What is my body type?
By Patricia Fuller, PhD, Director of Wellness Engineering
Every five years, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) collaborate and issue their Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The 2015 advisory committee’s 548-page study concludes that Americans need to reduce their screen time, eat less fast food, eat more family meals and self-monitor both their diet and body weight. Shocking.
When it comes to self-monitoring diet and body weight, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines for activity level (www.cdc.gov/physical acitivity/index.html) and caloric intake (www.choosemyplate.gov). The latter website provides a free Super Tracker to help individuals plan, track and analyze their diets and activity levels. Beyond the CDC’s tool, a quick Google search of related publications yields 516 million hits in .52 seconds. A second search restricted to apps yields 212 million hits in .24 seconds. With so much information out there, we become capable of neither decision nor action. Welcome to analysis paralysis.
That is where I found myself after my first six months studying holistic nutrition. The first rule of holistic nutrition is that we are each biochemically unique. Our personal food preferences are based on many factors including genetics, ancestry and environment. I learned so much about the minutiae of my food preferences that I couldn’t eat anything without thinking it through. The overthinking finally stopped when we stepped back from the details and started classifying lifestyle behaviors based on metabolic typing.
Metabolic Body Types
There are several schools of thought regarding metabolic typing. The most familiar is the apple/pear/string bean body type classification. Apples are individuals who carry excess weight in their upper bodies. Pears are individuals who carry excess weight in their hips and thighs. String beans are just outright tall and thin. While the pears and string beans may bemoan their limited fashion choices, apples are more likely to suffer with high blood pressure, diabetes and the other complications of metabolic syndrome.
Somatotyping, used frequently in physical fitness circles, classifies body types into three physiques: ectomorph—tall and gangly, mesomorph—sturdy and solid, and endomorph—heavy and soft. These physiques were originally developed by a psychologist seeking to correlate temperament types with body shapes. The correlation becomes clearer when one looks at energy patterns.
Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient practice originating in India, classifies constitutions by the dominant energy pattern or dosha. To identify your dominant dosha, check out the quiz at Deepak Chopra’s website www.doshaquiz.chopra.com. The three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha are represented symbolically by various earth elements, but they are most evident by observing an individual’s kinetic energy at rest. Vatas are in constant motion—they fidget, they are thin, they move fast. Pittas tend to be solidly built, warm, and intense. Kaphas are still. They are very easy going and tend to sleep deeply and well.
Glandular Body Types
Glandular body typing also takes into account different physiques and energy levels, but additionally addresses food preference, exercise and stress management. There are four glandular body types for women and three for men. To identify yours, check out www.bodytypes.com.
A-Types – Solidly built, drawn to bursts of activity, under stress will seek red meat and alcohol
T-Types – Long limbed and graceful, drawn to endurance sports, under stress seek carbohydrates and caffeine
P-Types – Soft featured and young looking, can drive their bodies to exhaustion by ignoring tiredness, under stress seek dairy products and sweets
G- Types (Women only) – Disproportionately smaller in the upper body than the lower body, tend to be very flexible, under stress seek fatty foods and spice
I am an apple, mesomorph, Pitta, A-type. My passion can make me seem intense. I love to lift weights
and run sprints. Under stress there is nothing like a steak au poivre and a glass of fine Bordeaux.
What’s your type?