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Thanks to social media and the endless stream of advertising, women feel more pressure now than ever before to maintain a set standard of attractiveness. While the pressure to look beautiful is not a new trend, the definition of attractiveness changes every week. The physical qualities of attractiveness for women never seem consistent from one year to the next: Art museums feel like a time capsule of beauty standards constantly evolving over thousands of years. Does art reflect beauty standards of the time, or are the standards of attractiveness caused by art? After all, so many male artists of the Renaissance never used female models for their work: The women portrayed in these paintings were mostly created from qualities of attractiveness at that time: A rounded abdomen, flushed cheeks, and voluptuous curves. [1]

Do Beauty Trends Reflect Health?

From the cubist curves of Pablo Picasso’s many mistresses to the gangly paperclips strutting down runways in the 1990s, it’s no secret that the definition of beauty fluctuates over time. Through technology and social media, it’s easy to adjust our standards – and our physical health – to meet the popular beauty trend.

  • Women have guzzled maple syrup and cayenne pepper to lose weight;
  • Women have suctioned their lips in vacuum cleaners for a plump pout;
  • Women still suck in their breath and mash internal organs like sausage meat inside medieval corsets.

In a society of constant change and a new beauty trend every day, why do curvy pin-up figures of the 1950s maintain a timeless beauty to them?  Is it possible that our beauty standards could reflect a healthy body type? Doc weighs in with his perspective on curves, rolls, attractiveness, and health.

“Hey, Doc! Should Women Have Rolls or Curves?”

“Curves. Remember, if you look at a woman straight on, you’re going to see the hourglass type of curve. That’s fantastic…”

Sorry, Doc, we need to interrupt with an art history nerd-out for one hot minute:

If curves are fantastic, why do the standards of beauty change so frequently?

The earliest representations of these standards are portrayed in the “Venus Figurines” from 25,000 years ago: These figurines reveal standards of attractiveness in ancient civilizations, depicting rounded women with large breasts and rolls around their midsection. Thousands of years later, fashion runways and magazine advertisements from the 1970s until just recently idolized the slim physique of the waif – characterized by a very thin torso and narrow hips. What caused the dramatic shift in our perception of a woman’s physical attractiveness?

“The Venus of Willendorf” - Upper Paleolithic Era Europe and Fashion design female Croquis Templates models

Some historians suggest that the attraction to full-figured women during 25,000 BC was based on survival and access to resources: More body weight indicated more wealth and, therefore, easy access to food, shelter, and warm clothing. Women with larger breasts and full midsections were believed to be fertile and more likely to carry a pregnancy to term: [2] The slim supermodel of the late 1990s would not appear fertile, resourceful, or attractive to the men of 25,000BC.  These two extremes in physique suggest that attractiveness throughout history was not always influenced by health.

Back to Doc! Why Curves?

“Actually, with the estrogen levels starting to go up, you’re going to develop that type of figure: That’s why when women hit puberty, they start to develop curves.”

Now, a bit of health knowledge is needed to understand how estrogens and puberty contribute to a woman’s curves. While many factors contribute to body shape – including nutrition, stress levels, genetics, and exercise – hormone levels are at the center of it all. At the onset of puberty and even through menopause, levels of estrogen hormones can determine a woman’s physical figure. Estrogens flood the body during puberty, causing hip expansion and fat storage in those “hourglass figure” areas. [3]

Doc, Why Are You Picking on My Rolls?

“If you take a side view of a woman and you start to see rolls, now there’s adipose tissue that’s starting to go within the viscera, which can lead to a lot of chronic illnesses.”

Adipose tissue is a medical term for body fat under the skin (subcutaneous fat). This fatty tissue has many forms and functions within the body, but when it builds up between internal organs, it’s called visceral fat. Adipose tissue also contains blood vessels and nerves to communicate with organs. This communication supports the body’s supply of energy through signals that communicate feeling hungry and feeling full.

Too much adipose tissue is not healthy.

Doc mentions “viscera” as being related to fat rolls from that side profile viewpoint. If a woman tends to gain weight in her abdomen, this is considered visceral adipose tissue (VAT) because body fat is surrounding the organs of your abdomen. Excess VAT can contribute to those rolls of fat stored in your midsection, and could lead to chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver disease. [4]

Visceral fat medical poster. Belly fat surrounds internal organs in abdominal cavity. Overweight disease concept. Losing weight, liposuction and diet. Obesity human silhouette flat vector illustration

Your hormones might be holding you back from weight loss.

Women with high estrogens continue to maintain these curves, but all those other hormones must be balanced as well. Life is highly stressful and chaotic, and hormone imbalances can arise at any point during those cyclic years. Physical traumas, environmental or food toxins, and chronic stress can increase the characteristic rolls of visceral adipose tissue within the abdominal cavity.

“Ladies, be very excited about having curves! Be very scared about having rolls, because it can lead to a lot of health conditions.”

After decades of trying to diet our way to a supermodel-slim figure, now we find out that hourglass curves are actually a positive thing? After dozens of futile attempts to mash our hips into those super-low-cut jeans of the early 2000s (without our entire bottom half spilling from the top of the waistband), we can finally feel proud of our natural curves.

In fact, the hourglass figure was inspired by a woman’s natural, healthy curves.

In a 2020 study of Social Psychology, men were asked to rate the attractiveness of many women based on their profile photo in a dating app: The women who scored highest for attractiveness consistently had a smaller waist-to-hip (WtH) ratio of around .60 to .70. [3] What do these numbers mean? If a woman’s WtH ratio is .7, for example, her waist is about 30% narrower than her hips. Reproductively speaking, a lower WtH ratio ignites a man’s primitive brain, telling them a woman is young, healthy, and fertile.

The hourglass is also the healthiest body shape because of low visceral fat around vital organs.

Are these beauty standards connected to our reproductive instinct to choose fertile mates? Is the brain hardwired to see certain physical traits as more attractive than others, or are these standards determined by social media, popular shows/movies, advertisements, and fashion trends?

Testing the Hourglass Figure in Real Life

Naturally, this curious journalist was eager to see how this theory holds up to the present-day opinions of heterosexual men in The Wellness Way office.

To test Doc’s theory of healthy curves with the ever-changing standards of beauty in our society, the following diagram was used:

Female body type silhouette diagram. "Which of the silhouettes below is most attractive?"After providing these men with a memorized “This is just for an article: Not to make things weird” speech and then following it up with a “Just be honest: No judgment here” disclaimer, each man in our office was asked to choose the most attractive figure in the diagram. The results were more consistent than anticipated:

  • 100% chose the same silhouette from the diagram: Figure F.
  • A handful of participants were torn between Figures F and G, but Figure F was always the first choice.

What body shape is Figure F? The curve-loving hourglass figure.

Turns out, Doc was right: Curves reveal a healthy body as well as the most historically attractive body, in spite of beauty trends or other social factors – especially for the men in our office.

For more of Doc’s perspective on libido and hormone levels, stay up to date on all upcoming speaking events and seminars in your community and be sure to follow Doc on Instagram @drpatrickflynn

Articles and Educational Resources to Expand Your Knowledge of Hormone Health and Weight:

Menopause Doesn’t Have to be Miserable! Here’s How to Transition Smoothly | The Wellness Way
Estrogen Dominance: Is this Imbalance Behind Your Hormone Problems? | The Wellness Way
PCOS Belly Fat: 6 Tips to Get Rid of It! | The Wellness Way
When Cupid’s Arrow Misses the Mark: Restoring Healthy Libido in Women | The Wellness Way 


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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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