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Body Shape. How to calculate Your Shape & Change Your Body

Research tells us that both women and men prefer certain body shapes both in themselves and each other. These views are in agreement and hold across all cultures.

In other words, the shapes women prefer in themselves and admire in other women is the same female shape men prefer as well. What men prefer in themselves and admire in other men is the exact shape women also prefer on a man. And this opinion is pretty consistent whether you are a male or female living in North America, South America, Europe or Asia.

What shapes am I referring to? I am talking about the hourglass shape on a women and the V-shape on a man.

These shapes are not only shown to be preferred in research, but they have also been shown to be the healthiest body shapes as well.

The weight loss industry completely ignores research on body shape, opting instead to focus on weight loss.pearandapple

It is important to remember you can be losing weight but not necessarily losing just fat. Many people lose a substantial amount of lean body mass as well. The eat less, exercise more model of dieting, where low calorie foods are consumed and aerobic exercise dominates, can burn between 20 and 50% lean tissue.

This has consequences for the metabolism since basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy you burn at rest, is heavily influenced by muscle. Losing muscle during dieting is one of the best predictors of weight regain and overcompensation. It is also one of the reason 66% of people following these programs end up fatter after the diet than before they started.

Standard calorie counting diet do not necessarily change the shape of the body. Atl east not in the right direction. Often an overweight apple or pear shaped person can end up a smaller more pronounced and mushier apple or pear shape.

The question is how do you know if you are heading in the right direction and achieving the shape you desire?. How can you tell if the results you are achieving are A) burning mostly fat and B) changing your shape.

The V Shape For Men:

To assess your V-Shape take circumference measurements around your waist and chest. The waist measurement should be at the smallest point between the bottom of the rib cage and above the belly button. The chest measurement should be around the line of the nipples.

Once you have the measurements, divide your waist measurement by your chest measurement to get a “waist to chest ratio”. The ideal value is between .7 and .8 with .77 being the most preferred measurement by women.

I call this the apple point. Once it starts going above .8 you are no longer in the V-shape zone and have entered the apple shape zone.

What is most compelling about this type of assessment is that it is independent of size. A thin looking man and a more heavy set man could have the same waist to chest ratio and both be apple shaped.

Most men in the western world will have values well above .8 and weight loss does not always change these numbers. In fact, it is possible to lose weight and have this ratio stay exactly the same or even go up.

Knowing your measurements and doing repeat assessments is one of the best ways I have found to evaluate your chosen diet, exercise and lifestyle results.

If you start out with a waist to chest ratio of .79 and after two weeks you have lost weight but found your apple number went up to .81, instead of down closer to .77, you know you are doing something wrong. I have seen this very thing occur in several male clients on very low carb or intermittent fasting diets.

They were losing weight, and even burning mostly fat including from around the waist, but the stress of the program was causing them to hold onto, or burn fat more slowly from the middle. This was something that I would not have caught previously with just standard body composition machines.

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The Hourglass Shape For Women

Women will want to assess two points. The waist to chest ratio, or apple point, and the waist to hip ratio, or pear point. (the waist to hip ratio can also be used to assess the apple shape as well).

A perfect hourglass shape has almost equal numbers. Research shows the ideal is between .6 and .8 for both points. .7 is optimal and the most desirable female look according to both male and female assessments of the female physique.

When the waist to chest ratio or waist to hip ratio starts moving closer to .8, this is a sign the women is becoming more apple shape. This occurs in many women after menopause even with no change in weight.

When the waist to hip ratio starts falling below .7, and moving closer to .6, the women is becoming more pear shaped.

This often occurs in young women who engage in low calorie eating and excessive cardiovascular exercise. I have seen pear shaped women join marathon running training programs and watched as they lost weight in their waist, breasts and arms while the hip area became more pronounced.

Of course they were losing fat from this area as well, but at so much of a slower pace compared to the rest of the body that they appeared to have a more accentuated pear shape by the end. They started out as a pear shape and ended up a smaller, more pronounced and often more mushy pear shape in the end.

Using the pear point as an evaluation point would have caught this negative change

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A better evaluation tool

In my clinical practice I long struggled to find a way to assess these attributes. I have used every tool imaginable from skin calipers to body composition home scales, to before and after photos, and circumference measurements.

After close to twenty years in the weight loss industry and seeing the need to incorporate shape change into my assessments I finally derived my own evaluation measurement.

The tool I now use was built by Metabolic Effect team member Gary Leake. Gary is both a past national bodybuilding champion and computer programming geek. That made him the perfect person to develop this tool.

This tool along with frequent before and after pictures, made unbelievably convenient because of smart phones, are now my chosen evaluation measurements for body fat and shape change.

Feel free to use it. This tool is the one I use with all my consulting clients and we have made it free for you. If you are a health and fitness professional, feel free to use with your clients.

The tool assesses body fat via the US Navy’s body fat formula using circumference and weight. It also calculates the apple and pear points for you so you know what direction you are heading in. Gary even built in the ability to mail yourself your results.

You can access the metabolic effect body fat and shape change calculator HERE

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Let me know what you think. And if you are having difficulty with making a dent in your shape, check out our belly fat and cellulite programs. These are the best education on the market in attacking the apple and pear points and achieving real shape change.

Sampling of References for this article include:

  1. Weeden, et. al. Physical attractiveness and health in Western societies: a review. Psychological Bulletin. 2005 Sep;131(5):635-53.
  2. Crossley, et al. What is an attractive body? Using an interactive 3D program to create the ideal body for you and your partner. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e50601
  3. Platek, et al. Optimal waist-to-hip ratios in women activate neural reward centers in men. PLoS One. 2010 Feb 5;5(2):e9042
  4. Epel, et al. Stress and Body Shape: Stress-Induced Cortisol Secretion Is Consistently Greater Among Women With Central Fat. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2000 Sep;62(5):623-632
  5. Price, et al. Body shape preferences: associations with rater body shape and sociosexuality. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e52532



Want help with the process?  The Swimsuit Diet Program goes through the exact, diet, exercise and lifestyle changes to create the hourglass and V-shapes for women and men.