What Dogs Can Teach Us About Loving Our Body Type
Picture it: a Bulldog, a Greyhound and a Boxer walk into a gym.
The Bulldog turns to her friends. “I’m going to the weight room to power lift,” she says. The Greyhound says, “I’m headed to the treadmill to practice my sprints." And the Boxer says, “You'll find me in the corner doing box jumps to work off all my energy."
And this, my friend, is all you need to know about the three different body types that human beings possess.
Well, maybe there’s a touch more to say on the topic. Especially why it’s beneficial for you to know—and love—your own body type.
See, each of our bodies can be placed in one of three categories:
• Endomorphic: naturally broad and thick (think the Bulldog)
• Ectomorphic: naturally thin with skinny limbs (think the Greyhound)
• Mesomorphic: naturally muscular and athletic (think the Boxer)
Not everyone of us fits perfectly into one of the three categories. You, for example, might be a mix of Endomorphic and Mesomorphic. But you do favor one of the three body types.
Why is this important?
If you’re ever curious about dieting, what body type you have plays a huge role in your body’s ability to tolerate carbohydrates.
For example, Ectomorphs (Greyhounds) tend to tolerate carbs really, really well. Meaning, Ectomorphs burn carbs for fuel easily. (I'm sure you have a thin, lean friend who eats carbs all the time and doesn't seem to gain a pound. Now you know why.)
Endomorphs (Bulldogs) tend to have poor carbohydrate tolerance. Poor carb tolerance looks something like this: a person eats a potato and it instantly turns into love handles. I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get my point. Endomorph bodies tend to do better on higher fat and protein diets.
Mesomorphs (Boxers) are somewhere between Ectomorphs and Endomorphs. Those bodies moderately tolerate carbs. For this body type, carbohydrate food sources like potatoes and rice should be consumed in moderation to avoid weight gain. (You can also go one step farther and eat carbs immediately after exercising, when your body is primed to use carbs more efficiently as a source of fuel.)
Another thing that’s important about knowing your body type is that it gives you clues as to what kind of exercise your body tends to prefer.
It’s no secret Greyhounds are amazing runners. Look at their sleek, lean bodies! You can apply this to humans. Think of a model runner and close your eyes. What do you see? A sleek, lean body.
Let's try another one. Imagine a champion Olympic power lifter. He or she has a bulldog-like body, don’t they? That's a classic Endomorph body.
Mesomorph bodies also tend to gain muscle quicker than other body types. Haven't you known someone who strolls into a gym, does 30 crunches, and walks out with six-pack abs? That's a Mesomorph. I know a lot of women who have Mesomorph bodies tell me they have to watch out how much weightlifting they do because it's easy for them to pack on too much muscle too fast. (You might be thinking, I wish I had that problem!)
If you aren’t exercising as often as you think you should, chances are you haven’t found the exercise type that your body prefers. Many of the clients I work with are newbies to exercise. At first, doing 30 jumping jacks feels like a big deal. Your heart is racing. You feel this icky, weird thing rolling down your face. (It's sweat, which for those of us who don't exercise is a foreign sensation.) But pretty quickly—within a week or two—our bodies adapt and 30 jumping jacks feels like no big deal.
But what happens next determines whether a person maintains a regular exercise program. See, if you want to lose weight and start hitting the treadmill five days a week but your body type is more Bulldog than Greyhound, running on a treadmill might feel as joyful as getting a root canal.
On the other hand, if you have a Boxer type of body, you might really thrive doing a Bootcamp-type workout, where you're mixing cardio and weight lifting.
I share this with you because I believe there's a perfect exercise type for everyone, and it all depends on what body type you have.
Knowing which exercise type your body prefers is more about feel than hard data. Most of us aren’t “natural” athletes. I know for me, any time I do a new kind of exercise, I’m all left feet and elbows. I have as much grace in the gym as I do on the dance floor. But after the newness wears off, I can tell by how my body feels if the exercise works for my body or not. I’m sure you’re the same way. Some exercises will just “click” for you. Go on a mission of discovering what exercise type your body prefers.
Here’s a caveat to body types, though.
If you’re someone who believes you have 20 or more pounds that you could stand to lose, you might not know what body type you really are. I remember seeing a photo of Rich Roll, the ultra-marathoner, before he began training for his first Ironman. Today, Rich looks like a classic Ectomorph/Greyhound. But to see Rich before his transformation, you might have pegged him for an Endomorph/Bulldog.
But beyond knowing how your body type responds to tolerating carbs or what type of exercise your body may prefer, there’s a third important reason to know your body type.
When you know your body type, you can respect and love your body.
A lot of us want our bodies to look certain ways: thinner, more toned, bigger, more muscular…we want our butts to be tighter, smaller, or our legs to be longer, slimmer, more this, less of that...
Certainly, exercise and eating right can help us to get more of the body we want.
But we can’t fuss about our body type. Doing so invites unhappiness with our body image. We were all born unique, with certain features and attributes we love (and often love to hate). But after you do all you can for your body—eating well, exercising, getting good quality sleep, finding healthy ways to relieve stress—what you end up with is who you are.
And the goal is to become the finest expression of yourself.
You might never get Beyonce’s butt or Brad Pitt’s abs.
But you’re still awesome.
When I work with clients on the Inside Out Plan, I encourage them to get very clear on their weight loss goals. For most people, it's to shed unwanted fat or to get back into their favorite pair of jeans. In other words, most of us just want to look good and feel good. We don't want to compete in a bodybuilding competitions. And most of us certainly don't want to make the sacrifices required to look like an uber-thin model. (Meaning, starve yourself and exercise hours and hours every day.) That's why I designed the Inside Out Plan to help busy people lose weight by applying a few strategies that make weight loss virtually automatic. My clients are happy and I'm happy that they achieve their goals.
But there's still that lingering frustration many of us have about a specific part of our bodies. Every time we look in the mirror, all we see are the things we don't like. I remember watching an interview with a champion body builder who complained that his calves weren't big enough.
Here's a guy who was completely ripped and all he could talk about was how his calves weren't big enough.
I'm not picking on that body builder. I'm simply sharing that all of us have our thing.
I know my thing is my lower back. I bet you have your thing, too. What I've observed after spending years researching and applying best practices in weight loss is that it doesn't matter how much weight you lose. If you don't work your mind muscle every day to accept and love yourself, you won't achieve the happiness that you really, really want—and deserve, I might add.
Letting go of not being satisfied with every part of your body isn't tough, but it doesn't always feel easy, either.
Maybe a good first step is to simply love yourself, you awesome mesomorph, ectomorph or endomorph.