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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Woman With the Perfect Body: WHR or BMI or What?

Just what is perceived as "perfection" of body for an attractive woman? We all realize that beauty is subjective and one beautiful female feature can make irresistible to another person's adoring eyes, but what is the one physical feature that strikes most men?

Legs, breasts, buttocks, curves -- sexy combinations of all proportions dazzle guys. No one can say that perfection is even a term that helps define sexiness. And, all attempts to simplify the attraction and the beauty of a woman's physique are pretty pointless. But, this blog has no problem with editorial comment purely for entertainment and the sake of argument. So, here we go.

What is the main attribute that draws us men like bees to honey and makes us say, "Damn, girl. You got it all."

WHR Claims

Professor Devendra Singh and his daughter Adrian Singh, psychologists from the University of Texas, claim their research proves that lovestruck men have only one thing on their minds: a woman's WHR - waist-hip ratio, calculated by dividing waist circumference by that of the hips.

In the Royal Society journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, they analyse thousands of examples of British literature from the 16th to 18th centuries with Dr. Peter Renn of Harvard University to show that what men find attractive today was also true hundreds of years ago: a narrow waist and thus an hourglass shape. A small waist is a core feature of feminine beauty that transcends ethnic-morphological differences.

(Roger Highfield, "Men Lust for Hourglass Curves, Say Researchers,"
The Telegraph, January 10 2007) 

If WHR determines perfection, just what is the "perfect WHR"?

Researchers at Cambridge University figured out exactly what makes a perfect swivel-hipped walk with "a more angular swaying and bounce to the hips." Their results? The closer that ratio is to 0.7 (waist measurement is 70% of the hip measurement), the sexier the swagger.

"A WHR of 0.7 for women has been shown to correlate strongly with general health and fertility. Scientists have discovered that the waist-hip ratio (WHR) is a significant factor in judging female attractiveness. Women with a 0.7 WHR are usually rated as more attractive by men from European cultures."

This 0.7 ratio translates into a waist of 25 inches and 36-inch hips, making that "tick-tock" walk look absolutely perfect. But the ratio is not necessarily related to measurements or weight—just the difference between those two measurements.

Women who are very thin can still have a WHR of .7. It's not the size of the woman, it's the configuration. A woman could be a size 2 and still have a WHR of 0.7, or she could be a size 22 and have a WHR of 0.7.

(Charlie White, "Mathematicians Figure Out What Makes Women Beautiful,", August 27 2007)

BMI Claims

BMI, or body mass index, is a calculation based on weight and height that used to determine a person's body fat percentage. The general rule is that the higher the BMI, the higher the body fat percentage. Scientists in the U.S. have said the ideal BMI for both sexes is between 18 and 25. A rating below 18 is regarded as underweight, while above 25 is overweight. Over 30 is regarded as obese.

Science contends that men are attracted to a certain body mass because it is associated with better health and a sign of good reproductive potential. Previous studies have indicated waist-to-hip ratio is the most influential factor in female attractiveness because of the association between curvy hips and fertility.

Lately, experts at University College London and Newcastle University, show BMI is even more critical, accounting for 75 per cent of body attractiveness. Waist-to-hip ratio, leg length and other body parts make up the remaining 25 per cent.

Almost 700 men and women from Britain and Malaysia took part in a study published in the journal Body Image. Both sexes were shown images of real women in five categories, from emaciated to obese and asked to score how beautiful they thought each was.

In Britain, the most attractive BMI was found to be 20.85. In Malaysia the figure was marginally higher. The results also showed that attractiveness dropped quickly either side of the 20.85 figure.

So while an obese woman was only half as attractive as a woman with the perfect BMI, skinnier women were rated even lower. Viren Swami, a psychologist at University College London who led the study, said: "Our findings show that BMI is a better predictor of attractiveness than curves. BMI is a considerably stronger determinant of bodily attractiveness than waist-to-hip ratio."

  • To calculate your BMI: Multiply your weight in pounds by 703.
  • Divide that number by your height in inches.
  • Divide by your height in inches again.

("Score the Perfect Figure,", June 28 2005)

TV shows and movies of the late 1990s portrayed women as being very thin. At a time when average female BMI hovered around 28 – actress Calista Flockhart had a BMI of 15.6. The trend continues today – much of the entertainment industry is fixated with thinness – in spite of a viewing public that keeps on getting heavier.

We see a lot more photos than we used to. And, everything has been retouched. The last 40 years has seen explosive growth in the accessibility of visual media. Portrayal of full bodies rather than just faces has also been a trend. Modern channels of media allows a level of scrutiny undreamed of 40 years ago. Idols are rapidly created and discarded – leaving behind impressionable masses endlessly pursuing impossible goals.

A bizarre combination of male desire and waifish androgyny; thin, no hips, big bust. For most this is only possible with a genetically-blessed bone structure along with surgery – something which America is pursuing with a vengeance. Couple this with the “toned” look, where muscular (but not overly-so) women play lead roles in Hollywood, and champion the fitness industry.

(Jim F. "How Female Body Shape Changed In the 20th Century,", 2013)

History Shows Changes In Judgment

Articles written about Elsie Scheel, the 24-year-old Cornell student who was declared the "ideal woman" in December 1912, show just how much our idea of "perfection" has changed since the early 20th century.

In 1912, Scheel was selected by a medical examiner from a pool of 400 Cornell women as "perfect" and the epitome of "perfect health." She received worldwide media attention, and wound up inspiring countless comparisons.

The New York Times described her as "a light-haired, blue-eyed girl whose very presence bespeaks perfect health," and The Star, a Wilmington, Del. paper, reported that Scheel weighed 171 pounds, stood 5 foot 7 inches tall, and had similar proportions to the famous Greek statue, Venus de Milo.
In January 2010, blogger Kate Harding calculated what Scheel's BMI would have been. She wrote:

"Miss Elsie Scheel’s BMI would have been 26.8, placing her squarely in today’s dreaded 'overweight' category. At Banana Republic, to pick a random contemporary store, she would wear a size 8 top, a 12/14 bottom, and probably a 12 dress with the bust taken in."

Ironic by today's standards, Elsie Scheel lived a long and healthy life before dying of a perforated bowel, at just shy of 91 years of age.

(Emma Gray, "The 'Perfect Woman' In 1912, Elsie Scheel, Was 
171 Pounds and Loved Beefsteaks," December 27 2012)

The Perfect Look -- You Decide

WHR Contender: Kelly Brook, English model, actress, entrepreneur, television presenter.

 BMI Contender: Jodie Kidd, model. "I love being this size - I finally feel sexy," she said recently. "I was too thin, but I was also getting really sour, really jaded."

 Modern Contender: Calista Flockhart American actress, widely known for playing the title role in the Fox television comedy-drama series

 Historical Nonhuman Contender: Venus de Milo.

Historical Human Contender #1: Camille Clifford, the Gibson Girl. The Gibson Girl image that appeared in the 1890s combined elements of older American images of female beauty, such as the "fragile lady" and the "voluptuous women". From the "fragile lady" she took the basic slender lines, and a sense of respectability. From the "voluptuous women" she took a large bust and hips, but was not vulgar or lewd.

Historical Human Contender #2: Sophia Loren. She in 1955 has the quintessential hourglass.

Legendary Human Contender: Marilyn Monroe. No introduction necessary.

And, the beat goes on.
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