The 'Perfect' Body Type: Exploring The Origins Of America's Obsession

by Naadira Burke

What is the perfect body type for a woman? Have you ever thought about that notion? Many people don't really think about this, but media and culture discuss it all the time. Turn on your television, watch a movie or even read about fashion from the past, and you're going to find that there are all sorts of ideas about what a woman's body should look like.

Whatever your reference point, you're going to find that millions of women are being told different ideas about what they should look like, and it's fascinating to see the results. Not every woman can have an hourglass figure. Yet, that's what many feel is the perfect female body.

Does every woman have to be skinny? Rail thin? Does every woman have to look like he or she is going to hit the runway? Of course not. However, that's the message that's being pushed by a lot of companies, including those that sell undergarments.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the perfect body seems to be often talked about.

The ideal body is not always advertised.

The media is going to tell you that you need to have a certain body shape. This is especially true in fashion and on television. You rarely see plus-sized, or even “normal-sized" women in the media. However, that doesn't mean they don't exist. They exist, and are even on programs. But they are not seen as the “norm."

The ideal body type for a lot of actresses and models is very skinny. When you see underwear models, they exhibit this love affair with the skinny body, instead of with curves. Some curvy women, if they are not as thin as models, will be told they are fat.

Unfortunately, the ideal female body is not always the body you see in advertisements. That's because the media is consumed with the notion that the hourglass figure is not always the one that is most desired by others. Men and women are going to disagree in this regard, but you'll find that the media has a consensus on what perfection looks like.

What does perfection look like in terms of a woman's body? Skinny is in, and that's it.

Culture is not one-sided.

In the United States, the skinny woman is praised. She is lifted up on a pedestal, and is seen as ideal. But what about in other countries?

There is a lot of documentation with regard to what the ideals are for other countries, and how they perceive women's bodies. You'll find that other locations do not promote the smallest of women. They promote regular-sized women, and those who have an hourglass figure.

That's right: They appreciate curves. It is evident through media, television and more. This ideal woman would shock the average Westerner.

If other countries are seeing women in a different light, why isn't the United States? That's the question many women are asking.

There is no “one” answer to all of this. Idolizing thin women causes a great deal of stress among millions, as they don't think they are perfect. Other countries and cultures do not seem to focus on that, making the ideal body shape for a woman quite different, depending on where one is in the world.

What does research say?

It's simple to focus on generalizations. But when you start to consider what the perfect body may be, you need to go to the source. That's what many experiments did in the past. One study done in 2012 asked men and women what they felt was the ideal body type, and the answers were astonishing.

Women who were asked the question in this research stated that the perfect female body was skinny, with little body mass. That's right: the skinnier, the better. They seemed to consider that a lower BMI was ideal, even if one has no curves. This definitely seems to explain why media standards continue to push one ideal type over others.

Men seemed to focus on larger elements, curvier shapes and hourglass figures. That's right: Men seemed to prefer a bit more in terms of curvature.

What does science say?

While men and women have their own opinions, one may want to look at the science in terms of women's bodies and the ideal shape. That being said, you're going to find science talks about size and shape a great deal with regard to having children.

Specifically, science has shown that bigger bust sizes and larger hips send the idea that women are fertile. Fertility drives natural progression, and research seems to point toward the notion that the hourglass figure is ideal.

In recent years, studies have pointed out that males are visually attracted to larger bust and butt size. In the case of the UC Santa Barbara study, it was determined that fatty deposits in women actually give assistance to pregnancy, and help with child development in the womb.

The eras have completely changed.

But over the last 100 years, you'll find that the ideal woman's body type has shifted. It was once the hourglass figure that ruled the day. Then, there was a gradual shift toward something skinnier throughout the years. This led to what is now the norm, and it focuses on several different elements of interest.

You'll find that a great deal of women -- and men alike -- consider the perfect shape to be a bit curvier. But that's not what the media dictates. This goes back to the notion of marketing, sales and trying to cajole public opinion.

If you look at the past, however, you see a different picture. One only needs to look at ancient Greek and Victorian times to consider the changes. For instance, you'll find that there was a ratio given to the Greek cultural beauty standard.  Perfection was based on the notion of the “golden” element, or "Phi", which is evident through the architectural elements and writings in Ancient Greece.

You'll find that Leonardo da Vinci seemed to highlight what the perfect ration was based on the past as well. This definitely speaks volumes as to why people agree and disagree about beauty standards. Here are four standards of beauty in western culture:

1. Looking Young

The pursuit of looking young is everywhere. It saturates popular culture. In the past -- as with the present -- large eyes, small noses, no signs of aging and no grey hair are the signals of true beauty for many women.

2. Sexual Elements

The notions of red lips, high cheeks, dilation in the pupils and arousal are always beauty marks. This includes flirtatious aspects, blushing and smiling.

3. Indicators Of Health

Some of the most prominent elements that determine beauty are skin, physical fitness, long legs, a large bust and healthy hair. These elements are as visually stimulating as they are healthy.

4. Fertility Signals

Large breasts, hips, a large butt and thighs all exhibit signs of fertility and beauty.

Face And Body Shape

There are several terms of beauty for the body, but facial features play a big role here as well. For many, the signs of aging are absolutely disasterous.

The cleaner the skin and the fewer the wrinkles, the more ideal it is. Faces play a huge part with regard to how a woman's appearance is measured, even if the ideal figure is the hourglass figure. Attractiveness is often a matter of face combined with body shape. These work together to exhibit what the standards of beauty become.

As you start to look at the contrast between face and body, you will find there are certain measurements that focus on the best body shape. Sometimes, there are specific measurements that are determined to be ideal.

With the idea of measurements in mind, consider that the perfect figure for someone who is 5'4” is 36-24-36. These perfect body types aren't the ones you see in fashion or on television.

As you can see, the media portrays the wrong figure. So, what is the right figure? Well, that's where you will find a few tips and tricks to help you get the body type you want. You'll want to step into the right options, and this starts with becoming an iconoclast. The following can help you navigate the initial steps toward getting the right shape for you.

The first step is to recognize that society is going to show you the wrong image type. With good exercise comes a better body, and that's something that all major health professionals will agree on. The biggest issue you will need to take on is the fact that it takes time to be forever changed. This means that you can't just wake up and have the perfect figure. You'll have to work for it.

But in time, it can be done. You can do anything. Don't lose hope.

Women today want to get the perfect shape without working for it. There's nothing wrong with wanting something. But if you don't have a plan, it's nothing more than a wish. After focusing on the body shape you want, you'll need to look into avoiding some major mistakes.

There are common mistakes that will make it harder to reach your goals. They include dieting off and on, only doing cardio or doing extreme workouts. These three elements are going to cause you to give up or plateau.

In order to ensure you're losing weight and training your waist to get that perfect hourglass figure, you will need to avoid making the above mistakes. It's easy to get caught up in these things, as people will try to sell you on what is going to work best.

But it's not simple or easy. It takes time.

As you try to get to a place where you're going to get results, make sure that you look into healthy eating, as well as exercise. This combination will give you balance and confidence, as well as improve your self-esteem. You don't need to worry about taking extreme measures. Make lifestyle changes that are focused on getting you to a natural, healthier place.

Then, once you start seeing results, you'll find that these tips have become habits, not just things you're doing for the short-term. By building on these habits, you can create your own ideal shape, and then train your waist properly to get the hourglass figure you may desire. It just takes time.