Redefining the Perfect Bod
What comes to mind when we’re asked to think of the “perfect body?” Perhaps flat stomachs, long, lean legs and pencil-thin arms? The image of the rail-thin, size zero model is perpetuated and glorified in our magazines, commercials and movies as the standard beautiful person. But are these “perfect” women really perfect from a health perspective? Let’s break it down.
Former editor of Vogue, Kirstie Clements, revealed in her tell-all, The Vogue Factor, the unhealthy habits of ultra-thin models of the fashion world. Among these are eating tissues to make themselves feel full, starving themselves for multiple days until they can barely stand and even staying hospitalized on drips in order to maintain their malnourished figures (Stefani Forester, Huffington Post).
Obviously, if this is the way to maintain the perfect body, we need to think about redefining our standards. We should be looking up to people who are healthy, fit and happy—not those who are starving themselves to maintain a catwalk-acceptable physique. How about women who eat healthy foods, work hard to maintain strong bodies and have a positive perspective of themselves? Here are some standards for what a healthy female body looks like:
1. 14% or higher body fat. Anything lower than 10% is dangerous to a woman’s essential functions, including her reproductive cycle, but 14% is really the lowest most female athletes ever get down to. Anything over 31% is considered obese. (Andrea Cespedes, Livestrong).
2. Healthy height-weight ratio. This can be determined by the Body Mass Index (BMI). I wouldn’t say you should live or die by this index (because of the vast differences between our individual bodies), but it is a good indicator of a healthy weight range for someone of your height. You can calculate your BMI here.
Photo of Whitney Lockwood by Chelsea Sherman
3. Evidence of physical activity. I’m not saying you need to look like a competitive bodybuilder or an Olympic athlete, but a healthy body should have some evidence of fitness. If you eat well and are active daily, your body will reflect that. And in the long run, your fitness is an even better indicator of your overall health than body fat percentage (Stefani Ruper, Whole9). Basically, you might weigh a little more than the skinny girl next door, but if you are more athletic than her, you may just be healthier overall.
4. Low stress. I know this standard can’t necessarily be gauged by looking at someone, but stress level is actually proven to be “more important than body fat percentage in promoting health and longevity” (Stefani Ruper, Whole9). I can only imagine how stressful it is to be on a tissue and hospital drip diet—reason number 5 million why the size zero fashion model shouldn’t be our standard for the perfect bod.
It can be easy to get down on ourselves for not being the definition of beauty according to our society’s standards. Taking this approach to what the ideal body looks like can help us to set realistic goals and look at our bodies in a kinder, healthier way.