Self Improvement 6/6/05
'Morph' Into Your Ideal Body It's that time again. Time to cast off last year's french fried couch potato habits and create a whole new you. But before you hit the gym, or the grocery store, read our body type- specific tips. They'll help you get more out of your efforts and make those New Year's Resolutions stick.
Liza Jane Maltin
WebMD Medical News Jan. 6, 2002 -- It happens every January. We vow that this year, we'll do it -- eat better, lose weight, get fit. And while we start out with the best of intentions, frustration and disappointment have most of us back on the couch with a container of take-out long before the first thaw. But that doesn't have to be the case this time. Understanding your body type, and working with rather than against it, could make all the difference. "We get sold a lot of false advertising that we can change our body type to whatever we want, but you have to work with what you're given," says registered dietician and noted fitness expert Annette Colby, PhD, RD, LD. She spoke with WebMD about the three basic body types, and how to exercise and eat most effectively based on your genetically-predetermined shape.
The 3 Somatotypes
William H. Sheldon, PhD, MD, introduced the concept of body types, or somatotypes, in the 1940s. Since then, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and even doctors have used it to help design effective, individualized fitness plans. The gist is that everyone falls, though not altogether neatly, into the three categories below. Keep in mind that these are generalizations, and that most of us have characteristics of two or even all three somatotypes.
Ectomorphs are long and lean, with little body fat, and little muscle. They have a hard time gaining weight. Fashion models and basketball players fit this category. While most of us love to hate these genetically-blessed individuals, some male ectomorphs may not be thrilled with their narrow-chested frames, and some female ectomorphs long for more womanly curves.
Endomorphs, on the other hand, have lots of body fat, lots of muscle, and gain weight easily. "Football lineman tend to be endomorphs -- they're heavier and rounder individuals," says Colby. "And they don't have to necessarily be overweight. Both Oprah Winfrey and Marilyn Monroe are classic examples of endomorphs."
Mesomorphs are athletic, solid, and strong. "They're not overweight and not underweight," says Colby, "and they can eat what they want without worrying too much about it." They both gain and lose weight without too much effort. Classic combination somatotypes include pear-shaped ecto- endomorphs with thin, delicate upper bodies and high fat storage in the hips and thighs, and apple-shaped endo-ectomorphs, with high fat storage in the mid-section and thin lower bodies.
Colby says your somatotype "is a combination of your musculature, and your bone structure, and density." These characteristics are genetically determined and unchangeable. "The width of your hips or shoulders, for example, you can't change them with exercise." No amount of exercise can transform a short-limbed woman into a lithe supermodel, or a diminutive jockey into a muscle-bound linebacker. TV ads and infomercials touting gym memberships, diet plans, and exercise equipment can be extremely misleading, says Colby. They show miraculous changes happening almost overnight. "It's an illusion that you can be whatever you want to be if you just try hard enough and have enough willpower." That's not to say you can't make significant changes, however.
What you can do, she says, is learn to eat and exercise in a way that emphasizes and develops your best features, while downplaying those you'd love to change if only you could. "Knowing your body type can definitely help you do the exercises that are best for you," says Colby. "You wouldn't want to do a lot of lunges, for example -- which build lower-body muscle -- if you're bottom heavy to begin with, because you might get discouraged and quit." Here are some somatotype-specific tips to help you reach your personal best:
Eat and Exercise Right for Your Type
If you're an ectomorph struggling to put some meat on your bones, Colby suggests you first see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Then, "take a good look at your diet." If you only eat three times a day, "try aiming for five or six meals." For snacks and meals, choose nutrient- and calorie-dense foods like nuts, dried fruits, sunflower seeds, and starchy vegetables, rather than lower-cal choices like fresh fruits and popcorn. Don't skimp on fat, either -- makes sure that 30% of your calories come from fat. When exercising, ectomorphs should keep cardio or aerobic training to a minimum while concentrating on muscle-building moves with fairly heavy weights.
If you're an endomorph, avoid crash dieting. It will only make your body cling to its fat reserves. Instead, adjust your diet so you're eating more frequent, smaller meals, no more than 5 hours apart. Try to eat slowly, and drink plenty of water. Eat lean proteins and high-fiber foods to help you feel full longer. And don't be fooled by the fat-free fad -- you need a little fat to stay healthy. Endomorphs should do at least 30 minutes of moderately-paced aerobic activity five days a week. Try walking, jogging, bicycling, dancing, or any other activity that gets your heart pumping. When the pounds start coming off, add weight training two or three times a week to tone and strengthen your muscles. "Adding more muscle helps you burn extra calories all day long," says Colby.
Genetically lucky mesomorphs may have an easier time than most staying slim and fit, but "this can be a double-edged sword," says Colby. "They have a tendency to assume that they can handle an extra helping of dessert or a hiatus from the gym. But the same rules for health and well-being apply to them" as to everyone else. Osteoporosis, heart disease, and other diet- and lifestyle-related diseases can affect anyone, regardless of body type. Following these guidelines "would definitely help," Colby tells WebMD. "You can work with what you have. Improvement is possible. You can't totally remodel, you can't totally redesign what you've been given, but you can balance things out."
Going to Extremes?
"Most of my work is about body image and healing," says Colby. "My overall message is finding love for who you are. You've been given one body that will last a lifetime. You should take care of it. You can't resurface and remodel it completely. You need to find acceptance."
But what if, after you've taken the suggestions, made the changes, and stuck with them long enough to see results, you still aren't satisfied with the skin you're in? Perhaps it's those saddlebags that won't budge, or that spare tire that no amount of diet or exercise will deflate. What then? Should you resort to cosmetic surgery to reach your goals? It all depends on your motivation, and what you hope to gain from the procedure, says Colby. "If you recognize that it's not going to make you happier, fulfill childhood dreams, or heal your wounds -- but you just want to make surface changes -- that's fine," she says. "All of us have to struggle with this -- where we accept our body and where we make changes. And all of us, as we age, face the same question. Do we accept it, or do we fight it?"
Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder, and "everyone will have a different opinion" of who and what is attractive," she says. "You have to decide for yourself what's best for you. In the end, we all sleep with ourselves."
How to lose weight
To lose weight one must be willing to lose the weight. Some think of it as an enemy, but it isn't. To actually achieve weight loss one must not think of it as an enemy, but as a transmutable item in which the body can shift with the food eaten. Now imagine that the food is not to be eaten guiltily. When a person feels guilt when eating the person tends to gain weight no matter what is tried. When the person works out with high impact (not including aerobics, aerobics are low impact) exercise routines it doesn't matter what they eat excepting they keep this ratio. The ratio is 1 part exercise to 1/2 part eating. If they wanted to keep the bulk and gain muscle from it the ratio is 1 part exercise to 1 part eating.
The next step, eat anything you want while keeping away from drinks with carbonation. Carbonation in a drink can dry a body out causing the weight to increase. So drink 3 glasses of water or non carbonated fruit juice every meal or at the end of the day drink at least 72 fl. oz. of water or non-carbonated fruit juice. It has to be without caffeine and carbonation whatever you choose. What happens with pop (soft drinks) is that it starts to dull the nerves that tell the brain that the stomach is full. Resulting in eating more of the dessert or other foods. When this is done, yopu'll surely gain weight so avoid soft drinks if you can.
There is an alternative, sugar has been noted by TV news to not have any calories. When the person eats anything with sugar, except for any food item with butter or fried in oil, the person can lose weight. To avoid what body builders call white death, which is eating sugar only, one must eat fruit with the twizzlers. What happens in this condition is the liver is unable to break the sugar down causing diebetes. Fat is then formed from the sugar. The people that need to keep their blood-sugar up can actually do good with this type of diet when they remember that they must keep a balance of how much sugar they eat and how much insulin taken for diebetes.
Eating sugary items such as candy including twizzlers, gummy food items, and things only of that nature will not put any pounds on you. Candy such as that has only energy and tooth decay to offer. When people eat doughnuts, the frying of the sugary bread makes it very hard to keep the weight off and gives the face pimples along with tooth decay quicker. I noticed that eating the biscuit with egg and sausage from a Carl's junior restaurant can break the face out with pimples in less than 2 minutes because of the fried nature of the food. This makes it seem unhealthy for a breakfast item.
If there is nothing else to eat but fattish foods then go out to a store and try to get twizzlers or some type of other candy like it. Get fruit like bananas or oranges and drink only water. Doing this for 300+ pound people will force the body fat to eat itself and said person will lose at least 30 lbs at the end of the month. They will have lost 100 lbs at the end of a couple of months if they had eaten and drinken nothing else. Adding a visualization technique to it of a symbol of your metabolism rising like the sun in your head at every meal will make the metabolism rise through instruction to your subconscious by repeat visualizations. Thinking it consistently makes it happen. One last thing, hold your stomach in and don't let it hang out as much as you can. This will train the stomach muscles to be taut.
Please do not eat at night! At night time, the food in the stomach will not be processed due to blood flow in the body being concentrated in the brain as the person sleeps with dreams and will not flow to the stomach until 7 am. At that time, the food will start to process and so will breakfast along with the midnight snack. So, do not eat at midnight unless you want to gain weight.
The diet? There is no diet! If the person imagines a more slimmer stronger self at every meal and that said person will actually lose weight. The metabolism will rise just by eating the foods the person likes after a couple of days to weeks doing the visualizations. Feel no shame at eating any food item and the body will slowly lose weight over time. Say at every meal "I will raise my metabolism" at least once every time you have a meal. At least try some form of high impact exercise. All these efforts will work together and weight loss for even the most hard core person will occur.
The problem with high impact exercise is that some people are afraid of it. The reason is by the first week of the exercising the person has bulked ten pounds. This is just body fat that disappears after the first week has passed. Thus, the person wanting to lose weight quickly will quit the routine because of the weight gain that is observed to happen. The people that continue the exercise will steadily lose the fat into solid muscle over the next several months and they can eat anything they want to. Except for gluttony eating habits such as eating more than they exercise and with fattish foods.
High impact exercise routines can include All-American Fitness, Tan and Tone America or places like it. This can be safer than sword practice. You can just buy a sword and exercise with that if you want to spare the expense of $700. If the All-American Fitness is chosen, go up to the counter and ask for a trainer after getting a membership if you don't already have one. If the sword route is chosen, first buy the sword if you don't have one using the rules outlined below.
The rules to buying a sword is to make the weight of the sword and the price judgment. If you can't lift it, then why have it and swords can cost $60 to $300. There are cheaper swords out there and the cheaper the sword the cheaper the construction. You can find cheap good quality blades at the AMC Flea Market or order over the internet. When you can at least lift the blade and yield it for 2 minutes or ye think you can, then go ahead and buy it. If the person can only lift it, don't buy it. If it looks good to you and feels good to have it on you or with you then go ahead and buy it regardless of price.
To yield a sword, you must be able to lift twice as much weight as the swords weight. To exercise and train with it, one must only be able to lift it up and hold it for 1 minute held straight out. For a showpiece blade a blunt edge is good enough and it makes a good mantelpiece. For the exercises the edge must be sharp.
Start out out by holding the sword out as far as possible as if you were holding a stack of books on the palm of each hand. Standing up, hold the sword in both hands straight out and as long as possible at the very first time. What will happen is the blade, after a period of time, will get heavier and your arms will feel like leaden weights at first. Put the sword back into the sheaf and stretch the hands interlinked out in front of you. Then, stretch them up top of you at full length and interlinked. Finally, stretch them interlinked to back of you. Doing this consecutively may make you hear a "pop". What has happened is a slipped or misplaced bone in your spine will have popped back into place.
The second day, the arms will be stronger and maybe you will be able to hold the sword single handedly in one hand at a time. There will probably be some arm strain, so do not expect it to be easy. Do the same thing as before except hold it in one hand while holding it straight out for as long as possible. Repeat this pattern at least once every day. After 2 weeks start swinging the blade in a backyard or a self secluded place where it will be unobserved. A week after that, start imagining the sword blade in your hand being used as if in The Highlander Movies or like the medieval faire showing. Start to practice moves you think that will work as if in an actual sword combat situation letting intuition be your guide. Remember, any accidents are your fault, not the writer of this document if you chose this method.
What will this sword practice accomplish? Excepting for the arm strain, it will exercise the entire body in some small amount as if using a full suite of exercise machines accomplishing high impact exercise over weeks.
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Gary Vogin