Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Tale of One Ectomorph in a Family of None

There are certain healthy foods that my kids will devour with pure delight as if they were pieces of candy. For example, almost any fruit, fresh and dried, nuts or a special drink like mint water. They have their favorite meals and special side items such as beans, artichokes, french bakes, quinoa and brown rice. But food preferences change from there. My two younger children have different body types than my eldest. My two mesomorphs love their meat. In contrast, I'm lucky to get a relative serving of meat down my ectomorph, and by bedtime, I could have fed him two plate fulls of fruits and vegetables and he would still say he is hungry! But at least he eats his vegetables, right?

Understanding the different body types my children have helps me to relate a little easier to my ectomorph because his appetite and eating patterns differ so much from the rest of us who are all mesomorphs. Body types are categorized into three:

Mesomorphs have large bone structures, large muscles, rectangular shaped body, are more athletic and can gain and lose muscle and far more easily than an ectomorph.With this being said, they do need to watch their calorie consumption and ensure they use cardio and weight training during their exercise routines. Overall, they tend to crave meats more then ectomorphs.

Ectomorphs have smaller body frames and bone structures, flat chests, small shoulders, lean muscle mass, fast metabolism and have a hard time gaining weight. They burn calories very quickly and crave food at night, which isn't such a bad thing as long as they are eating healthy fats and proteins because if they do not consume enough calories before bed, they can burn muscle throughout the night. Overall, they tend to crave carbohydrates more and it is important to help them not overeat carbohydrates and eat more fats and proteins in order to help strengthen their smaller frame. Plus, fats and proteins will burn slower in their bodies.

Endomorphs are usually shorter, gain fat easily and are generalized as soft and pudgy. They gain muscle and fat easily and have to be aware of their calorie intake. If they weight train, they are usually able to build thick muscles in the legs and arms. Their metabolism is slower and they find it harder to lose fat. Using cardio in addition to weight lifting helps them to stay healthy, along with eating a balanced diet that is low in grain carbohydrate consumption. As with all three body types, it is better for them to consume fresh fruits and vegetables as their carbohydrates and more healthy fats and proteins to help strengthen their bodies and store less fat.

Some people are a combination of body types as well, but in our home, we have four classic mesomorphs and one classic ectomorph. This is important to know when I prepare my meals and throughout the day how to feed my family according to what their bodies are craving and also what their bodies are needing. For example, my mesomorphs' plates are clear of meat within minutes and it is a hassle to get them to eat their vegetables. While on the other hand, my ectomorph eats all his grain, starches and veggies and picks at the meat like it's a piece of trash with a look of disgust on his face. While he is quick to want to trade his meat with his brother, I have to put my foot down and say no because his body needs the good fat and protein.

In order to ensure everyone is getting what they need, it sometimes gets tricky without turning into a battle.
  • I usually give them a specific goal as to how much they need to eat before I will let them clear their plates. With this being said, if I place a smaller amount on their plates, they are expected to eat the whole amount. Sometimes, I change things up and place a little extra of one thing or another on their plates with the knowledge that they will not eat it all, but that it will train them to eat more new foods or an item they are not too fond of. My goal is to train their palates to love new food items. Someone always eats the leftovers, so no food is wasted.
  • The best trick we have to helping train our children to eat foods that they may not want to eat but need to eat is to explain to them why we are giving them the choices of food at that time. For example, if my ectomorph is craving a fruit, I tell him he needs to add a protein or fat in for extra energy. So if he wants an apple, have some peanut butter with it. If he wants a banana, add some nuts as well. If he wants some cheese, have some hard boiled eggs too. He has come to know which foods are proteins, fats and carbohydrates and is beginning to make his own decisions on how to choose healthy, balanced meals and snacks. The younger children are usually persuaded when they learn that the food eat will make them strong, help their eyesight or make them have lots of energy to play at the park. These things excite them and they begin to correlate food with energy instead of food with reward or comfort.
In the end, food science is great and all, but we have learned through plain experience what our children need and when they need it based off of their behaviors. Whether it be more water or a healthy snack before or between meal times, their metabolisms are so fast and we know that there are certain food items that we need on hand in order to keep them running on a full, healthy tank.

No child is alike, but it is great to have a basic understanding of how their little bodies work so that we can properly refuel them for their daily activities such as being able to focus better during the school hours, more energy before a sporting activity, recovery foods or snacks that are better to digest in the evening before bed.