No more weight loss resolutions! I implore you to rid yourself of weight loss goals and shift to more inherently healthy and achievable goals. Here’s why.
A person’s weight is a poor indicator of health and well-being. Even considering height along with weight, as the Body Mass Index (BMI) does, has been proven to be an imperfect measure of a person’s fitness. Consider the three somatotypes, or human body types:
We’re born with our somatotypes, none of us can starve or body build our way into another body type. And, while experts don’t fully understand why, each type has a unique relationship with hormones which, in turn, affects how each body type responds to diet and exercise. Here’s an overview of the differences:
Ectomorphs, sometimes referred to as inverted triangle or carrot, tend to have tall, narrow frames. Though those at or below average height can also be ectomorphs, such as women who wear petite sizes. Ectomorphs physiologically resist lean and fat mass gain.
Ectomorphs have high metabolism and many can eat liberally and exercise minimally without weight gain. They tend to be seen as fit because society equates thinness with fitness. As a result, ectomorphs don’t experience social pressure to eat healthy and exercise the way those with other body types do. But, without a healthy diet and sufficient exercise, their risks for common lifestyle diseases are the same or slightly higher compared to other somatotypes.
Diet: Because ectomorphs have super metabolism and little in the way of energy stores (body fat), they need ample amounts of complex carbohydrates in steady supply throughout the day. Even more so if they live an active lifestyle.
Exercise: Even though it can be tempting for the ectomorph to avoid exercise, the risks of a sedentary lifestyle can’t be ignored. If she’s careful to properly fuel her active lifestyle, the ectomorph can, and should, move often and perform structured exercise most days a week. Ectomorphs long, lean muscles are best suited for endurance cardiovascular exercise, a moderate intensity full-body strength training program and substantial flexibility training.
Endomorphs tend to have short, stout frames, though people of any height can have endomorphic body types. They carry the bulk of their mass throughout the torso and are referred to as rectangle or apple shape.
One of the greatest risk factors for lifestyle diseases is the existence of visceral fat. Visceral fat surrounds the abdominal organs. Therefore, endomorphs have a higher likelihood of carrying visceral fat. But, it’s not a hopeless situation. A proper diet and active lifestyle can reduce visceral fat and an endomorph can be considered fit despite the existence of substantial subcutaneous fat and a high weight by BMI standards.
Diet: An endomorph’s physiological default is storing extra calories and a comparatively slower metabolism. And that translates to body fat. Carbohydrates in particular are like crack to an endomorph’s endocrine system. Endomorphs do well on a diet low in carbohydrates, high in protein and moderate in fats. The bulk of carbohydrates should come from produce but small amounts of whole grains are good, too. Desserts, soft drinks and alcohol should be minimized.
Exercise: The goal of an endomorph’s exercise program should be reducing inches around the waistline. Exercise that revs up metabolism, burns stored fat and builds muscle will help the endomorph achieve that goal. For cardiovascular training, vigorous interval training two or three times per week supplemented by moderate, steady-state exercise lasting 60+ minutes two or three times per week is best. Moderate to high intensity, full-body strength training should be performed two or three times per week as well.
Mesomorphs are hybrids of the other two types. They tend to be narrower in the waist like ectomorphs but larger in frame and mass in other areas. Female mesomorphs are usually either pear or hourglass in shape. Pears tend to carry higher amounts of mass in the hips, buttocks and thighs whereas hourglass mesomorphs’ bulkier mass is more evenly distributed between the upper arms and chest and the hips, buttocks and thighs.
Mesomorphs, by definition, tend to have a healthy waist-to-hip ratio which is a better indicator of overall health than the BMI (see below). But, their metabolism isn’t as powerful as the ectomorph, so they must be vigilant to avoid the accumulation of visceral fat, especially as they approach middle age.
Diet: A balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein and fats in proper portions works well for mesomorphs. However, they should be especially mindful of the quality and quantity of their carbohydrate consumption, reducing intake when necessary.
Exercise: A balanced approach to exercise is best. Keeping the body challenged and guessing helps to maintain a healthy metabolism, increase lean mass and maintain or reduce fat mass. Mix up vigorous and moderate, steady-state and interval cardiovascular training three to four days a week and switch between moderate and vigorous full-body strength and flexibility training two to three days per week.
FITNESS BY BODY TYPE
The problem with BMI and most diets and exercise programs is they assume everyone’s an ectomorph. An endomorph is never going to weigh the same, even if she’s the epitome of fitness, as an ectomorph of the same height. So, for the endomorph and many mesomorphs, that number on the scale they’re chasing is arbitrary and meaningless.
Body fat percentage is the number that’s important and no scale can tell you what that is. Outside of a laboratory, the best way to determine if someone has too much unhealthy visceral fat is the waist-to-hip ratio. Here’s how you determine what your ratio is:
USE THIS CHART TO DETERMINE YOUR RISK FACTORS BASED ON YOUR RATIO:
The resolution revolution is to put the fantasy of reaching a certain weight through unsustainable diets and fad workouts to bed. We must accept and embrace who we are, first and foremost. Only then can we make sober resolutions to become heathy and fit through the adoption of lifelong diet and exercise habits that are custom made for us.