In the mid-90’s I was invited to work with a personal trainer on some theories that she was developing on how the mind plays a big part in the results we get in our workouts. What I learned from her about the different body types and the specific kind of workouts that each of them require helped me to make peace with my own body image and to get serious about physical fitness. During that time we did an informal survey of women in the southern Orange County, California a very body conscious part of the country. One of the questions in our survey was, “If you felt really secure about your body, would you stay in the job or relationship that you are in now?” I kid you not – one of the most common answers that we received was, “Hell no!”
Sadly, for many women, their sense of self-worth is intricately tied into how they feel about their bodies. They will lower their expectations for themselves – in their careers, relationships, and goals – because they don’t feel that they project an image that is favorable or acceptable. The other side of the coin is that often we won’t even take the necessary steps to improve our self-image because that gives us an excuse to remain stagnant. As long as we know that we are not good enough, then we feel justified in settling for less, taking that abuse, and sticking to the status quo.
Unfortunately, most of the visible and attractive women who become our role models depict an image that would be virtually impossible for over 65% of us to ever achieve. That is because they possess a genetic structure that falls into the ectomorph category (below I will give more detailed explanations on each of the body types) and they are the ones that are most often chosen for movie and television roles because the cameras treat them kindly. And most of them have enhanced their bodies through surgeries, hours in the gym or with personal trainers, and self-denial, because ectomorphs, just as every other body type, have their good points and their bad points. The trainer I worked with had a stupendous, well-defined and athletic body, but as a mesomorph, she was more muscular and would have to practically starve herself for three weeks before every televised competition or video so that she would not appear bulky in her mid-section. And once I embraced my own naturally curvy endomorph structure, I could admire my own idol, Audrey Hepburn (a classic ectomorph!) from afar and not waste my life force longing to be like her.
Rejection of the physical structure your were born with is a denial of life and can manifest itself in very unpleasant ways. In her book, Anatomy of a Spirit, medical intuitive Caroline Myss reveals that often female-related disease, such as breast and ovarian cancers can originate from feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.
Somehow we get the idea that “if only” we could look a certain way, our lives would magically improve. Yet if you were to consider the momentous relationship challenges that some renowned beauties, such as Demi Moore and Pamela Andersen have undergone, logic would tell you that having the “perfect” body is no guarantee of happiness.
Once you are able to identify and accept the genetic structure you were born with, you can work toward your personal best within the possibilities of that body type. But you also need to be realistic about how much time you have to devote to your workouts and what the limitations there are due to age and nature. Many women are doing the wrong workouts for their body types and end up spinning their wheels, which even adds more to the cycle of frustration they feel over their appearance. Before I had this valuable information I spent a year doing three step aerobic classes a week and wound up gaining weight! That’s because as an endomorph, my lower body needs exercise to make lean muscle mass, not build or bulk.
Here is a brief explanation of each of the body types, their strengths, weaknesses, and some tips for getting the best results from your workouts.
Fruit Imagery: The Banana – long-limbed and lean with shoulders roughly the same width as the hips. Weight is evenly distributed
Advantages: Fast metabolism, long and lean, sinewy
Challenges: Poor muscle development, without resistance training can have “skinny fat”, very few natural curves, tend to be small-chested (yes, these types often have breast surgery)
Prototypes: Courtney Cox, Naomi Campbell, Laura Flynn Boyle, Calista Flockhart, ballerinas, runway models
Workout Recommendations: Careful with the cardio! Only 1-2 times max per week to avoid burning off muscle mass. Stairmaster is good for building up lower body. Weight (resistance) training a must to build natural curves. Use more weight and do less reps.
Fruit Imagery: The Classic Red Apple – the most athletic body type, with wide shoulders, tapering to narrow hips. Weight is carried more in the upper body and waist.
Advantages: Most athletic body type, easily builds muscle, medium metabolism, strong arms and legs.
Challenges: Weight gain tends to be in upper arms and waist; fat can be easily trapped beneath the muscles
Prototypes: Madonna, Demi Moore, Linda Hamilton (remember how great she looked in Terminator!), Linda Evans, many gymnasts
Workout Recommendations: Cardio 3-4 times per week will keep the muscles trim. Make sure to remain within the fat-burning range recommended for your age and weight. Resistance training of all the major muscle groups will bring out the best in this body type.
Fruit Imagery: The Classic Pear – soft-shouldered and curvy, with most weight distributed in the lower body.
Advantages: Naturally curvy and feminine
Challenges: Slower metabolism, builds fat very easily, upper body needs to be developed to balance lower and create the hour glass shape
Prototypes: Marilyn Monroe, Anna Nicole Smith, Dolly Parton, Venus de Milo
Workout Recommendations: Cardio training is crucial to keep the fat off 3-5 times per week. Make sure to remain within the fat-burning range recommended for your age and weight. On upper body use higher weights lower reps to build, on lower body best to use little or no weight and lots of reps.
Bear in mind that very few people fit absolutely in any one category and may be a combination of two. For instance, an Ecto-Endo may have a very thin and elongated upper body and then be rather hippy. So, follow the advice for the particular area that you are working on. Also, make sure to work ALL of the areas of the body, not just concentrate on those you want to change, so as to maintain proper structural balance. If you are still not sure about your body type, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a self-test.
Most importantly, stop longing to be something that you are not. The best way to get some perspective about your life is to realize that self-acceptance can work miracles in getting you into the best shape of your life. Diversity is what makes this world interesting – admire those body types that are different from yours, but embrace your own! As you move beyond the myth of perfection you also will have removed a huge obstacle to your happiness.