Why Chasing the "Hourglass Body" Isn't Worth It
Are you dreaming of having an hourglass body? Learn more about its history as a beauty standard, and why it may not be worth it to push yourself just to get it.
In women's fashion, the hourglass body is the epitome of desirability. The shape is so named because it resembles the hourglass: wide up top and on the bottom (breasts and backside) and narrow in the middle (waist). In the Victorian era, women even wore stuffy and restrictive to accentuate – or create the illusion of – an hourglass figure. Ouch!
In the 1950s and beyond, the world went wild for old Hollywood starlets like Marilyn Monroe: the unofficial poster girl for this coveted body type. Today, celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, and Scarlett Johansson regularly grace the covers of magazines with their perfectly proportionate curves. Even young Filipino celebrities like Chie Filomeno are rocking corsets for a cinched waist.
It’s easy to think that the hourglass body is equally common among non-stars given its ubiquity in popular media, but it's not. Surprise! Only 8% of modern women naturally have it. And yet, many of us are encouraged to diet and exercise our way to the same silhouette. The question is: is fitting into the mold worth rejecting the body you have?
The Ever-Changing World of Beauty Standards
In recent decades, more and more brands seem to embrace inclusivity, diversity, and body positivity in their messaging. Despite these developments, one fact remains inescapable: beauty standards are still as unattainable as ever. In late 2022, the New York Post (NYP) even published an article titled, "Bye-bye booty: Heroin chic is back."
The headline sparked controversy online, with many commenting that it reinforces the . Of course, its dissenters are right to shut it down – but sometimes, it does feel like certain body types go "in and out of fashion."
If you grew up in the early 2000s, you must remember when thinness was the ideal – the so-called “heroin chic” the NYP alludes to. You couldn't tune into cable TV without seeing skinny celebs with impossibly flat tummies in your favorite teen drama. With the rise of social media in the 2010s, people with different body types finally had platforms to show the world there was .
But now, as evidenced by the above article and other similar recent coverage, it appears the pendulum is swinging the other way again. That just goes to show the ever-changing nature of , and how trying to change yourself to fit them is an exercise in futility.
Reality Check: Human Bodies Aren’t Made of Clay
Despite what some exercise videos online will have you believe, no amount of working out or dieting can change your body shape or natural silhouette. Fitness experts stress that "spot-reducing body fat" is a myth.
If you want wider hips and a smaller waist to recreate the hourglass form, you can't focus on those areas alone – weight fluctuations will happen all over. As Women's Health puts it, "Where you hold on to [fat] for the longest is all down to genetics."
Sure, you can tone and sculpt some muscles to create the illusion of your desired figure. But, all told, your body isn't actually made of clay – you can't force it into any shape. So, when your hinges on an impossible idea of what you "should" look like, it's a recipe for life-long dissatisfaction. You risk never seeing your body for what it is: a wonderful and unique part of you that will always be worth celebrating.
How to Embrace Your Body Through Positive Habits
Curbing an unhealthy obsession with one's appearance is easier said than done. You'll find body-focused messaging everywhere you look, which just feeds into everyone's hyper-fixation. If you want a healthier , it helps to get into wholesome habits that allow you to . Start with these.
1. Practice mindfulness during body care rituals.
You may know how to cleanse your body efficiently, but there's also a aspect to body care. Savor your routine and invest in products that make you want to stay in the moment. The Dove Go Fresh Cucumber & Green Tea Body Wash and the Dove Go Fresh Sakura Blossom Body Wash smell as refreshing as a spa day, which makes this simple act feel even more relaxing and intentional.
and leave the skin fresh and lightly scented, while and Himalayan sea salt extracts soften the skin. These non-sticky formulas deliver up to 24 hours of hydration with regular use, ultimately making you feel more comfortable and confident in your own skin whatever the weather.
2. Appreciate what your body can do.
Remember: your body is so much more than something to look at and scrutinize. It also allows you to experience the world, create beautiful things, and connect with the people around you. Pretty awesome, right? When you give your body credit for all it enables you to accomplish, it becomes a little easier to love it – no matter its "flaws."
3. Combat negative self-talk with positive affirmations.
Is your inner dialogue overly critical? You may be engaging in negative self-talk, which can distort the way you see yourself. Don't let your worst thoughts define you. For every criticism, remind yourself that you have good qualities, too. Making an effort to about your body goes a long way in strengthening your relationship with it.
Chasing an hourglass body will never be worth it if it puts your mental and physical well-being at risk. If your "body goals" keep you from being good to yourself, you should ditch them altogether. Instead, focus your energy on developing a more positive body image. That's something that will never go out of style.