of-the-art tests to get a complete picture of a body’s composition.

The process starts with signing a consent form because the Dexa scanner emits a low-dose of radiation. ("You are exposed to more radiation on a one-way flight from Winnipeg to Toronto or if you spend four hours in an outside activity," Elliott said.)

First up, tucked in a private room, is the Fit3D body imager, wherein the client is required to strip to their underwear and stand on a rotating pedestal while cameras embedded in a tower capture more than 400 measurements and a 3D image of the body.

The $12,000 machine takes about 40 seconds to do all this and can handle clients up to seven feet tall and 600 pounds.

"It scans you from head to toe, and measures all your circumferences from your neck down to your ankle," Elliott said. "It also gets a 3D image of you that we email you so you can see what you look like from any angle.

"It was originally developed for the apparel industry so you could get scanned and have the best-fitting suit made. It gives you all your measurements, as well as a posture rating and a balance report."

Nearby, in what feels like a meditation room, is the RMR machine, the only one of its kind in the city. For this test, the client is required to relax in a chaise lounge and breathe through a plastic tube connected to a $15,000 device, roughly the size of a toaster oven.

"You’re mouth-breathing for 10 minutes with your nose plugged," Elliott instructed an apprehensive visitor. "Some people find it difficult to do.

"This one will tell you exactly how many calories your body burns in a 24-hour period at rest. It will tell you how your metabolism is running — low, normal or fast. It also tells you how much you should eat in a day to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight.

"The whole idea of our business is it eliminates the guessing about your body. What do I need to feed myself to achieve my goals? What’s going on inside my body? What is my risk for a variety of metabolic diseases?"

In a third room sits the company’s showpiece: the $150,000 Dexa scanner.

This test involves lying down on what resembles a large tanning bed, while an armature passes above the client’s body.

"I call it the human photocopier," Elliott said with a giggle. "It can take between six and 12 minutes for the scan, depending on the size of the person."

As a trained X-ray technician — and a longtime professional trainer — Henderson is the only one qualified to run this state-of-the-art machine. Body Measure’s Dexa is one of only five in Manitoba (there are two others at the U of M and two in local hospitals).

"This shows your body fat percentage, how much visceral fat you have inside you, your bone density and your lean muscle mass," she said. "It’s a snapshot of the inside of your body."

The scanner will even tell if a body is symmetrical, whether it has the same amount of fat, bone and muscle in each of the limbs.

Since formally opening last month, Elliott and Henderson have scanned close to 300 clients hoping to learn the inside story of their own bodies.

The pair are passionate about making their fledgling business a success and about empowering Winnipeggers to improve their overall health.

"There isn’t a single person who wouldn’t benefit from a Dexa scan and an RMR test," Henderson insisted, as she and her partner briefed this columnist on his less-than-stellar results.

"We’ve had every type of person come through the door," Elliott said.

"We’ve had bodybuilders that have like seven per cent body fat to people that are morbidly obese, 350 pounds or more. We’ve had people over 400 pounds. From one spectrum to the other, from somebody super-concerned about getting their body fat down to the absolute lowest for competition, to somebody who needs the motivation to change their life and lose the weight they want to lose."

And there’s been the odd overweight newspaper columnist, too.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs
Columnist

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

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Updated on Saturday, October 13, 2018 at 7:58 AM CDT: Photos added

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