Can I Change My Body Type?Posted on Jan 25th 2011 11:00AM by Liz Neporent
Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images
Alchemy was a science in the Middle Ages used by chemists that tried to magically transform a common substance of little value -- like, say, a rock -- into an entirely different substance of greater value like gold or silver. It was largely discredited by the Renaissance.
That's why I find it so disturbing that now in the 21st century, the concept of alchemy has been revived in book form as "Tracy Anderson's 30-Day Method: the Weight-Loss Kick-Start That Makes Perfection Possible."
I won't address most of the outrageous claims made in the book -- false, dangerous or otherwise. Instead, I'll focus on the question at hand: Is it possible to alter your genetic destiny? Tracy Anderson is making a very nice living telling people you can.
According to Anderson, you can change a pear shape into a string bean; extend the length of your legs; and generally rearrange bone, muscle and sinew to "take any woman from any genetic background and turn her into this teeny-tiny dancer type """." All it takes is an alarmingly low-calorie diet, two hours of high-impact exercise each and every day of the week, and total self-loathing.
Don't get me wrong. I don't doubt that following such a regimen will help you lose weight. If you manage to avoid injury, you might even sculpt some muscle definition, tone your body and look fitter. But will you change the basic shape of your body? It's a physiological impossibility, no more likely than turning a common rock into a brick of gold. You are born with an indelible bone structure and certain metabolic predispositions. This is a scientific fact. Short of surgery, there is simply no way to alter this blueprint.
This is not bad news! It allows us all to let go of impossible goals. We petite gals will never look like supermodels. And you tall ladies will never be the "teeny-tiny" creatures Anderson seems to believe every woman should want to be. Once you are free of these absurd -- and, quite frankly, cruel -- expectations, you can concentrate on what is possible: being the best you you can be.
Even Anderson's famous clients prove my point. Her benefactor, Gwyneth Paltrow, was always willowy and leggy; thanks to Anderson's regimen, she is more so. Madonna has become an overexaggerated version of what she has always been: short limbed and athletic. Shakira, now a slimmer, blonder iteration of a curvy hourglass figure, is somewhere in the middle.
Three different body types following essentially the same workout and diet plan. All of these women looked amazing before they ever stepped into one of Anderson's workout spaces. None of them dramatically changed the shape of their bodies.
Yes, all of these stars are certainly thinner now. You can argue whether they look better. They may be able to manage the marathon dance sessions and the expensive, oddly specific meal plans, but they've also put themselves at greater risk for osteoporosis, depression, injury, and the host of other health problems that go along with starvation and overtraining.
I don't believe, as Anderson does that "if your body looks old at 50, it's only because you're not making the effort" or that "every woman whose body changes post-pregnancy is just lazy."
I certainly do believe that every woman should eat right and be active. Every woman should strive to be at a healthy weight. Every woman should find a way to feel good about the way she looks. Not that you shouldn't work hard, but no woman needs to dedicate a huge chunk of her day and finances to get to where she wants to be health and fitness wise when there are easier, safer and more effective ways to get there. Don't we all have important work to do?
I am aware that there are a lot of Anderson groupies out there -- as well as rabid detractors. I'd like to hear from you. Post your comments here or tweet me.
Liz Neporent holds a masters degree in exercise physiology and is certified by the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. She has coauthored various books on health and fitness. Follow Liz on Twitter, @lizzyfit.