Body Types and Brains

      83 Comments on Body Types and Brains

Perhaps you remember the terms for body types from high-school biology.  These are from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Ectomorph. A human physical type (somatotype) tending toward linearity, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by the American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. Although classification by the Sheldon system is not absolute, a person is classed as an ectomorph if ectomorphy predominates over endomorphy and mesomorphy in his body build. The extreme ectomorph has a thin face with high forehead and receding chin; narrow chest and abdomen; a narrow heart; rather long, thin arms and legs; little body fat and little muscle; but a large skin surface and a large nervous system. If well fed, he does not gain weight easily; if he becomes fat, he is still considered an ectomorph, only overweight.

Endomorph.  A human physical type (somatotype) tending toward roundness, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. The extreme endomorph has a body as nearly globular as humanly possible; he has a round head, a large, round abdomen, large internal organs relative to his size, rather short arms and legs with fat upper arms and thighs, but slender wrists and ankles. Under normal conditions the endormorphic individual has a great deal of body fat, but he is not simply a fat person; if starved, he remains an endomorph, only thinner.

Mesomorph.  A human physical type that is marked by greater than average muscular development, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. Although the Sheldon system of classification does not make absolute distinctions between types, a person is classed as a mesomorph if mesomorphy predominates over endomorphy and ectomorphy in his body build. The extreme mesomorph has a square, massive head; broad, muscular chest and shoulders; a large heart; heavily muscled arms and legs; and minimal body fat. He tends to develop muscle easily.

These are not mutually-exclusive types.  Most of us are a mix.  I’m an ectomorph-endomorph.  I have long arms and legs, but also tend to get fat in the middle … and I definitely have the slender wrists and ankles, despite being thick through the upper thighs and butt area.

Some really beefy guys are mesomorph-endomorphs.  They’re very muscular and strong with the fast-twitch muscles and quick reflexes of a mesomorph, but also tend to get fat around the middle.  Think offensive lineman.

It’s the mesomorph type I’ll be talking about here, so let’s look at another brief definition from an article in Men’s Fitness:

Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym, and pack on muscle the instant they pick up a dumbbell.

Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym … Yup.  I’ve known people like that.  In order to stay lean and muscular, all they really have to do is not screw up.  But many mesomorphs do work out, because the results are so rewarding and impressive.  The same article in Men’s Fitness mentioned a study of the effects of resistance training.  Given the same workouts, the ectomorphs put on almost no muscle at all, while the mesomorphs made big gains in muscle size.  It’s character vs. chemistry again – the chemistry in this case being genetics.

The Older Brother and I had a mutual friend in high school who was a perfect mesomorph.  The guy had a small waist, wide shoulders, big muscles, chiseled abs and veins popping out all over the place.  So what did he eat?  Any damned thing he wanted to, including a lot of junk.  And his exercise program?  He didn’t have one.  If he’d ever decided to take up weight-lifting, he would have looked like a Greek god in no time.  I ran into him in a bar 20 years after high school (where yes, he was drinking beer) and he still had exactly the same build.

So here’s the point:  a whole lot of people who consider themselves experts in exercise or nutrition because they look so darned good and are so darned athletic are mesomorphs.  But what you’re seeing in their impressive-looking photos and videos is a genetic gift.  If they don’t totally hose themselves with a crappy diet, they stay lean.  If they work out at all, they put on muscle.

So when they point to their muscles and abs as proof of their superior knowledge about nutrition – or worse, point to an endomorph’s fatter build as proof that he can’t possibly know as much as they do – it’s bull@#$%.  Period.  (Given my last couple of posts, you can guess who inspired this post.)   When I see a natural-born mesomorph posting a picture of his beautiful body as proof of his expertise in fitness and nutrition, I roll my eyes and think, “Well, that’s fabulous.  Be sure to send your mom or dad a thank-you card for passing on those genes”  — especially if the mesomorph has to puff out his belly to produce a “before” shot of himself looking kind of, sort of, maybe a little bit fat.

I’m not saying anyone who happens to be a mesomorph is disqualified from giving diet and exercise advice to those of us not so genetically gifted.  Some really know their stuff.  Mark Sisson is mostly a mesomorph (with a bit of ectomorph mixed in), and I’d certainly take his advice.  But here’s the difference:  Mark knows his ripped build is largely a genetic gift.  He’s said several times that he was lean and muscular even when he was living on what he now knows was a garbage diet.  He just wasn’t healthy on that diet.

It doesn’t prove anything if a particular diet or exercise program works well for a mesomorph, because pretty much everything that isn’t actually harmful works for them.  Vegetarian diet, vegan diet, high-fat diet, low-fat diet, paleo diet, whatever … if these guys get adequate protein, work out now and then, and don’t fill up on junk foods that overcome their natural tendency to stay at a low level of body fat, they’re going to look great.  Their impressive physiques don’t in any way prove they have the answers for the rest of us.

Let’s use academic achievement as an analogy.  I wasn’t genetically blessed in the body-build department, but I was in the intelligence department.  So was The Older Brother.  We both breezed through school.  Sure, we studied, but not as hard as some kids who were B or even C students.

I remember one of my roommates in college looking at the single spiral notebook I took to all my classes and saying, “That’s all the notes you take?  How the heck are you getting A’s in everything?  You hardly write anything down!”

“Uh, well,” I mumbled, “if the professor says something and it makes sense, I just remember it.  I don’t really have to write much of it down.”

That’s a genetic gift.  My dad was like that.  He loved to read, and he could quote from books he’d read 10 years earlier.  When the game Trivial Pursuit came around and we played as a family, he’d mop the floor with the rest of us.  He’d read a ton of books in his lifetime and it seemed he hadn’t forgotten a word.  So he’d finish in maybe 20 minutes, then the rest of us would pretend he’d never been a part of the game and play on.

The point is, I would never, ever point to what worked for me in college – just remember what the professor said! – as proof that it’s the best approach for everyone.  I wouldn’t take a picture of my high-school report cards or the plaque I received when the professors in the communications department at my university named me the top senior in the department, put those pictures on a web site, and point to them as proof that I’m an expert in education or in how to get good grades.

I got those grades largely because I’m a “brain mesomorph,” so to speak.  Brain mesomorphs can pick pretty much any method of studying and still do well, as long as they don’t do something to screw up that genetic gift – like, say, don’t study at all.

The Older Brother and I were both A students, but we approached schoolwork in totally different ways.  I don’t like scampering to meet deadlines, so if I was assigned a term paper, I’d start weeks ahead of time and work on it a little bit every day.  Sometimes I’d be finished days before turning it in.  Then I’d get an A on the paper.

The Older Brother would wait until the day before the paper was due, then start writing.  Sometimes he’d work all through the night and turn in the paper without having slept a wink.  Then he’d get an A on the paper.  Completely different approaches, same happy result.

Neither of us would ever be so foolish as to point to those papers and say, “Here’s proof of my expertise in how to get good grades.”  And neither of us would be so foolish as to point to an average-IQ kid who worked his tail off to get a B in a tough class and say, “Well, I sure hope nobody listens to that kid if he offers advice on study habits.  If he had any expertise in good study habits, his report card would look as good as mine.”

In fact, I’d consider that average-IQ kid who had to seriously apply himself to get all B’s the true expert on how to raise your grades.  He actually had to overcome his lack of genetic gifts to reach that goal.  That’s the kid I’d ask for advice on study habits if my kid wasn’t blessed with a high IQ and was struggling in school, not the high-IQ kid who barely has to study to get straight A’s.

So to paraphrase what I said at the end of my previous post, if you’re 100 pounds overweight, maybe the best weight-loss coach for you is someone who had to struggle to lose 100 pounds, even if he’s still built like an endomorph because (duh) he’s an endormorph.  The mesomorph who’s never been fat a day in his life can’t relate to your struggle, and if he’s like some mesomorphs, he’ll mistake his genetics for proof of expertise.

And if he’s an a-hole of a mesomorph, he’ll consider you a failure unless you end up looking like him, even though you couldn’t possibly look like him unless you had his parents.

Knowledge can be passed from one person to another.  Genetics can’t.   Don’t mistake one for the other.

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83 thoughts on “Body Types and Brains

  1. Crystal

    Fabulous 🙂
    I thank you, sir. Twice in this week you have given me encouragement with your writings and common sense. I appreciate you.

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Snow

    My housemate is an endomorph, but he’s immensely strong (he’s a classic little strong guy) but he has a big belly and thick thighs (but trim ankles).

    I don’t think these descriptions really work for women. For instance, what do you call someone who has a lot of body fat, thick legs all the way down, bony wrists, immense lower body strength but next to no upper body strength, a defined waist even at 400 lbs? I’m not an ectomorph–I’m not linear. I’m not an endomorph–I’m not globular. My arms and legs are quite long. And I’m not a mesomorph–I don’t tend toward big muscle.

    I’m a bootymorph, I guess, which you only get on women. The booty and legs get everything–fat and muscle. Bootymorphs come in all sizes and degrees of fitness but only one shape–pear.

    Reply
  3. Tom Welsh

    “Given the same workouts, the ectomorphs put on almost no muscle at all, while the mesomorphs made big gains in muscle size”.

    But if you’re interested in gaining strength – not visible muscle size – doesn’t it seem likely they all gained about the same?

    I remember from school, when I dabbled with weight lifting as an aid to my running (I was a fan of Percy Cerutty) that the rule was: if you want big muscles, do lots of reps with light weights. But if you want to be as strong as possible, do a few reps with the heaviest weight you can manage.

    Looking at the Olympic weight lifters (which I haven’t for decades now) I remember some who were classic meso-endomorphs – man mountains – and some who looked exactly like average accountants (but were just as strong).

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Yes, resistance training will make you stronger, even if you don’t bulk up, which is why it’s still worth the effort. The point is that people will see the mesomorph who gets those eye-popping muscles and assume he works harder than the ectomorph, who may get stronger without gaining much size.

      I have some muscles that apparently have no interest in getting bigger. My calves, for example, are very strong. They’re also thin.

      Reply
  4. Tom Welsh

    Whoops. I meant “as strong as the big guys”, not “as strong as average accountants”.

    😎

    Reply
  5. Christine

    Thank you for writing this article.

    I’ve struggled to explain this to trainers and other folks who love to advise me on “how I could be thinner.” I’m a big girl. I’m very healthy.

    If you get into a topic of fitness with them, they start telling me to stop eating candy and ice cream. (I don’t eat candy, and I’m allergic to chocolate.)

    Well, of course they’re assuming I’m eating candy and ice cream. I’m big! They have no idea that I’ve walked, walked, and walked.

    They have no idea that I’ve lifted literally tons of weight (I have pictures of me lifting more than 300 lbs or more at a work out level with my legs.)

    I watch my diet (they say…”low carb doesn’t work you need carbs to actually lose weight”—I say, “but carbs make me gain weight”).

    After all that I’m still big. Unless, I literally starve myself and workout (900 calories and 2 hours of working out a day). My quality of life with young children and a full time job does not support that. I could do that when I was single and done with college.

    It would help if genetically bias people would stop judging people like me. It seems like I am a blend of Meso/Endo and I will always struggle. Happily, I’m as “healthy as a horse.” Thank you. I love your movie and this post is spot on. I also can write a paper overnight and get an A, I do better working hard at all my grades. My husband and daughter can cram on anything and get an A. Your point is perfect.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Yup, people who are living on their genes don’t get it. As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, I had a friend in Chicago, a lean meso/ecto, who was sometimes critical of fat people. He joined me for a workout once and told me he was surprised to realize I was quite a bit stronger than he was. He had assumed that I was fat, I must be lazy and not exercise enough.

      Reply
    2. Catherine

      Spot on, Christine. I’ve “struggled” with my weight since I was about 30, up and down, different diets, various forms of exercise, and I’ve had it with all that. I do exercise that I enjoy (zumba), I’ve never smoked, rarely drink because I have to drive a lot, I have normal blood pressure, and I’m told my cholesterol is “amazing”, although, as we all know here, that’s a load of old pants. But, because my BMI (grrrr) is over 30, my life insurance is more expensive, and you can almost dictate what doctors will say as I enter the surgery with an ingrown toenail: “Well, you could do with losing some weight”. To rid me of an ingrown toenail? Measles – “You’re rather overweight”. Tonsilitis – “Well, losing weight mightn’t be a bad idea”. No matter that all my vital signs are normal, and have been all my adult life!!!! You’re quite right when you say that people assume that you must eat piles of sweets, chocolate and biscuits and lie around watching TV all day – how dare they? I know people who do exactly that, and they are lean, skinny even. That’s not to say they are healthy. Skinny/lean does not necessarily mean healthy. Tom – I loved this article, totally fascinating, and as always, shows that when it comes to health and weight, one size does not fit all.

      Reply
  6. Allen W.

    Brilliant Tom! This is much in line with a presentation I watched a couple years ago by Dr. Doug McGuff about working to your full genetic potential and not expecting to look like other people using the same workout. I was always a fat kid while both my older half-brothers were athletic build types. I also have three older sister who all married athletic build men, one of whom is a big fat shamer. I love the guy but he can not understand why I am not built like he is despite spending decades working a very physical job.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      People like McGuff and Fred Hahn are honest about training can and cannot accomplish. I respect them for that.

      Reply
  7. Howard Lee Harkness

    “The mesomorph who’s never been fat a day in his life can’t relate to your struggle”

    One of the things I looked for when I decided to get married again was a woman who was struggling with her weight, and knew what that was like. I did not want some skinny bitch that would give me a ration of s**t for being fat.

    I’m happy to say that I found what I was looking for, and we have been happily married for 22 years now. Oh, and working together, we have both made definite improvement in health & weight — in different ways.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I wouldn’t marry a woman who thinks all fat people are just gluttons and sloths either. Chareva has never struggled with her weight, but she has close relatives who do. She totally gets it.

      Reply
        1. Galina L.

          Probably, looking at a body type could be the important parameter when hiring a family physician. Our GP is straggling more or less successfully with his natural roundness. It prevents him from illusion that everything is simple when it comes to a healthy weight.

          Reply
  8. Crystal

    Fabulous 🙂
    I thank you, sir. Twice in this week you have given me encouragement with your writings and common sense. I appreciate you.

    Reply
  9. Jennifer Snow

    My housemate is an endomorph, but he’s immensely strong (he’s a classic little strong guy) but he has a big belly and thick thighs (but trim ankles).

    I don’t think these descriptions really work for women. For instance, what do you call someone who has a lot of body fat, thick legs all the way down, bony wrists, immense lower body strength but next to no upper body strength, a defined waist even at 400 lbs? I’m not an ectomorph–I’m not linear. I’m not an endomorph–I’m not globular. My arms and legs are quite long. And I’m not a mesomorph–I don’t tend toward big muscle.

    I’m a bootymorph, I guess, which you only get on women. The booty and legs get everything–fat and muscle. Bootymorphs come in all sizes and degrees of fitness but only one shape–pear.

    Reply
      1. Jill

        That’s good to know, Tom, I’ve been wondering about this for a while. Not to the point of obsession but it’s nice to be able to pinpoint things.

        O/T but can I suggest you add to your list of professions that of science communicator? I have certainly learned more about science and scientific literacy from your presentations and posts than I have elsewhere!!

        Some interesting comments of Bernard Cohen relating to science here:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_communication

        Reply
  10. Tom Welsh

    “Given the same workouts, the ectomorphs put on almost no muscle at all, while the mesomorphs made big gains in muscle size”.

    But if you’re interested in gaining strength – not visible muscle size – doesn’t it seem likely they all gained about the same?

    I remember from school, when I dabbled with weight lifting as an aid to my running (I was a fan of Percy Cerutty) that the rule was: if you want big muscles, do lots of reps with light weights. But if you want to be as strong as possible, do a few reps with the heaviest weight you can manage.

    Looking at the Olympic weight lifters (which I haven’t for decades now) I remember some who were classic meso-endomorphs – man mountains – and some who looked exactly like average accountants (but were just as strong).

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yes, resistance training will make you stronger, even if you don’t bulk up, which is why it’s still worth the effort. The point is that people will see the mesomorph who gets those eye-popping muscles and assume he works harder than the ectomorph, who may get stronger without gaining much size.

      I have some muscles that apparently have no interest in getting bigger. My calves, for example, are very strong. They’re also thin.

      Reply
  11. Christine

    Thank you for writing this article.

    I’ve struggled to explain this to trainers and other folks who love to advise me on “how I could be thinner.” I’m a big girl. I’m very healthy.

    If you get into a topic of fitness with them, they start telling me to stop eating candy and ice cream. (I don’t eat candy, and I’m allergic to chocolate.)

    Well, of course they’re assuming I’m eating candy and ice cream. I’m big! They have no idea that I’ve walked, walked, and walked.

    They have no idea that I’ve lifted literally tons of weight (I have pictures of me lifting more than 300 lbs or more at a work out level with my legs.)

    I watch my diet (they say…”low carb doesn’t work you need carbs to actually lose weight”—I say, “but carbs make me gain weight”).

    After all that I’m still big. Unless, I literally starve myself and workout (900 calories and 2 hours of working out a day). My quality of life with young children and a full time job does not support that. I could do that when I was single and done with college.

    It would help if genetically bias people would stop judging people like me. It seems like I am a blend of Meso/Endo and I will always struggle. Happily, I’m as “healthy as a horse.” Thank you. I love your movie and this post is spot on. I also can write a paper overnight and get an A, I do better working hard at all my grades. My husband and daughter can cram on anything and get an A. Your point is perfect.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, people who are living on their genes don’t get it. As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, I had a friend in Chicago, a lean meso/ecto, who was sometimes critical of fat people. He joined me for a workout once and told me he was surprised to realize I was quite a bit stronger than he was. He had assumed that I was fat, I must be lazy and not exercise enough.

      Reply
    2. Catherine

      Spot on, Christine. I’ve “struggled” with my weight since I was about 30, up and down, different diets, various forms of exercise, and I’ve had it with all that. I do exercise that I enjoy (zumba), I’ve never smoked, rarely drink because I have to drive a lot, I have normal blood pressure, and I’m told my cholesterol is “amazing”, although, as we all know here, that’s a load of old pants. But, because my BMI (grrrr) is over 30, my life insurance is more expensive, and you can almost dictate what doctors will say as I enter the surgery with an ingrown toenail: “Well, you could do with losing some weight”. To rid me of an ingrown toenail? Measles – “You’re rather overweight”. Tonsilitis – “Well, losing weight mightn’t be a bad idea”. No matter that all my vital signs are normal, and have been all my adult life!!!! You’re quite right when you say that people assume that you must eat piles of sweets, chocolate and biscuits and lie around watching TV all day – how dare they? I know people who do exactly that, and they are lean, skinny even. That’s not to say they are healthy. Skinny/lean does not necessarily mean healthy. Tom – I loved this article, totally fascinating, and as always, shows that when it comes to health and weight, one size does not fit all.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I saw a one-hour documentary on (I believe) the Science Channel maybe a year ago. Not a great show, but there was a section about a very overweight woman who only consumed 1500 calories per day — her doctor said he had documented that. He at least understood this was a chemical issue, not a question of her eating too much.

        Reply
  12. Allen W.

    Brilliant Tom! This is much in line with a presentation I watched a couple years ago by Dr. Doug McGuff about working to your full genetic potential and not expecting to look like other people using the same workout. I was always a fat kid while both my older half-brothers were athletic build types. I also have three older sister who all married athletic build men, one of whom is a big fat shamer. I love the guy but he can not understand why I am not built like he is despite spending decades working a very physical job.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      People like McGuff and Fred Hahn are honest about training can and cannot accomplish. I respect them for that.

      Reply
  13. Howard Lee Harkness

    “The mesomorph who’s never been fat a day in his life can’t relate to your struggle”

    One of the things I looked for when I decided to get married again was a woman who was struggling with her weight, and knew what that was like. I did not want some skinny bitch that would give me a ration of s**t for being fat.

    I’m happy to say that I found what I was looking for, and we have been happily married for 22 years now. Oh, and working together, we have both made definite improvement in health & weight — in different ways.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I wouldn’t marry a woman who thinks all fat people are just gluttons and sloths either. Chareva has never struggled with her weight, but she has close relatives who do. She totally gets it.

      Reply
        1. Galina L.

          Probably, looking at a body type could be the important parameter when hiring a family physician. Our GP is straggling more or less successfully with his natural roundness. It prevents him from illusion that everything is simple when it comes to a healthy weight.

          Reply
  14. Elenor

    Your writing (wisdom!) reminds of me a wee grudge I still carry around in my annoyance file.

    There used to be a really superior fashion magazine for ‘large women.’ (I think it was called Mode? — but not the current “Mode” magazine? It died a couple decades ago.) Great uplifting articles, great fashions shown on actual large women — not skinny ones “representing” large women. (Yes, yes, I know — the catalog companies (say they) have tested and discovered that fat(ter) women won’t buy clothes shown on larger models…)

    Anyway, there was an article about a head buyer for some large-women’s clothing chain. She was (and always had been ) normal weight, but declaimed that her lack of experience as a fat woman made no difference whatsoever, because fashion was fashion. Later in the article, she expressed (what came across as) frustrated annoyance because fat women, when presented with a choice between a really beautiful polyester jacket and a less-nice-looking cotton one, always seemed to buy the cotton one. This not-fat buyer found that … “less-than-intelligent” … on the part of the fat women. This IMMEDIATELY put the lie to her “I can, too, buy clothes for fat women!!”

    EVERY fat woman knows that polyester is hot and uncomfortable. (Maybe that’s just true for fat women; I haven’t been skinny since almost before polyester, so I wouldn’t know!) So, we will always, if we can, buy a natural fiber. This never-fat woman had no such experience, so had no idea that this was even a consideration! (Born on third base, thought she ran there! {disgusted})

    (This is also why I think “paleo” needs to split into two ‘wings’ — the “need to lose weight and health challenges” group and the 20-something athletes with unbroken metabolisms!! Those who’ve never been there should not claim knowledge and experience of having been there!)

    Anyway, thanks as always Tom — you’ve got your finger on it!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yeah, I once heard some less-than-kind remarks from a couple of mesomorph paleo types who were in their 20s about “those fat low-carbers.” The “fat low-carbers” within view were endomorphs in their fifties and sixties. I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking “@#$% you, morons. You could eat damned near anything and look good.”

      Reply
    2. Kim

      “This is also why I think “paleo” needs to split into two ‘wings’ — the “need to lose weight and health challenges” group and the 20-something athletes with unbroken metabolisms!! Those who’ve never been there should not claim knowledge and experience of having been there!”

      Amen! They are SUPER annoying. “If you’re not getting the same results as I do, you must be doing it wrong. You must be lying or cheating.” I’m still working to take off the last 8 lbs after having a baby 7 months ago. My diet reads like a paleo dream and the portions certainly aren’t big at all, but each week I manage just 1/4-1/2 lb. It’s agonizingly slow! Sometimes I wish I could put a pregnancy-hormone-hex on some of the meat heads and then watch their faces contort in horror when they started gaining weight week after week and realized that their diet really isn’t that healthy, after all! Ha ha ha.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I’ll be happy with one wing if the 20-something jock types who adopted paleo to enhance their natural jockiness recognize that middle-aged people who’ve been fat for decades are dealing with a whole different set of metabolic issues.

        Reply
  15. Heather W

    Yes, my husband is a mesomorph. It can be very frustrating at times watching him keep his muscular physique while chowing down on Drumsticks and Chips Ahoy… If he happens to put on a *few* pounds because of his poor eating habits, he just has to do light exercise for about 2 minutes and he’s fine.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s how the naturally lean buddy I had in Chicago was. He was never fat, and if he wanted to go from lean to cut, he’d just eat a little less for a week or two. Boom, off came the pounds. So he assumed that’s how it works for everyone. (He was a good guy, by the way. Just misinformed.)

      Reply
  16. Jana

    I wonder how it applies to women. We carry so much more fat on our bodies that it can be difficult to tell. Especially, when women are designed to store fat for their children.

    That being said, I’m pretty sure I’m a mesomorph. I am naturally strong, stronger than most people I know. In the past, I’ve been quite confused by people saying I was so strong. My thoughts were, “What? I don’t do anything to be that way. Isn’t everyone like that?” I realized I was unique after two incidences. The first time I was in a grappling class with some visitors. The head instructor paired us off. After about five minutes of tumbling about on the floor and keeping my opponent from squishing me, who was a good 14 inches taller than me, ectomorphic, and about an extra 40 lbs, the head instructor commented to the guy I was grappling with, “She’s pretty strong, wouldn’t you say?” The second time I was in physical therapy, for a hip injury from my grappling classes, and the guy working on my hip told me to be careful or I would break his arm.

    Now that natural strength has been passed on to my kids and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      And I trust your kids will understand that natural strength is a gift, not a sign of superior character.

      Reply
  17. tony

    Great post Tom. I remember in a college calculus class, some guys did not even do homework and got As, some guys did the homework and got Cs and Ds. I did the homework and got A’s.

    My sons, in their 30s, have an after work cocktail of a 2 liter of coke. Yet they have a six pack (and they claim to be dietary experts).

    The thing I love about you is that you recognize that some of us are more gifted than others. So we don’t have to be hung up from false prophet’s claims.

    I personally vouch for your system. From 250 lb. to 192 at 5″10″ and counting, plus excellent lipid profiles. And the humor you inject in your posts. They say that 15 minutes of laughter extends your life for one month. If I keep reading your posts, I’ll be immortal.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I appreciate that very much. But we’d best be careful about attributing longevity to my posts, or the FDA will say I’m making medical claims and regulate my work.

      Reply
  18. Brandon

    Hi Tom,

    I loved the post, as I do most here. I’ve been reading for several years, since I found Fathead on Netflix, and first just wanted to say I enjoy and appreciate all the knowledge your share hear.

    This post resonated with me, as I’ve followed the basic Fathead template for a couple years now of 2,000 calories and 100 carbs (albeit not from fast food). Although this has worked (I’ve lost around 40 pounds, give or take 5 depending on how close I follow the plan), it’s often frustrating to see friends eat pizza and doughnuts pratically every day and still be thinner than me. I’ve accepted this fate and I’m proud to be where I’m at, but it’s still frustrating, at times, to know my margin for error is so much thinner than others. On the other hand, it could be much worse (I wear a 34 waist and generally fit into medium shirts).

    Your discussion of IQ was really interesting to me. Obviously, it’s better to have a high IQ, as research has shown it’s one of the strongest predictors of overall academic success and adult income. There’s some really interesting research, however, much of it conducted by Angela Duckworth, that has demonstrated self-discipline (she has come up with the term “Grit” to describe this) predicts achievement as much as two-fold above intelligence in multiple regression analyses. The ideal scenario, is to have high intelligence and be highly self-motivated, but the average intelligence person that his highly disciplined might outperform the undisciplined high intelligence person.

    The reality remains that certain people have to work harder than others in different areas of life, depending on their genetic makeup. I think the current research suggests that IQ isn’t a hard and fast determinant of what one is capable of. The student with a low 80s IQ who struggles through high school math and science realistically isn’t going to be an astronaut, but he can still graduate college, if he so desires, and be successful in life. Your approach to college definitely wouldn’t work for him, but then again, he might be able to withstand the freshman 15 despite late night pizza and weekly keggers if he’s an ectomorph.

    Interesting reading as always, Tom. Thanks again for your work.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Absolutely, IQ isn’t the whole story. But a high IQ does allow some people to breeze through most classes, and of course if you don’t have a high IQ, you’ll never become a physicist. There are many, many successful business owners out there who aren’t blessed with high IQs but achieved their status through diligence and the willingness to take risks.

      Reply
  19. Nads

    Funny how people think you must be naturally thin though because “you eat all that fat”, even when you put them straight.

    Reply
  20. Phillis

    Been a long time reader and I have to admit that the last few posts and the ensuing discussion has made this one of your BEST POSTS EVER!!! Sometimes in this battle with our weight we lose sight of some very important things and this discussion has helped me put some things back into perspective. I’ve lived all of my life with family who were always cut and muscular. All were athletes and ate like horses but from the time I was a teen I put on weight very quickly. (I was a normal weight child) I’m strong with dense musculature (mesomorphic traits) but I have some very definite endomorphic traits as well with a tendency to have a thick layer of fat on top of the muscles which always made me look heavier than I actually was. On top of that I have some unknown adrenal issues that I’ve been going to multiple physicians for decades for because I don’t fit into any of the disease categories for what is happening with me but to make a long story short I tend to gain weight very easily no matter how much I lower my carbs, cut calories, eat more veggies, stand on one foot, hold my breath, sweat to the oldies or Cross Fit myself into a coma. It has been very frustrating on many levels as it takes me weeks if not months to lose what most normal people would lose in days or weeks. I have taken off 110 pounds through low-carb (it actually is the only diet that DOES work for me) and walking. But even then took me almost 3 years to do that and I’ve stalled 50 pounds out of my ideal goal weight and that seems to be where my body wants to stay, sigh. Thankfully, though I’ve kept the majority of the weight off for 7 years now but that last 50 just doesn’t want to go. With this discussion though I’m not stressing any more about it as that just may be where my body wants to stay. I have resolved all of my health markers that were in trouble and I am healthy otherwise even if I don’t look like the current figure ideal. But still I am given “advice” on how I need to lose weight by those who think that “concentration camp skinny” is the norm for everyone. Definitely enough to make any sane person bang their heads on their desks! Hahahahaha! Anyway thanks Tom for the discussion and for the pep talk that you probably didn’t know that you were giving!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I think goal weights are great as an initial inspiration, but we have to be realistic once we hit those roadblocks. I mentioned that I semi-starved myself down to 35 pounds in my 30s. By the time I lost that much, my belly and love-handles weren’t shrinking any more at all, but my muscles were. That’s the point where I had to accept that for whatever reason, my body would rather lose muscle than that last bit of fat.

      Reply
  21. Tatertot

    So, where does this leave a guy like me? I’m handsome, athletic, naturally lean, and smarter than Einstein…I just can’t stop telling lies.

    Reply
  22. Phillis

    Been a long time reader and I have to admit that the last few posts and the ensuing discussion has made this one of your BEST POSTS EVER!!! Sometimes in this battle with our weight we lose sight of some very important things and this discussion has helped me put some things back into perspective. I’ve lived all of my life with family who were always cut and muscular. All were athletes and ate like horses but from the time I was a teen I put on weight very quickly. (I was a normal weight child) I’m strong with dense musculature (mesomorphic traits) but I have some very definite endomorphic traits as well with a tendency to have a thick layer of fat on top of the muscles which always made me look heavier than I actually was. On top of that I have some unknown adrenal issues that I’ve been going to multiple physicians for decades for because I don’t fit into any of the disease categories for what is happening with me but to make a long story short I tend to gain weight very easily no matter how much I lower my carbs, cut calories, eat more veggies, stand on one foot, hold my breath, sweat to the oldies or Cross Fit myself into a coma. It has been very frustrating on many levels as it takes me weeks if not months to lose what most normal people would lose in days or weeks. I have taken off 110 pounds through low-carb (it actually is the only diet that DOES work for me) and walking. But even then took me almost 3 years to do that and I’ve stalled 50 pounds out of my ideal goal weight and that seems to be where my body wants to stay, sigh. Thankfully, though I’ve kept the majority of the weight off for 7 years now but that last 50 just doesn’t want to go. With this discussion though I’m not stressing any more about it as that just may be where my body wants to stay. I have resolved all of my health markers that were in trouble and I am healthy otherwise even if I don’t look like the current figure ideal. But still I am given “advice” on how I need to lose weight by those who think that “concentration camp skinny” is the norm for everyone. Definitely enough to make any sane person bang their heads on their desks! Hahahahaha! Anyway thanks Tom for the discussion and for the pep talk that you probably didn’t know that you were giving!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I think goal weights are great as an initial inspiration, but we have to be realistic once we hit those roadblocks. I mentioned that I semi-starved myself down to 35 pounds in my 30s. By the time I lost that much, my belly and love-handles weren’t shrinking any more at all, but my muscles were. That’s the point where I had to accept that for whatever reason, my body would rather lose muscle than that last bit of fat.

      Reply
      1. Phillis

        That too was the story of my life Tom and I absolutely agree with you on goal weights. I was not a fat child but for some hormonal reasons when I hit puberty I gained almost 50 pounds in less than 3 months at age 13. After that I was constantly battling my weight. I strong-armed it down to 130 with a classic calorie restricted diet when I got married but was never able to go lower than that and even then at that weight I was constantly sick. Thankfully (in an odd sort of way) I have large bones even though I am medium height (5’5″) with the musculature of the mesomorph and it looked like I weighed a whole lot less. But after decades of battling my weight on and off I’ve reached a weight that is pretty good for me even though the weight/height statistics say I should weigh a whole lot less. But I’m healthy and happy (as is my hubby!) so I’m content at this point even if others are not but their opinions do not butter my bread (or steak) so I don’t worry too much about what they think other than to perhaps school them a bit on what health actually means vs. what the world thinks it means. Thank you again for this discussion. The whole series has been extremely good even if Julian’s Bakery may have gotten their nose tweaked out of joint more than a time or two, hehehehe!

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Well, maybe that’s the silver lining here. It’s good to be reminded that we shouldn’t judge our own success by what people born to be lean look like. Nor should we care if they judge us according to how they look. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people like that were born on the finish line and think they won a race.

          Reply
  23. Tatertot

    So, where does this leave a guy like me? I’m handsome, athletic, naturally lean, and smarter than Einstein…I just can’t stop telling lies.

    Reply
  24. Dominique

    Excellent thoughts, Tom. I can really relate to the analogy of academic habits, because I breezed through college and for the most part would recommend that people avoid emulating my study practices (or lack thereof). My “trick” is that I’m a good learner, and to quote Lady Gaga* – “Baby, I was born this way.” I was also born with double-wide feet and absolutely terrible hand-eye coordination, so it’s just the luck of the draw.

    As for body types, what about hormonal disturbances? If an individual’s hormones are severely disregulated, could that change their expressed somatotype? (And, by extension, could correcting those disturbances change that?) Very interesting stuff!

    [*Only because she has worn a dress made out of meat, and that seems oddly fitting here.]

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Hormones and other factors can affect gene expression, but you can only express the genes that are floating around in your genetic soup. No amount of hormonal manipulation is going to turn you or me into a mesomorph.

      Reply
  25. Dominique

    Excellent thoughts, Tom. I can really relate to the analogy of academic habits, because I breezed through college and for the most part would recommend that people avoid emulating my study practices (or lack thereof). My “trick” is that I’m a good learner, and to quote Lady Gaga* – “Baby, I was born this way.” I was also born with double-wide feet and absolutely terrible hand-eye coordination, so it’s just the luck of the draw.

    As for body types, what about hormonal disturbances? If an individual’s hormones are severely disregulated, could that change their expressed somatotype? (And, by extension, could correcting those disturbances change that?) Very interesting stuff!

    [*Only because she has worn a dress made out of meat, and that seems oddly fitting here.]

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Hormones and other factors can affect gene expression, but you can only express the genes that are floating around in your genetic soup. No amount of hormonal manipulation is going to turn you or me into a mesomorph.

      Reply
  26. Kristin

    I had completely forgotten about those body type categories. I seem to be a pretty balanced combination. Tall, long legs and arms. Very strong for a woman and can build muscle, especially in my legs. But dang, yes, a large dollop of endomorph ensures that I remain somewhat plump, especially around the middle no matter what I do. Low carb is the only way I keep my weight under control.

    I’ve finally accepted I’ll never be really lean and have become grateful for the stability my body has achieved under my current diet and exercise regimen. Five foot nine, about 180 lbs and a 35 inch waist. Not slim but not real big either. But a while back when I cut back on alcohol and told my trainer this the first words out of his mouth were “That’s great. You’ll probably lose some weight.” I was rather proud of myself that I voiced my instant reaction: “You think I need to lose weight?”

    Reply
  27. Kristin

    I had completely forgotten about those body type categories. I seem to be a pretty balanced combination. Tall, long legs and arms. Very strong for a woman and can build muscle, especially in my legs. But dang, yes, a large dollop of endomorph ensures that I remain somewhat plump, especially around the middle no matter what I do. Low carb is the only way I keep my weight under control.

    I’ve finally accepted I’ll never be really lean and have become grateful for the stability my body has achieved under my current diet and exercise regimen. Five foot nine, about 180 lbs and a 35 inch waist. Not slim but not real big either. But a while back when I cut back on alcohol and told my trainer this the first words out of his mouth were “That’s great. You’ll probably lose some weight.” I was rather proud of myself that I voiced my instant reaction: “You think I need to lose weight?”

    Reply
  28. Dominik

    I’m totally your older brother. And also, unfortunately, not a mesomorph. Neither is my brother, seems to be genetic.

    Reply
  29. Dominik

    I’m totally your older brother. And also, unfortunately, not a mesomorph. Neither is my brother, seems to be genetic.

    Reply
  30. Nick S

    I’m of the “mesomorph” body type (tall but thickly built, with heavy joints, wide shoulders, and a voluminous ribcage; putting on muscle is very, very easy for me) but that doesn’t mean I don’t get fat – it means I get fat differently from an endomorph.

    Where an endomorph will tend to fatten in the face and belly, my fat distributes itself much more into my arms, back, and flanks. Even when I’m quite heavy I don’t have nearly as big a belly as endomorphs I know who are at a far lower body fat percentage. People can’t believe I’m as heavy as I am, because the pattern in their brain that represents “fat” is generally the endomorph pattern of fat distribution.

    Perhaps my understanding is wrong, but I believe that is a better statement of the difference between body types; not whether someone gets fat, but in what patterns.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Mesomorphs generally have naturally lower levels of body fat, but of course there are exceptions. You may have a bit of endomorph mixed in there.

      The main point being, of course, that people who post pictures of their super-cut physiques are essentially bragging about a level of body-fat that most of us could never attain without the blessing of inheriting those genes. They may have worked to achieve the bigger muscles and ripped look, but I could work 10 times as hard and still never look like that.

      Reply
  31. Nick S

    I’m of the “mesomorph” body type (tall but thickly built, with heavy joints, wide shoulders, and a voluminous ribcage; putting on muscle is very, very easy for me) but that doesn’t mean I don’t get fat – it means I get fat differently from an endomorph.

    Where an endomorph will tend to fatten in the face and belly, my fat distributes itself much more into my arms, back, and flanks. Even when I’m quite heavy I don’t have nearly as big a belly as endomorphs I know who are at a far lower body fat percentage. People can’t believe I’m as heavy as I am, because the pattern in their brain that represents “fat” is generally the endomorph pattern of fat distribution.

    Perhaps my understanding is wrong, but I believe that is a better statement of the difference between body types; not whether someone gets fat, but in what patterns.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Mesomorphs generally have naturally lower levels of body fat, but of course there are exceptions. You may have a bit of endomorph mixed in there.

      The main point being, of course, that people who post pictures of their super-cut physiques are essentially bragging about a level of body-fat that most of us could never attain without the blessing of inheriting those genes. They may have worked to achieve the bigger muscles and ripped look, but I could work 10 times as hard and still never look like that.

      Reply
  32. Michael

    I am a Mesomorph for the most part, I am only 5 feet 5.5 inches, long arms 32/33 sleeve length and legs 31/32 length, seems avg but at just under five six kind of long, with a shorter torso and lifted heavy weights since I was 15, at one point weighed 140lbs and could bench press 360. I can still eat garbage and it takes months upon months without exercise to put on the fat. I consider my genetics helped a lot, but still worked very hard in the gym, and agree with just about everything you say, even on your other blog.

    Reply
  33. Michael

    I am a Mesomorph for the most part, I am only 5 feet 5.5 inches, long arms 32/33 sleeve length and legs 31/32 length, seems avg but at just under five six kind of long, with a shorter torso and lifted heavy weights since I was 15, at one point weighed 140lbs and could bench press 360. I can still eat garbage and it takes months upon months without exercise to put on the fat. I consider my genetics helped a lot, but still worked very hard in the gym, and agree with just about everything you say, even on your other blog.

    Reply

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