Culture and fashion have a lot to do with our definitions of beauty and sexiness and they change all of the time. Every decade or so, the popular standards of beauty, attractiveness and health seem to go through a transformation, but it’s a cyclical thing. We seem to alternate between thin and real.
The Recent History of Beauty
In the 1930s and 1940s, women who were tall and very slim were considered the height of beauty. Then in the 1950s, women like Jane Mansfield, Rosalind Russell, Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe came along and womanly curves were the ideal. In the 1960s, the idea of the ideal became more divided. The fashion magazines and designers held up women such as Twiggy and Jane Birkin as their version of beauty, while Hollywood (and most men) seemed to prefer curvier, more dynamic women like Raquel Welch and Bridget Bardot.
From the 1970s through the 1980s, skinny seemed to be back in. Women slaved away in aerobics classes and went on the Beverly Hills Diet, trying to achieve the long-legged, skinny look of Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated models.
But now, even those models have changed a bit. Women have gotten tired of trying to achieve an ideal that isn’t healthy, requires constant deprivation and which they themselves don’t really consider sexy. At the same time, while there are still a lot of skinny models and celebrities out there, women who are obviously strong, healthy and curvy have become icons. Think Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé and Jessica Biel.
The Irony of What We’re Told Are the Ideals
What I find a little ironic is the difference between what the women’s magazines put forth as “sexy” and “beautiful” and what the men’s magazines say. By men’s magazines, I mean publications like Maxim, which put out their annual lists of the most beautiful women. If you look at the women’s fashion magazines, you’ll still see underweight, underfed, under-muscled women. But if you look at the men’s lists, you’ll see athletes, bodybuilders and the healthier, stronger models and celebrities.
At the same time, women themselves want to be healthy, want to have energy, want to be strong and want to eat a tasty, satisfying diet.
So why are the magazines and designers targeting women presenting an image that is counter to both what women really want and what men seem to really want in women? Maybe because it helps them sell the clothes that they really want to create. Maybe because it’s easier and cheaper to put together a fashion collection that is all one size (this is supposedly one of their justifications) and that fashion collection looks and drapes “better” on women who have flat, straight bodies. Whatever the case, these publications and designers are selling women something they don’t really want and that their men don’t seem to want either!
A Curve by Any Other Name
If you ask men their favorite things about a woman’s body, you’ll hear many of the same answers over and over again. Answers like, “The curve at the small of her back” or “That curve between her waist and her hips.” Are you getting the idea? A woman has that curvy dip at the small of her back because she has a real butt. She has a curve between her waist and hips because she has defined obliques and actual hips. One of the reasons she looks like she has such a tiny waist is that she has strong, defined shoulders.
It’s muscle that makes curves and it’s curves that make those beautiful shapes and lines that are so appealing to the eye; not just men’s eyes but our own.
Why An Appreciation of Curves is Great for Women
There are a number of reasons that this trend towards appreciating a strong, sexy, curvy female body is great news for women.
First, it means that women can embrace and capitalize on their natural curves, and even reshape their bodies to make the most of those of their gorgeous, natural shapes.
Second, strong is healthy. There’s nothing healthy about being skinny, weak, wan or frail. Who cares how small your jeans are if you don’t have the energy to wear them anywhere? For that matter, who cares how small your jeans are if you look awful once you take them off? We want to look good in our jeans, but also in our bathing suits, or shorts or nothing at all, am I right?
Third, curvy is much more doable and livable. Being rail thin (if that’s not your genetic norm) takes constant deprivation and sacrifice. Trying to achieve and keep that ideal means going without all of the foods you love and even going hungry. It means a vicious cycle of dieting, backsliding and dieting some more. It’s not a fun or fulfilling way to live.
The Benefits of Being Happily Curvy
There are so many benefits to focusing on building lean muscle and having a sexy, curvy, real body.
You Get to Eat!
One of the most awesome benefits of embracing your curves and even enhancing them is that you get to eat like a real person. Those super-thin models worry about every morsel they put in their mouths and are constantly on a vigil, waiting for an extra pound to sneak up on them or an extra calorie to show up in their food journals at the end of the day.
On the other hand, women who are building and carrying lean muscle eat. They have to, because muscle burns calories, skin and bones do not. Women with lean, sexy, muscles have to feed those muscles, so they eat far more than women who are merely thin and women who are trying to get that way. In fact, many women who are on muscle-building programs struggle to eat enough! Many of them do not count calories or track every bite. They may watch their macros (making sure they get the right amounts of protein, fat and carbs) but they don’t calculate themselves to death. They focus on eating a wide variety of healthful, whole foods.
You Have Incredible Energy
Starving yourself means depleting your energy stores. When you eat a diet that has enough calories and enough nutrients, you are constantly fueling your energy. You not only get stronger, but feel stronger. Your hormones are in balance and your blood sugar isn’t leaping and falling all day, so you not only have more energy, but sleep better and are in a better mood so that you can use that energy to live a real life, full of activity, fun and new things to learn and do and explore.
You Build Great Health
Regular weight training and building lean, strong muscle does so much for your overall health and your longevity. It helps to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis. It helps improve your cholesterol levels, which helps prevent heart disease and stroke. It helps to regulate your blood sugar and insulin response, which helps you to avoid Type 2 diabetes. There are many more health benefits, but these are some of the most important.
You Actually Create Your Best Body
Of course, we can’t forget that we want to look great and most of us work out because we want to feel great about how our bodies look. The wonderful thing about weight-training and building muscle is that you can actually redesign your body. No amount of cardio and dieting can do that.
Muscle-building allows you to enhance the things you like about your body, change or disguise the things you don’t and create a more beautiful you. For instance, if you’re short-waisted and tend to look a little thick in the waist, you can build up (not bulk up)
your shoulders and backside and whittle your waist, creating the smallest, sexiest waistline you’ve ever had. If you hate your flat backside, you can create a high, rounded, sexy one with moves like squats and lunges. Skinny or flabby arms are one of the fastest things to change. You can get more defined, chiseled arms and shoulders in far less time than you would think. In fact, you’ll see results in your arms most likely before anywhere else.
Being Strong and Healthy Enhances Your Life; Being Weak and Skinny Limits It
One of my favorite things about building and maintaining a lean, curvy, strong body is that it enhances every area of my life. I can work harder, I can play harder and I can love better. Being strong and healthy gives you the confidence and ability to do anything you want to do. You can hike up a mountain, compete in a physique contest, change your career path or learn to ski. When you’re fit and healthy and confident, the whole world opens up to you. When you transform and redesign your own body, everything else becomes a possibility.
For all of these reasons, I know that building a lean, healthy, curvy body is the way for women to transform their bodies, their health and their attitudes about themselves. I’ve done it, I’ve seen it and I continue to see it every day.
In celebration of my new Curvalicious workout program, my blog posts this month will focus on how to redesign your body with lean muscle and create those sexy curves, all while eating like a real woman and having energy to burn!