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Every person has unique genetic traits. Every piece of advice you receive regarding weight loss must be applied against your knowledge of your own constitution, metabolism, and genetic makeup.
The study of somatotyping classifies body types into 3 main groups – ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph (the suffix morph comes from Greek morphos, and means form, shape, or structure).
It is rare to find a person whose body type falls completely into one of these groups. Most of us share a mix of these genetic traits.
Somatotyping was popular in the 1960s largely from the work of US psychologist William H Sheldon.
If you are looking for information about Apples and Pears – read the article about Body Shape.
The mesomorph is the person we all love to hate – and are secretly jealous of. They have the following characteristics:
- Naturally muscular
- Naturally lean
- Broad shoulders
- Lose fat easily
- Gain muscle and strength easily
- Efficient and fast-burning metabolism
These people are generally gifted bodybuilders and athletes. If you found your way to this web site, the chances are you are not predominantly mesomorph.
This body type stores fat very easily, and finds it hard to lose the fat. An endomorph often has a sluggish metabolism, and must be particularly careful with their diet. Here are some common characteristics of the endomorph body type:
- Tend to be naturally overweight
- Gain fat easily
- Find it difficult to lose the fat
- Larger around the waist
- Possibly sensitive to carbohydrates (particularly processed and refined carbs)
- Slow metabolism
- Body shape is more rounded or pear shaped
- Often has reasonable strength levels
If you are predominantly endomorphic – you will probably find that diet alone (i.e. diet without exercise) will not be enough to bring down your weight levels. Because you have a slow metabolic rate, it must be boosted with aerobic exercise and weight training.
You will probably need to be careful with carbohydrate consumption (and we are not saying here that carbs are the “enemy”). The traditional American Heart Association recommendations may not be the best thing, as they are typically high in carbohydrates. A balanced lower carb diet such as the Zone diet or South Beach Diet may be best. See our editors Top 5 diet plans for weight loss.
Although it seems like the hardest thing to do – good aerobic exercise in the morning will be very helpful. Unfortunately it seems like a cruel genetic “roll of the dice”, that means endomorphs must work so much harder to keep the fat off.
Ectomorphs are naturally lean and thin. They seem to eat all sorts of unhealthy foods, and yet stay slim. However endomorphs are also low in muscular strength, and find it difficult to gain muscle. Here are the common characteristics on an ectomorph:
- Fast metabolism
- Naturally thin or wiry
- Find it hard to gain weight
- Naturally lower in strength levels
- Often high energy levels, and tend to be overactive.
Ectomorphs can get fat! Fat Loss for the ectomorph is a different undertaking to other body types.
There is no doubt that we all possess unique genetic makeup and this profoundly affects our response to exercise and nutrition.
However Sheldon’s work on somatotypes has largely been debunked (he attempted to correlate body shape with psychological characteristics).
Can you change your body type?
This is a difficult question. Most body types are genetic traits – they are the way we were born, and genes don’t change.
Many other things do change with age – such as metabolism and hormonal activity. Many people often find that as they get older they can tend to get more “endomorphic” in nature. It gets harder to lose fat (particularly around the stomach or waist), and eating unhealthy foods seems to pack the weight on more easily than it did when younger.
As a general rule, metabolism slows down as we get older (the “middle age spread”). Unfortunately most of us slow down our activity levels too – which can in turn worsen our metabolism even more. This can be rectified by maintaining cardio and weight training right into old age.
- Genovese, J. E. (2008). Physique correlates with reproductive success in an archival sample of delinquent youth. Evolutionary Psychology. Link