Do you stand on the scales every morning? Do you focus on your body’s ‘faults’? Read on to find out about basic body type, how to calculate body fat and how you can make the most of your figure.
Get off the scales!
Ask most women what they think about their bodies and it’s almost sure that the majority of them will complain about their weight, which they measure daily. And those who don’t consider themselves overweight think they’re too thin, or have big thighs, or they don’t like their necks/bottoms/legs. In fact, many women are obsessed with what they believe to be their physical flaws. And they’re not alone – men often wish for bigger abs, better-developed calf muscles, stronger arms. Learn about your basic body type and how to treat it with respect without relying on the scales.
Your basic body types
The first concept to grasp is one of body shape. Your body falls into one of three main body types: ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph, although some people have combination ecto/mesomorph physiques, with, perhaps, a slight upper body and a more muscular lower half.
- Ectomorphs generally have small frames and little body fat. Able to eat almost anything, they tend to remain lean throughout their lives.
- Mesomorphs have medium frames with broad shoulders and wide hips. People with a mesomorph body type find it easy to develop muscle and lose weight.
- Endomorphs have large frames and a curvy body shape. They often find it hard to lose weight.
You may envy your ectomorph friends and their ability to stay trim naturally, but chances are they worry about their body shape too. It’s not uncommon for ectomorphs to be self-conscious about, for example, the perceived lack of definition in their calves or their lack of curves. People with ectomorph body types find it difficult to build muscle. Ideal exercises for them include working with weights and swimming, especially breaststroke and front crawl, to tone and shape their back muscles.
According to UK nutritionist Dr Leanne Olivier, ectomorphs need a kilojoule-rich diet to support their fast metabolism. But, she says, ‘Don’t be tempted to simply fill up on junk food. Instead, snack on nuts and seeds.’ Try cooking with a little butter and dressing salads with olive oil or avocado oil and lemon juice. The ectomorph body type thrives on low-fat proteins such as chicken, fish and tofu, and fresh fruits.
Mesomorphs have strong physiques with broad shoulders. If that describes your body shape, it’s important to accept that characteristics such as breast/chest size and hip-width can’t be changed, says UK psychotherapist Dr Sheri Jacobson. She advises mesomorphs to ‘Try to appreciate the benefits of an athletic physique, such as strength and stamina.’ Good exercises for those with a mesomorph body type include team sports such as football, netball and hockey, or gym-based activities such as step aerobics and studio-based cardiovascular classes. Dr Olivier advises a diet rich in protein to help mesomorphs stay in peak condition. Include plenty of lean meat and oily fish such as tuna and mackerel. Dairy products such as eggs and cheese (or high-quality soya products) are also important. Slow-release carbohydrates are best for mesomorphs – choose sweet potatoes, brown rice and pulses.
According to Men’s Fitness magazine, the guy with the endomorph body type is the ‘dude who looks at a doughnut and gains weight’. Endomorphs may put on weight more easily because they produce more of the hormone insulin, which makes it harder to burn fat. To lose weight naturally, Dr Olivier advises ‘plenty of fresh fruit (especially melon, as it has a high water content) and veg’ and that you ‘up your fibre intake with wholegrain pasta and brown rice.’