Impossible Goals

        Colby says your somatotype "is a combination of your musculature, and your bone structure, and density." These characteristics are genetically determined and unchangeable. "The width of your hips or shoulders, for example, you can't change them with exercise." No amount of exercise can transform a short-limbed woman into a lithe supermodel, or a diminutive jockey into a muscle-bound linebacker. 

 

        TV ads and infomercials touting gym memberships, diet plans, and exercise equipment can be extremely misleading, says Colby. They show miraculous changes happening almost overnight. "It's an illusion that you can be whatever you want to be if you just try hard enough and have enough willpower." That's not to say you can't make significant changes, however.

 

        What you can do, she says, is learn to eat and exercise in a way that emphasizes and develops your best features, while downplaying those you'd love to change if only you could. "Knowing your body type can definitely help you do the exercises that are best for you," says Colby. "You wouldn't want to do a lot of lunges, for example -- which build lower-body muscle -- if you're bottom heavy to begin with, because you might get discouraged and quit."

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Eat and Exercise Right for Your Type

        If you're an ectomorph struggling to put some meat on your bones, Colby suggests you first see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Then, "take a good look at your diet." If you only eat three times a day, "try aiming for five or six meals." For snacks and meals, choose nutrient- and calorie-dense foods like nuts, dried fruits, sunflower seeds, and starchy vegetables, rather than lower-cal choices like fresh fruits and popcorn. Don't skimp on fat, either -  make sure that 30% of your calories come from fat.

 

        When exercising, ectomorphs should keep cardio or aerobic training to a minimum while concentrating on muscle-building moves with fairly heavy weights.

 

       If you're an endomorph, avoid crash dieting. It will only make your body cling to its fat reserves. Instead, adjust your diet so you're eating more frequent, smaller meals, no more than 5 hours apart. Try to eat slowly, and drink plenty of water. Eat lean proteins and high-fiber foods to help you feel full longer. And don't be fooled by the fat-free fad -- you need a little fat to stay healthy.

 

       Endomorphs should do at least 30 minutes of moderately-paced aerobic activity five days a week. Try walking, jogging, bicycling, dancing, or any other activity that gets your heart pumping. When the pounds start coming off, add weight training two or three times a week to tone and strengthen your muscles. "Adding more muscle helps you burn extra calories all day long," says Colby.

 

         Genetically lucky mesomorphs may have an easier time than most staying slim and fit, but "this can be a double-edged sword," says Colby. "They have a tendency to assume that they can handle an extra helping of dessert or a hiatus from the gym. But the same rules for health and well-being apply to them as to everyone else." Osteoporosis, heart disease, and other diet- and lifestyle-related diseases can affect anyone, regardless of body type.

 

           Following these guidelines "would definitely help," Colby says. "You can work with what you have. Improvement is possible. You can't totally remodel, you can't totally redesign what you've been given, but you can balance things out."

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Going to Extremes?

        "Most of my work is about body image and healing," says Colby. "My overall message is finding love for who you are. You've been given one body that will last a lifetime. You should take care of it. You can't resurface and remodel it completely. You need to find acceptance."

 

        But what if, after you've taken the suggestions, made the changes, and stuck with them long enough to see results, you still aren't satisfied with the skin you're in? Perhaps it's those saddlebags that won't budge, or that spare tire that no amount of diet or exercise will deflate. What then?

 

        Should you resort to cosmetic surgery to reach your goals? It all depends on your motivation, and what you hope to gain from the procedure, says Colby. "If you recognize that it's not going to make you happier, fulfill childhood dreams, or heal your wounds -- but you just want to make surface changes -- that's fine," she says. "All of us have to struggle with this -- where we accept our body and where we make changes. And all of us, as we age, face the same question. Do we accept it, or do we fight it?"

 

        Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder, and "everyone will have a different opinion" of who and what is attractive," she says. "You have to decide for yourself what's best for you. In the end, we all sleep with ourselves."

    

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