Every year after the age of 25, the average
American gains one pound of body weight yet loses one third to
one half pound of muscle. Consequently, our resting metabolism
decreases approximately 2% to 5% every decade after 25 years
of age (Evans 1992). Proper exercise and sound eating habits
can reverse this process and restore the appearance of our figure
or physique. But, what constitutes a beautiful or aesthetically
Bodily beauty has been described as the average of everyone.
In other words, if everybody's visual traits were reduced to
numbers and the average of the numbers were converted back to
a human figure, this average of the human image would constitute
According to evolutionary psychology, the
attraction to bodily characteristics is said to be biologically
innate. Early humans were attracted to particular physical traits
in the opposite sex; an attractive individual was, and still
is, perceived by having traits conducive to optimal procreation.
The classic female figure suggests fertility. For women, fuller
breasts and hips 1/3 wider than the waist, or a waist-to-hip
ratio of 0.7 is considered the ideal. A smaller waist suggests
youth and greater fertility. Similarly, the early male physique
implied protector and provider. For men, a more muscular physique
with wider shoulders and a waist to hip ratio of 0.9 is considered
more attractive. A larger waist would signal ill health and,
thus, bad genes. We have inherited the physical and psychological
characteristics of the winners of this evolutionary beauty contest.
It also appears that beauty is defined by cultural constructs
that continue to change throughout time. Ideal beauty also varies
in different societies around the world. Western culture at this
time has embraced the fashion model as an exemplar - greatly
because we are constantly inundated with these images which are,
ironically, far from the norm. We find beauty in physical traits
we see often, particularly those images portrayed in the media.
However, those images are often unrealistic for us to achieve
ourselves. Just looking at a fashion magazine tends to leave
women less satisfied with their weight and size (Turner et al.
1997). In fact, people with eating disorders are much more likely
to report being influenced by unrealistic body images in the
media (Murray, Touyz & Beumont 1996). Interestingly, due
to various editing and imaging techniques, not even models or
actors are as attractive as their own image.
in body shape are dictated by differences in the size, shape,
and proportion of muscle, fat, and bone. The distribution of
body fat has more variation in its shape and size than does muscle.
A greater than normal fat content can increase the likelihood
one's body shape will vary from the norm. Certainly, there are
those who can maintain an attractive body at a higher-than-normal
body fat. Their genetics for fat distribution allows them to
maintain normal shape and proportions despite their higher body
Visual aesthetics involve the compliments of lines, shapes,
and proportion. The irregular lines and shapes of an unfit body
result in its less-than-ideal beauty and aesthetics. The combination
of muscle building and fat loss can restore bodily aesthetics
In today's sedentary society, many individuals have significantly
less muscle mass and more fat than what they had when they were
younger. Likewise, most of us probably have less muscle and more
fat than what we would of had if we would have lived hundreds
of years ago, performing daily manual labor. Exercise and sound
dietary modifications can restore more normalized proportions,
curved segments, posture,
and lines associated with an attractive body.
"Man tries to exaggerate what nature has given him,"
Charles Darwin (1809-1882).