Body types & weight do they connect? - The Virginian-Pilot

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 26 September 2011 | 5:41 AM

Why is it that where we gain the weight "first" is where we lose it (seemingly) last? Better yet, why does my body gain more weight in certain places than in others (hips versus chest, etc.)? It just seems very unfair that some people carry their weight in proportion when others get socked with the big-butt, big-belly syndrome? What was God thinking (I've always said He has a sense of humor)? Okay….now that I'm over myself on the issue, here's the real dilemma most of us face: How do I lose weight for my body shape? And does my body shape promote or reduce my chances of success at weight loss? Much to my chagrin, the answer to the latter question is "yes and yes". But before you throw in the towel, learn how to make your body work for you and not against you.

Body types: Women versus men

First, you have to understand the "why" behind your body shape weight gain (i.e. belly versus upper chest, etc.). While everyone is unique, God made us to have basically three-four body shapes. By puberty, our hormones kick in and our body shape begins to finalize its formation. 

For women, our body shapes are: Banana (straight/up/down shape). Apple (weight is gained first in the chest area, followed down to the upper abdomen). Pear (weight carried below waist line – hips/buttocks/thighs). Hourglass (chest/hips/buttocks weight is more in proportion with one another).

Men have similar body shapes to women: Ectomorph (straight/up/down shape). Mesomorph (weight is gained first in the chest area, followed down to the upper abdomen). Endomorph (weight carried mostly in the stomach/hip/buttocks area).

Through genetics, our body shapes are handed down to us (look at your mom, dad and grandparents and you'll see some similarities to yourself). Even though we're pre-disposed to our shape, we can do something to change our destiny for the best possible outcome through nutrition and target exercise. We can also understand "why" it will be harder for us to lose weight than others and what specifically we should do to help facilitate weight loss and physical proportion for our body. 

 Apple/Banana/Ectomorph: First, let's understand the body shape(s) that have the least problem with weight loss but the greater problem with physical shaping: Banana, Apple and Ectomorph.   These folks are usually very athletic, love to run or perform any aerobic exercise related activity, and can easily lose weight. Because they have less body fat (naturally) they maintain lean muscle mass (a constant engine burning calories) and thus have a harder time gaining weight than losing it (generally speaking).

Pear and Endomorph: Next are the Pear and Endomorph shapes. Both primarily gain weight below the chest (first) in the hip/buttocks/thigh region. They tend (not always) to find aerobic exercise less desirable (weight gain below the belt puts a lot of strain on the lower back causing aerobic exercise to be somewhat painful). Their thighs usually are their strongest body part, where the majority of their muscle configuration resides. 

Hourglass and Mesomorph: Finally are the Hourglass and Mesomorph figures (think Marilyn Monroe meets Arnold Schwarzenegger). This body type generally distributes their weight between their chest and hip area more evenly. For men, it's a broad chest and narrower waist line. For a woman, it's a more evenly balanced chest to hip ratio. The pro/con to this shape is twofold: They have a more desirable shape but have a harder time keeping both their chest/hips trimmed down. When they gain weight, they gain it evenly – but that also means they have to continuously target both areas (chest/hips) for balance/weight loss.

Fat versus muscle storage

When we eat/drink anything, our body immediately starts two processes: digestion and storage. From the moment what we're consuming hits our mouth, our body starts breaking down our future. By the time the breakdown is finished, our storage units (i.e. muscles versus fat) start to make some pre-disposed considerations with what we've consumed (do I burn or do I store?). Our muscles always take precedence over our fat cells when we consume calories (that's nice to know, isn't it?).   So, when we build muscles through exercise we build calorie burners. Whatever our body can't burn it then stores to our fat cells. Again, our body shapes play part in our muscular pre-disposition but they don't completely define our potential (we can always "reverse the curse" through practicing more targeted exercise routines and balanced nutrition).  


Now that you have figured out your body type, start making a list of what you need to work on first. Almost everyone can benefit from aerobics; it gets our heart pumping and helps kick in our metabolism at a balanced rate. However…..focus equally on building muscles! If you gain weight easily at the waist, work on building muscles in that area. I combine holding weights (about 10-15 lbs) in my hands against my chest while doing crunches. This routine has helped me build muscles in my stomach and lower back. 

If you're not seeing the results you're looking for, ask yourself this question: Am I targeting the area where I gain weight, first, with lean muscle building exercises? Focus on "build-up" versus "bulk-up" when it comes to lean muscular balance. Lean muscle exercises combine extension with release (i.e. lunges). More repetition less weight also builds lean muscle mass.

Muscle confusion is also a key element in results. If you're doing the same thing, over and over and over again, guess what won't happen? Change. Mix it up, baby, from beginning to end! If you start your daily regiment walking, next time start with 5-10 minutes of jogging in place, followed by three reps of 10 lunges, followed by another 5-10 minutes of jogging, followed by bicep curls……etc. If you don't know which exercises to do or how to do them, join your community recreation center (usually $75/annual membership due) or rent a DVD on circuit training. Even easier, turn on the television. Just about every day, there's a physical exercise program on cable. 

I could go on and on and on….but here's what I will say helped me lose the 57 lbs and 57" ……. My desire to reach my goal was greater than my complacency in thinking I couldn't! Once I finally felt better, I did better. For me personally, my journey started with my faith in God to help me. The scripture, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)" applies in my life to "every-thing"…..even weight loss, fitness and especially balance.

Stay tune…..more on this subject when I examine "My mid-life crisis" and how it affects our metabolism (weight gain and muscle mass loss) this week….enjoy!

Quick Tips for Wellness: Muscles burn calories. Less calories = less fat. Makes sense!

Quick Tips for Wellness, Pat Ferguson, Copyright © 2011, All rights reserved

26 Sep, 2011

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