Hey guys, today I am going to continue my exploration of female fitness aesthetics. I have written on this subject here and here. This analysis, however, will be a bit deeper than the last posts. In this analysis, I will go over everything fitness and aesthetics. Specifically, I will define what the current fitness and aesthetic trends are, what role genetics play in how our female bodies look and how one can achieving an athletic body type with curves.
I have written two articles on female aesthetics, one was more of a visual guide on how proportion, symmetry and size factor into what makes a woman’s body aesthetic. In this post, I also went over how the media is largely responsible for creating these trends and how women’s low self esteem is targeted. The main point of this post was the idea of subtlety and how visually, less can be more, the point of which is to encourage us to love our own bodies whilst also making healthy choices for ourselves. The second article was specific towards how natural bodybuilding results in more feminine looking physiques. This post is going to draw onto the ideas mentioned in my last posts and go more into how nuanced beauty and aesthetics is. I hope you enjoy reading!
Fitness trends (History and Culture)
Firstly, body ideals are both socially constructed and always hard to reach. They serve a function and change with the seasons. “In fact, body ideals throughout history were largely fantasy, though people went to extraordinary lengths to try and meet them. Especially since the 19th century, most of these body ideals were created to exclude, to make people doubt themselves. If history has anything to teach us about the ideal body shape, it’s that it will change tomorrow.” The fitness industry is no stranger to the changing trends, with the evolution of certain body preferences through media platforms like television, magazines or social media, comes the gym as a tool to achieve that particular aesthetic. Take for instance the 1980’s where a more lean and toned figure was desired with the likes of Olivia Newton John wearing spandex and how the movie Grease was popular.
Women at the time wore spandex during the day much like athleisure is popular now, a re-emergence of this trend in large to go with the popularity of Gym Shark and the rise of fitness influencers on social media platforms like Instagram. “Muscle tone, especially in arms and legs, was particularly important as it helped portray the energetic lifestyle image of the “working woman” of the 1980s.” This was just a few years after the beginning of female bodybuilding’s emergence into mainstream culture. “It was 1977, and the idea of women developing their muscles for primarily aesthetic purposes had just been created. It was the beginning of women’s muscle competitions.”
Fast foward to 2018-onward, the aesthetic that is highly popular is the Instagram slim-thick look. What this aesthetic entails is an hourglass shape with large breasts and butt. This trend has found it’s way into gyms with women looking to emulate this aesthetic through heavy lifting. Women are now developing their lower bodies through squats and deadlifts as well as isolating their glutes/hips through hip thrusts/extension exercises. “Women are squatting their way to a thick bottom, which has prompted an increase in popularity for heavy lifting in females, highlighting the positivity around strong women.”
Can we predict how the next fitness trend will develop? Regardless, we should aim to make fitness about health and wellbeing as trends are going to continue being made as a facet of capitalism. “Set yourself realistic goals in the gym and remember that improved overall health and fitness outweigh fitting into the next body shape craze.”
Make sure to check out my previous post on fitness aesthetics where I go into details about how culture plays a role in how we perceive of our own beauty/incorporate others’ beauty standards. In collectivist cultures like Lebanon, our previous generations had more of a cultural emphasis on fertility indicators like curves and women displaying feminine features. With the rise of obesity in the region mainly impacting women, a dire need for competetiveness in women’s athletics presents itself. Women need to unlearn the belief that physical fitness is selfish and see it as a collective value (a healthy me is a healthy us).
A shift that fitness is a helpful individualistic mindset and is useful for the collective can help. Womens’ sense of self can grow as a result of physical achievement, our culture does not actively encourage this type of development.
Athleticism or plastic surgery as tools to achieving a curvy aesthetic (aka:’Slim-Thick‘)
We are seeing a shift in body type preference and two distinct ways of getting to that point. The body type that is currently trending is the hourglass shape or the ‘Slim thick‘ aesthetic. ‘Slim thick’, as described above, is the narrow waist, large hips, round butt and large breasts or shoulders. This aesthetic is socially constructed as in it is both subjective and is a representation of the pear shape/hourglass body type. On one side, this aesthetic comes naturally to athletes who have the body fat distribution in their body (natural hourglass/pears) like track&field athlete Karina Nicoldine.
This type of body is largely achievable by developing the lower body and tightening the upper region for natural pears/hourglass types. What about plastic surgery, why are women getting it? This route involves caricaturing the hourglass shape and adding a cartoonish-undertone to our already unique female bodies. By undergoing the Brazilian Butt Lift surgery, one can expect to have their female bodies outlined and carved into an hourglass shape. The nuance is that this new fat distribution requires the exact same maintenance that a natural hourglass would need to do (i.e.: exercise/train to maintain firmness/tightness of the muscles). The fat distribution is therefore the Brazilian Butt lift’s unique selling point, the only portion exercise cannot affect. I will discuss more on this in the following segment on genetics.
All Things Genetics
The next segment of this blog post is going to discuss the role that genetics, bone structure and fat distribution play in achieving our physiques. Bones in general determine how muscle mass and fat look on our bodies (ie:having a small frame/or narrow ribcage). Bone structure can also be responsible for why some women have hip dips and/or naturally rounded hips. This is largely genetic, meaning it is inherited, fixed, and unique to our own biological predispositions.
Genetics includes bone structure and fat distribution. An interesting frame for assessing aesthetics is that beauty is diverse and unique, aside from societal influence, any body type is beauty simply for how it exists in it’s individuality. Fat distribution is largely fixed in our genetics and can be altered by means of hypertrophy or surgical means.
Fat distribution is influenced by genetics (primarily, one’s ethnicity, one’s family, sex etc) and can be categorized as hourglass, pear shape, inverted triangle, ruler or apple shape. Interestingly, having more body fat whilst maintaining a healthy waist to hip ratio of 0.7 puts women at an evolutionary advantage when it comes to being perceived as attractive by men. “Women with more gynoid fat and a lower WHR are considered more attractive. This is a fact that is ‘programmed’ into our subconscious and probably goes back in time to our ancestors. These women will find it easier to find a mate, they will then find that their bodies are primed for reproduction and pregnancy.”
Fat distribution is therefore a result of our genetics and trends like having an hourglass shape do not factor into how much of a biological obstacle some women’s fat distribution can be. “Research shows conclusively that genetics plays a large role in why some people store more fat in certain parts of the body regardless of whether they are overweight or not.” This is, however, where exercise can come and by building healthy muscle tone, one can achieve a curvy aesthetic. “Curves are breasts, hips, butts thighs, etc. and their ratio in comparison to waistlines and other parts of the body. With this in mind, one can be petite and still be considered curvy. In the same way, one could be plus size and also be considered curvy. But curvy is not synonymous with overweight.” What eventually determines if one is curvy is their body parts’ in relation to another with accentuated contours, not just fat cells. Check out this post on workouts for building lower body mass.
Finally, genetics also can determine what type of muscle fibers you can develop. Simply put, some bodies can develop their fast twitch muscles quicker (resulting in more muscle mass and a more developed physique) whereas others develop slow twitch fibers quicker (resulting in a lean aesthetic). This is not within our area of control. The nuance that genetics gives us can be that our own individual makeup is a strength precisely because it cannot be replicated. One thing is for certain and that is hard work and a focus on self will never disappoint us in terms of aesthetic results.
Do not be afraid to lift heavy in any case, the female body can only benefit by developing complementary muscle (it adds both dimension and visual information to the body) and it will improve our bodies’ overall health. “The body itself doesn’t know whether your intention is to be a bodybuilder or to compete in some other category of muscle contests. It has no idea if you’re an athlete trying to improve your performance by becoming stronger and leaner, if you’re a model or an actress trying to shape up and look better or if you’re simply trying to improve how you look and feel by getting in better shape.”
In conclusion, trends are constantly changing so learning to embrace our own bodies’ is crucial. Furthermore, genetics plays a pivotal role in how much our bodies can respond to physical exercise. This should not deter us from chasing our absolute biggest fitness goals, it only requires that we shift the focus to looking like the best version of ourselves and not anybody else.
Check out my Youtube video covering this subject below:
I hope that you enjoyed this post on fitness aesthetics, please let me know what you thought about it in the comments section below.