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Health & Wellness

What's Your Body Shape?

As cliche as it sounds, every body is different. Some people have small frames and tend to gain weight all over. Some people tend to gain weight around the torso or the thighs. Some people have wide hip bones, and even when they are very lean, they will not be able to fit into the smallest dresses. Understanding your body shape can help you set realistic body goals, help ensure that you dress the best looking way for your body, and maintain your body confidence.

 width= About Somatotypes

There is a theory known as the somatotype, which is now decades old and was coined in the 1940s by William H. Sheldon. The idea behind somatotypes is that everyone can be categorized as being one of three types: an ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph. 1

Ectomorphs tend to be lean and slender, endomorphs tend to gain fat easily, and mesomorphs have an athletic build and gain muscle easily. 2

If you think about the people you know in your life, you can probably easily identify someone who fits into each of those categories. The idea behind somatotypes, however, has since come under heavy criticism, because of the fact that body types can change with age, diet, and exercise, and because his assessments using photographs were quite subjective. 3

Even if you do not believe that somatotypes have a use as a determinant of physical properties, they do have some other uses. If you describe yourself as an “ectomorph,” most people will have some understanding of what you mean, and this can help you when it comes to working out how to dress in the most flattering way.

Female Body Shapes  width=

Women have it particularly hard when they are shopping for clothing. It is tricky to find clothes that fit if you are not a “standard” shape and an average weight for your height. Petite women, obese women, women who are muscular, and women who have an unusual waist to hip or waist to bust ratio may find that fitted clothing does not suit them at all.

Having an idea of what your body shape is will help you pick clothing that will flatter you even if you are forced to buy off the rack. Let's take a look at some of the most common body types: 4


Women with a rectangular shape have a figure where their hips and upper body are about the same size, with a small dip at the waist but not a particularly defined one. This shape is a common shape for catwalk models because it means that clothing just hangs on the wearer. This means that it is usually quite easy to find clothing that fits!


Women with a pear shape have large hips and a small bust. This look can be accentuated using scoop-neck tops to make the shoulders look wider. You can balance the upper body with a padded bra and you can draw attention to the hips with chunky bracelets that will attract the eye when your arms are relaxed.


The apple shaped body is one with a large bust, smaller hips, and no real waist definition. Women with an apple shape would do well to wear A-line dresses or tops that fall lower than the hip-bone, short dresses, or flared jeans with pockets that provide definition to the hips.


The triangle body shape is one where the hips are wider than the rest of the body. Women with the triangle body shape tend to gain weight in the stomach and have to worry more about love handles than most other body types. To flatter the triangle body type, try wearing clothing that is darker towards the bottom than at the top, and draw attention to your upper body with chunky earrings or necklaces.


The oval body shape has a large bust and narrow hips with a full midsection. Women who have this body shape tend to experience weight gain around the stomach area before other areas. They have flat buttocks and slender legs. If you have this body type, show off those legs.

There are many other body types and some people don't quite perfectly fit one specific shape, but learning to dress for your body type is an important skill.

 width= Your Body Type Can Change with Age

Both men and women go through changes in their body type and fat distribution as they hit puberty, then again as they get older. Women, in particular, will notice that their fat starts going to more feminine places during puberty and that they then notice another change in their fat distribution when they hit menopause as their lean body mass may decrease and their body fat distribution may change due to changing hormone levels. 5

While some body fat is normal, your fat distribution does matter, and if you notice that you are getting 'rounder at the middle, then this may be cause for concern. Fat under the abdomen—the hard kind, not the under the skin kind—is not healthy, and having a lot of it can greatly increase your risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. 6

Changing Your Body Shape with Exercise  width=

If you really don't like your body shape, it may be possible to enhance it slightly with lifestyle changes. 7 Resistance training will add muscle mass which can firm up specific body areas.

Weight loss will also result in a reduction of fat mass, although it is difficult to predict where the fat will come from. For most people, it will come from the extremities first, and the arms, breasts, or hips, before other parts of the body. Subcutaneous fat is usually lost before visceral fat, so those who have a lot of weight to lose should try hard to reach their goal weight because their initial weight loss may not be enough to get rid of the unhealthy visceral fat. 8

 width= Some Fat Is Essential

If you are trying to enhance your body shape, remember that it is almost impossible for a woman to get “too bulky” by building muscle unless they actively go out and take steroids, eat a lot, and lift very heavy weights for long periods of time. In addition, some body fat is “essential” fat, and women biologically require more fat than men.

For women, the “essential” body fat percentage is 10 to 13 percent. This is the amount of fat they require for their reproductive system to function properly. Dropping into or below that percentage of body fat is unsustainable and could result in serious health issues. 9


Some things about your body can be changed, but some cannot. Rather than stressing about how your hips are too narrow or your wrists aren't quite as slender as your friend's, try to embrace what you have and learn how to dress to accentuate the features that you do like about yourself. Do what you can to keep your body healthy, and enjoy all the things that you can do with it. Your health is most important.

PhotoCredits: TreesTons/, gpointstudio/, stockyimages/, LightFieldStudios/, MilanMarkovic78/

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