Many people dream of having the “perfect body.” They imagine that with a change in diet, a new exercise regimen, or the latest supplement, they can look like their favorite celebrity. The truth is, the bodies we see on TV, in print and at the movies are more fantasy than reality.
Celebrities are tended to by a team of hair-stylists, make-up artists, personal trainers and lighting specialists. Models are reshaped with girdles and breast pads. Photos are highly computer-edited; blemishes are erased, lines are smoothed, and thighs are trimmed. And don’t forget the pervasiveness of plastic surgery in Hollywood. With most fashion models thinner than 98% of American women, it’s important to know that what we see in the media doesn’t come close to representing the diversity of bodies that exist in real life.
Bodies Come In All Shapes and Sizes
In reality, bodies come in a wonderful variety of shapes, frames and heights. You probably accept that you had limited influence on how tall you ended up, because your maximum height is genetically pre-programmed. Well, the same is true for your shape and frame. Proper diet and exercise will strengthen and tone your body, but not transform it into something completely different. We’re not all supposed to have the same “Barbie bodies” because we aren’t made from a factory mold! A body with a pear shape can’t become a ruler shape–which can’t be changed into an hour glass. Starting to appreciate the many interesting body shapes in the world is the first step towards accepting your own.
Three Main Body Types
There are three general types of bodies–or “somatotypes”–but most of us have characteristics of two or even three of the categories. And within these classifications, people have different shapes and metabolisms, so no two bodies are alike!
Ectomorphs are long and lean with little body fat and muscle.
They tend to have a hard time gaining weight. Examples include some fashion models as well as basketball players. Many people think this is the most desirable body type, yet women with ectomorphic bodies often desire to be curvier, and some men wish they were brawnier. We’ve heard the health benefits of being leaner, but this group is actually at a higher risk for osteoporosis, and have minimal reserves if they become seriously ill, and so can quickly reach a state of under nutrition.
Endomorphs have lots of body fat and muscle, and gain weight more easily.
This is the group that is especially at risk for obesity and its complicating health factors such as high blood pressure and type II diabetes. Yet with a positive lifestyle, this group can be healthy and fit–but will have rounder, curvier bodies. People with endomorphic bodies are likely to have strong bones, and fare better during catastrophic illness or times of famine.
Mesomorphs tend to be athletic and strong.
They gain or lose weight without much effort. They fall more in the middle in terms of size.
The role of genetics on body size
Experts don’t all agree as to how much genetics influence our actual body size, but estimates usually range from 25%-40%. If you flip this around, it means that your eating choices and activity level still has the greatest impact on how big you are–from 60%-75%.
The human body is amazing!
How often do you stop to marvel at your amazing body? Think of the complex and intricate organ systems–a beating heart, digestion and absorption, the five senses, immune defenses, the ability to make new skin. And, you have an incredible brain to coordinate it all–thousands of activities per second! How often do you feel grateful for all the things your body can do?
A Healthy Weight
We’re only given one body, and we should treat it with the respect and care it deserves. It’s time to focus on keeping our bodies healthy, not trying to change how we look.
Strive to be at a realistic, healthy weight for your body type. This is the weight you naturally reach when you eat well–regular balanced, wholesome meals and snacks, neither overstuffing nor depriving yourself of food, and listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. This is the weight you naturally reach when you live well–exercise moderately, deal with your emotions in a healthy way, get enough rest and nurture your spirit. And this is the weight at which you will feel energized and strong.
Instead of focusing on a specific number of pounds or a certain pant size, put your energy into a healthy way of living. Accept, appreciate and respect your one-of-a-kind, magnificent, uniquely-formed body!