Do your friends have great success on the latest fad diet but you remain the same? Do you find it hard to shift that fat around your thighs or to bulk up your skinny arms?

Well, to some extent, you can blame it on your body.

Before starting to work towards fat reduction or muscle gain, it can be helpful to learn about your somatotype, that is, your body type. There are three body types, each with different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your body type can help you plan your nutrition and fitness regime to help you reach your goals and maximise your time and results.

Ectomorphs – skinny, long/willowy limbs
These people appear skinny with long limbs, small joints, chest and buttocks, with a naturally low level of body fat. They often seem able to eat what they like when they like and don’t put on weight due to an efficient metabolism. They can also struggle to build muscle, so gaining weight can sometimes be an issue. They are often good at long distance running compared to strength based activities. Mo Farah and Naomi Campbell would be classed as ectomorphs.

Mesomorphs – muscular, athletic build
These people are the athletic looking ones, who are naturally lean with more muscle mass than ectomorphs and with generally broader shoulders. They have an all-round level of fitness and are sometimes perceived as ‘naturally gifted’ at all sports. They respond quickly to exercise and can gain muscle mass easily and reduce fat with not great effort. Tommy Bowe and Jessica Ennis are examples of mesomorphs.

Endomorphs – heavier build, fat retainers
These people have a higher level of body fat than the other two types (often gathering more on the lower stomach, buttocks, hips and legs) and generally have a bigger structure, with shorter limbs made up from medium-large joints (‘big boned’). They have to work harder to reduce body fat, which is lost at a slower rate than mesomorphs, due to a slower metabolic rate, and they can find it hard to keep any lost fat off. They are generally better at short sharp bursts of exercise and find strength work easier than cardio, with the ability to build muscle compared to ectomorphs. Examples include Jack Black and Kate Winslet.

It is important to note however, that we don’t often fit perfectly into one of these three categories, but rather, have a mixture of qualities. Eg ecto-mesophorphs.

Body type is a combination of your bone structure, bone density and musculature. These factors are genetically pre-determined, so no amount of exercise can change your skeletal structure or the length of your legs! Your fitness goals have to be achievable remember, so wishing you looked like Kate Moss when you have a figure like Beyonce, or wanting a body like The Rock when your physique is more like Chris Rock, is just going to end in disappointment – or ill health! So you have to find the ability to accept what you have been dealt and work to make your body the best it can be.

However, that also means not using the ‘blame it on the body’ excuse to eat junk food every day while shrugging it off that you’re an endomorph to your ectomorph friend. Everyone, no matter what body type, can improve their physique and can therefore either become and remain unhealthy or work hard to stay lean and fit.

So if you are unhappy with your body type, the bad news is that you’re stuck with it (you can thank mum and dad for that), but the good news is, that understanding which type you are, is your first step towards transforming it.