Wondering what your body shape is? It depends on far more than just your lifestyle (although lifestyle certainly plays a massive role). In fact, your genetics are what determine your true body shape.
Your build, your metabolic type, and your hormones that are perhaps the most influential body shape factors that were given to you by your genes. Unfortunately, you can’t change your genes. The good news, however, is that you can work with your genes to create and sculpt a healthy looking figure, regardless of what body shape you have.
The Universal Allure of the Hourglass Body Shape
You could say that we’ve probably hit peak hourglass figure envy at this time in society. All you’d have to do to prove this fact is go on Instagram and find popular celebrity or model accounts who love to show off their bodies — posing in the most ridiculous ways that accentuate their curves.
These women even go as far as to get plastic surgery or use Photoshop apps to make their waists look slimmer, their buts look bigger, and their breasts look fuller. Believe it or not, this isn’t just a cultural trend shaped by mass media. The allure of the hourglass figure actually dates back to ancient generations.
According to research, women who had an hourglass figure were thought to be more youthful and fertile. They were also thought to be healthier overall (due to a healthy endocrine system and balanced hormones) and therefore at lower risk of major diseases.
In a 2011 study that involved tracking the gazes of men who looked at photos of different women, researchers found that men tended to look and linger on women’s breasts and waist. They also rated women with hourglass figures and smaller waists as more attractive.
Of course, it isn’t just men who think women with hourglass figures are attractive. Women think so too. There’s been study after study on the influencers of both male and female attractiveness.
When it comes to female attractiveness, virtually all of the research is conclusive about one major determinant: Waist-to-hip ratio. The most ideal waist-to-hip ratio is apparently 0.7. The waist-to-chest ratio is more of a secondary factor, but also a big influencer.
The most ideal waist-to-chest ratio is about 0.67 to 0.69—almost 0.7, which would make a perfect hourglass figure if paired with a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio. So what does that mean for women who seem to be pretty far off from those ratios?
Well, it could mean that there’s potentially more to figure out about their own bodies, and perhaps more work to do that could take longer. You can’t argue that a woman with a natural hourglass shape, a fast metabolism, and no underlying health issues isn’t going to have a harder time than an apple-shaped woman who’s sensitive to stress and suffers from a health condition like PCOS or hypothyroidism.
How to Determine Your Body Shape
You might already know about some of the most popular female body shapes. Of course there’s the iconic hourglass shape, but then there’s also the pear, the apple, the rectangle, and the inverted triangle. Some are even labeled differently, depending on where you look.
For instance, an apple shape might also be referred to as a round shape while a rectangle shape might be referred to as a column shape. And then there are some more obscure shapes you might come across, like the oval shape, the spoon shape, or the diamond shape. These body shapes are a little less common.
But here’s the big secret about female body shapes: No woman can be perfectly categorized as any single shape! Each woman’s body is unique and the body shape categories are really just for general purposes.
As an example, you could have an hourglass shape, but you might also have really broad, V-shaped shoulders. There are arguably up to 20 different female body shape categories (many of which are just slight variations of each other), but for the sake of keeping things as simple as possible, we’re going to stick to the main five that are the most distinct: hourglass, pear, apple, rectangle, and inverted triangle.
To determine your body shape, you’re going to want to calculate the two main figures mentioned above: your waist-to-hip ratio and your waist-to-chest ratio. To do this, get yourself a proper measuring tape.
You could try to do it with a string and then measure the string afterward, but it will be so much easier and accurate if you just use a measuring tape designed for taking body measurements.
Measure Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio
Take your waist measurement: Wrap the measuring tape around your waist at the smallest point, about an inch or so above the bellybutton (but below the ribcage).
Take your hip measurement: Wrap the measuring tape around your hips at the widest point (around the buttocks).
Divide your your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
So, for example, a waist measurement of 30 inches divided by a hip measurement of 42 inches would result in a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.71428571, which can be rounded off to 0.7.
Measure Your Chest-to-Hip Ratio
Take your waist measurement: Wrap the measuring tape around your waist at the smallest point, typically about an inch or so above the bellybutton (but below the ribcage).
Take your chest measurement: Wrap the measuring tape around your chest across the nipple line.
Divide your your waist measurement by your chest measurement.
So, for example, a waist measurement of 30 inches divided by a chest measurement of 37 inches would result in a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.81081081, which can be rounded off to 0.8.
Please note: The following body shape categories based off of waist-to-hip and waist-to-chest ratios are very general guidelines and can’t determine if you are or aren’t at an ideal body weight (or if you’re at risk of disease or any health-related conditions).
To determine this, you should get your body fat percentage tested by a professional for the most accurate results.
If Both Your Waist-to-Hip and Waist-to-Chest Ratios Are Close to 0.7…
Well, what do you know, you’re an hourglass shape! The ideal is to have both the waist-to-hip ratio and the chest-to-hip ratio fall between 0.6 and 0.8 at equal figures—0.7 being most ideal.
When these two points are almost exactly the same, you have an hourglass shape. Other characteristics of an hourglass shape include:
- Having a similar shoulder width and hip width
- Having full breasts
- Having a defined waist
- Having full hips
- Gaining/losing weight mostly in or from the hips/butt and breasts (as opposed to the waist)
If Your Waist-to-Hip Falls Below 0.7…
You become more pear-shaped the closer your waist-to-hip ratio moves toward 0.6. Becoming more pear-shaped is a common side effect of trying lose weight by restricting calories to a very low amount and/or engaging in long sessions of steady-state, moderate-intensity cardio.
Other characteristics of having a pearh shape include:
- Shoulders that are narrower than the hips
- Smaller breasts
- A defined waist
- Excess weight carried below the waist (hips, butt, thighs)
- Difficulty losing weight from below the waist
If Your Waist-to-Hip and/or Your Waist-to-Chest Ratio Are Closer to 0.8…
You become more apple shape as your waist-to-hip or chest-to-waist ratio (or both) move closer to 0.8. That higher figure essentially means that your waist is slightly larger in comparison to your hips or chest. This is a common occurrence in menopausal women to due hormone changes that cause more fat to be stored in the abdominal area and less in the lower body.
Other characteristics of an apple-shaped body include:
- Hips and chest that are about an equal width
- Possible chest and waist larger than your hips
- A much less defined waist
- Fat is stored and gained mainly in the upper body and abdominal area
- Legs remain relatively small and/or slender
If Your Waist, Hip, and Chest Measurements Are All About the Same…
You’re rectangle-shaped if there’s hardly any difference between the three measurements to take for your waist, hip, and chest. Waist-to-hip and waist-to-chest ratios will be higher — around 0.9 possibly up to 1.0 if all measurements are about the same.
Characteristics of a rectangle shape include:
- A long, perhaps “boxy” appearance with very little curves
- Small breasts
- Narrow hips and shoulders
- A very small or no defined waist
If Your Shoulders Are Noticeably Larger Than Your Hips…
You’re an inverted triangle if your shoulders are at least 5% bigger than your hips. The size of your waist is mostly irrelevant here. You might have to do an extra measurement for this one since you may not be able to use your chest measurement. Get a friend to measure you from behind from one end of your shoulder (where the bone ends) to the other.
Characteristics of an inverted triangle include:
- An overall V-shaped body with broad shoulders and chest
- Narrow hips
- A somewhat defined waist or a straight waist
- Potentially fuller breasts
- Weight gained or stored mainly in the upper body
All Body Shapes Can Benefit from a Healthy Diet and Regular Exercise
No matter what your body shape is, you can enhance your feminine curves to make them slightly more hourglass-like by cleaning up your diet and engaging in regular physical activity that you actually enjoy. It’s not just about losing weight — it’s about balancing your hormones too.
Although you can’t ultimately change the true body shape that your genes gave you, you can at least work toward minimizing fat storage in stubborn areas and defining the muscle in the areas that you’d like to be more pronounced.
For instance, a pear-shaped woman who struggles to lose lower body fat while keeping her breasts looking fuller might benefit from a diet designed to balance estrogen and an exercise regimen that focuses on toning the thighs and building the chest and upper back.
An apple-shaped woman who struggles to lose abdominal fat and achieving feminine curves might benefit from a diet rich in low GI (Glycemic Index) foods and an exercise regimen focused on muscle building and stress relief — perhaps 2 to 3 strength training workouts a week plus lots of leisurely walking.
All body shapes are beautiful, and all body shapes can look healthy and feminine.