Facts and Figures

It’s no secret that many women have body image issues.

Sometimes, when we look in our mirror, it seems as if someone replaced it with a carnival mirror; what else can account for those bulges and crinkles staring back at us?

So what are the perfect measurements for a woman?  I checked out the measurements of some of the women praised for their beauty throughout the years:  Mae West, the sexy movie star of the 1930s, measured 36-26-36 in 1933.  Marilyn Monroe, blond bombshell actress, was 36-23-37.  Twiggy, trendy fashion model in the 1960s, was a scant 32-23-32.  Lynda Carter, the actress who donned the fitted Wonder Woman costume on the TV series, measured 38-24-36.  Beyoncé, mega pop singer, has been said to measure at 34-26-38.

And if Mattel’s Barbie could come to life, it’s estimated that her measurements would be 39-21-33.  I don’t know about you, but the only way I could see a 21-inch waist on my body would be for me to don a body-organ damaging corset.  The Spanx certainly isn’t going to hack it.

So what’s realistic anyway?  Interestingly enough, more current statistics indicate that the average measurements for a woman are 41-34-43 (see Jana Conway’s excellent article).  That is big difference from the numbers on those supermodels who strut on the runway during Fashion Week.  And what does a 41-34-43 woman look like?

As a matter of fact, The Body Shop apparently wondered the same thing.  And in 1997, it started a campaign aimed at the “average woman” which sported posters of Ruby, a full-figured doll who made Barbie look like a waif.  Here she is:

Mattel had a problem with her, so — long story short — Ruby’s gone.  The Body Shop pulled its campaign.  But it is rather fascinating to see the difference between what we expect women to look like and what many women do look like.

So forgetting the numbers (the figures) for a moment, what are the facts about women’s bodies?  Well, here are a few:

Most women have some fat on them.  In fact, they are supposed to.  Women with insufficient fat stores do not menstruate properly.  A little “meat on the bones” isn’t a bad thing.

Models and actresses often have help achieving their enviable figures — from nutritionists, chefs, personal trainers, and even private exercise gyms.  Keeping to a particular size is part of their job.

Even a lot of those models and actresses are altered in photographs with some parts made slimmer, others fuller, and a lot of airbrushing.  In addition, gravity-defying undergarments and beauty treatments account for some of that camera-ready appearance.

Some women could stand to lose some weight. (Hey, I’m being honest here!)  We need to take care of the body God gave us.  By getting in better shape and eating healthier, they will have more energy and feel better about themselves.  Attracting a “Check you out!” from the husband when they walk into the bedroom naked is a big-time bonus.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  We throw out this line all the time, but our media indicates how little we actually believe it.  Still, we should!

After the Bath by August Renoir

August Renoir – After the Bath

I have an artist friend who has pointed out that many of women in famous nude paintings would have to shop in the full-figured women’s department.  Yet, there was something beautiful about them that captured the artist’s attention and continues to capture ours.

Ultimately, body image is about two things:  (1) how you look and (2) how you feel you look.  Comparing yourself to someone else or an unreal standard is asking for trouble.  If you aren’t happy with what you see in the mirror, ask yourself why.  Is it because you’re simply aging or you have a body type you aren’t sure about?  Those things are what they are.  Is it because the closest you’ve been to exercise equipment in the last five years is when you accidentally wandered into that department at the store while looking for Christmas decorations?  Maybe you need to make your health a higher priority.  (Check out Fit Marriage’s Thrive90 program.) Is it because Angelina Jolie looks better than you?  Get over it.  She looks better than all of us!

Learn to love the body God gave you.  Take care of it.  And let yourself be a real-bodied person, with imperfections, wrinkles, and something to pinch at the midsection.  Be confident.  Be sexy.  Be beautiful. God already knows you are.

8 thoughts on “Facts and Figures

  1. Anonymous

    Interesting… This is exactly why I denied my husband most recently. Things are so much more jiggly than they used to be.

  2. J

    Anonymous – Most husbands would love their wives to bring that jiggly stuff around them. In fact, allowing your husband to delight in your body can also make you feel more beautiful. Today’s post is for the hubbies, by the way. Should be posting soon!

  3. Ed

    Interesting post!

    I think it might also be mentioned that many men prefer women who aren’t thin or even “average size”. The fashion industry simply ignores this. At the risk of speculation, I think some of this might have to do with the influence of homosexuals in the fashion world: they design clothes that are not necessarily meant to make women look like women or to flatter women with fuller figures.

    It would be impossible to find a universal body type that everyone would find most attractive. My own favorite is definitely on the chubby side, which my wife has. Aside from the fact that most women don’t look like those in the media, it is important to remember that many guys like it that way.

    And some people, of course, naturally tend toward being thin-and there’s nothing wrong with that either. The probably is that the media has been pushing borderline anorexia, or even out right anorexia on the public for a long time.

    For some, at least, and perhaps most people, it should not be so much a matter of accepting that you can’t meet certain standards set by the media, but understanding that those standards themselves are flawed at best.

    In all honesty, I think that women one might see in the average grocery store tend to look quite better than TV and movie stars.

    Keep in mind also that the media has a vested interest in making women feel less than perfect because this way they can sell more diet, exercise, clothing, and all sorts of other products to the public!

  4. Anonymous

    As a man married for 17 years and two months (my wife died a little over a year ago) I would tell her “you are beautiful” and she said, “I know you think so.” I’m glad she knew I thought so, but I wish she could have come to a place where she thought so too.
    Many, if not most men, prefer the woman we love and live with, than the fantasy woman in some magazine or movie or tv ad.
    Kyle

  5. Bob

    I married my wife because I loved her, not because she was hot. The fact that she gained 30 lbs due to going on the pill in the 4 months between my proposing and our wedding day didn’t change that. I have loved her as much as her heaviest as I have at her lightest.

    What changes is her self image and from experience I can tell you that often there is little a husband can do to fix that. Our opinion is suspect, precisely because we love our wives. Even mine and my wife will tell you that I have a long track record of brutal honesty when my opinion is solicited (“Yes honey, that outfit does, in fact, make you look fat.”) Sadly, my giving her my honest opinion about looking bad in something carries much more weight than my honest opinion that she looks hot in something or looks great nude.

    I think women are genetically predisposed to see themselves heavier then they are and are equally predisposed to latch onto, and believe, any negative thing they perceive to have heard.

    While I think men can help, I think it is important for all involved to remember that we can only help as much as we are allowed to help.

  6. Zookie

    Excellent post! When I was young and quite thin, I really did see myself as chubby. Why? Because when I was in college, the fitness program measured my wrist size and used that, along with my height, to determine what I should weigh. I was a very thin girl at 5’10” and 135 pounds. And the chart said I was obese. That’s right, obese. Because I have very thin wrists but broader shoulders and hips, I didn’t weigh what the chart said I should weigh, which was about 115. Did I believe it? You bet I did! Did the person taking the measurements and telling me I was fat even LOOK at me and see that I wasn’t? Nope. It took me years to overcome my negative body image. Yes, I would look in the mirror and see a fat girl. I look back at pictures of myself and see a very beautiful girl with a fabulous body. I was in my 30’s before I was able to see myself as a thin, attractive woman. So sad!!!

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