It’s no secret that losing weight isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all kinda thing. Yes, you always have to eat less and move more—those are givens. But, beyond that, what works for one person isn’t always right for someone else.
As for me? Usually, I’m not one for gimmicks. I believe in eating clean, wholesome foods in reasonable portions, and listening to your body to maintain a healthy weight. (Oh, and letting yourself have dessert when you really want it. That’s a must.)
But recently, I started wondering whether my approach might be too simplistic. After all, even though I eat relatively well, I don’t feel amazing and energized 100 percent of the time. I’ve also long had the nagging feeling that for as clean as I tend to eat, I should weigh a little bit less.
Still, I wasn’t into the idea of embarking on a rigid, complicated diet or one that banned entire food groups. As a nutrition writer, I’ve long known about the idea of eating for your body type, or somatype. Back in the 1940s, experts came up with three basic somatypes, based on a person’s skeletal frame and body composition. To this day, many dietitians and exercise physiologists create diet and exercise programs based around these types.
So what are these types? There’s a little more to it than your basic pear shape, apple shape. Ectomorphs are naturally long and lean and have a hard time gaining fat or muscle. Mesomorphs are solid, athletic, and strong and tend to find it easy to maintain a stable weight. As for me? I’m a classic endomorph: Though I’m not overweight, I have a higher percentage of body fat and tend to carry it in my lower abdomen, hips, and thighs. It’s almost impossible for me to put on muscle (I’ve tried), and if I overdo it on the junk for just a couple of days, it’ll show up on the scale.
So how should an endomorph eat? Endomorphs are really good at converting carbs into sugar and storing them as fat. According to the American Council on Exercise, they tend to have some degree of carbohydrate and insulin sensitivity. That’s why it’s better for endomorphs to eat an even distribution of protein, healthy fats, and carbs. And the carbs should come mostly from vegetables and whole grains—not bread, cookies, or high-sugar fruit.
Carbs are definitely what I crave most. But I notice that when I have a lot of them, I tend to feel kind of crazed. Even something healthy like an apple can leave me jittery and a little light-headed within a couple of hours, unless I pair it with some nuts or nut butter.
So for the past month, I decided to try eating in a way that was more in line with my somatype. I eat a largely plant-based diet, for both ethical and environmental reasons, so I wasn’t about to start snacking on beef jerky. But I did make an effort to eat meals that were higher in protein and healthy fats and lower in carbs. And while I didn’t cut out my beloved sugary junk altogether (a girl’s gotta have her chocolate chip cookies), I tried really hard to make the majority of my carbs high-quality. Think: whole grains and sweet potatoes rather than white bread.
In the past, I’d often crave a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast (or on the weekends, buttery toast). But either of those would usually leave me feeling sort of hollow and sluggish within a few hours. So instead, I started having a hard-boiled egg with steamed kale and slices of steamed winter squash, topped with flaky sea salt and a generous drizzle of tahini. Because I’m a creature of habit, I ate this almost every day. And even though it wasn’t a ton of food, I found that it kept me fuller and more focused throughout the morning.
I’m not big on heavy lunches because they make me sleepy. So I’ve always done the soup or salad thing, but usually, I’d pair it with a hunk of crusty bread. Instead, I started making sure that my soups were protein-based—think split pea or lentil. And I’d top my soups with a drizzle of olive oil or swirl in some coconut milk when to make them creamy. And instead of the bread, I’d have half a sweet potato. It took some time to adjust (I really love bread), but after a week or so I got used to it. It was a smart move: I felt lighter after lunch, and I tended to get less foggy in the afternoon. (Try these slimming soup recipes that still satisfy.)
For dinner, I tried to steer away from carb-based meals like pasta or sandwiches. Instead, I’d make beans, tempeh, or tofu and plenty of roasted vegetables as the base of my meal, and have a smaller portion of a whole grains, like wheat berries or quinoa. Sometimes I’d have cheese (like a sprinkle on top of a black bean bowl), but more often, I’d add a healthy fat like avocado or homemade cashew sauce.
As for snacks, I’ve never been big on eating between meals. But in the past, when an occasional urge to nibble would strike, I’d usually have a cookie. Now, I’d have a handful of nuts or olives. At night, I was actually big on eating fruit before bed. But often, I’d find that an apple or a bowl of cherries would leave me feeling weirdly awake (maybe too much sugar?). So I swapped the fruit for a square or two of 85 percent dark chocolate, which was higher in fat and lower in sugar.
The verdict? Over the course of the month, my weight stayed the same. But I felt better. I had more energy, and I felt less fuzzy. Just as good, I never experienced that weird, jittery, low-blood-sugar thing that I sometimes used to get an hour or two after eating lots of carbs. Plus, the less of that stuff I ate, the less often I found myself struck with intense cravings for sugary foods. And regardless of what the scale said, those rewards alone were totally worth it.