Body shapes and sizes

I recently had an email exchange with healthy mind fit body proponent Tina, who hails from across the Atlantic in England. She inquired about the different body types we see in society and whether they are more innate or acquired.

This is an interesting subject, indeed. I think Kevin and I have casually mentioned ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs a couple times on the podcast, but we haven’t delved into the specifics of human morphology in much detail. Apparently, this terminology of assorted “-morphs” was developed by a psychologist who linked them to temperaments, which seems a bit ridiculous: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatotype#Modern_assessments

That said, obviously people have different bone sizes and muscle mass and constitution (some have biceps and calves that are more pronounced when contracted, for instance), which creates different forms. Yet, we also witness the typical excuses for settling for less in the realm of “body type.” Sometimes, individuals may be tempted to adopt a particular label (for example, “plus size”) that puts them in a supposedly natural category of body shapeā€”even though if they decreased their amount of body fat, their form would look quite different (we’ve all seen those before and after shots;).

Imagine how dramatically different the world would look if everyone had a fit body (not to mention healthy mind:). Many so-called “big-boned” people who are overweight or obese might turn out to be much less large-framed than suspected, simply on account of achieving lower bodyfat percentages. Again, I refer you to those myriad before-and-after pictures of persons who’ve lost lots of weight; they seem like different people (ignoring the shaving and tanning, of course).

Nonetheless, noticeable variations in bone size must be taken into account when determining lean body mass. For example, the handy body fat calculator on Barry Sears’ site entails, in addition to height, measuring around the wrist for men and hips for women:
http://www.drsears.com/ZoneResources/BodyFatCalculator/tabid/414/Default.aspx

The BMI (Body Mass Index) has typically been used to assess a person’s body composition, but many experts recognize it as inadequate and even misleading. More recently, a new index has been developed called the BVI (Body Volume Index): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_volume_index , which is an improvement but has its drawbacks too.

Regardless of your BMI or BVI, every person should set his or her sights on an optimal body fat percentage (e.g., <15% for males and <21% for females). In so doing, you will discover your real body shape. Given what we know about achieving a healthy mind and fit body, there’s no need to accept popular labels; psychotherapist Haim Ginott was right that “labeling is disabling.”

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