The changing shape of the ideal body

A 1935 ad reminds us it wasn’t so long ago that “skinny” was undesirable.

Our first reaction to the above ad is shock and horror.

How could anyone fall for this ?

But then, it is only fair to question…how could anyone fall for this?

Same worries, different times. The ideal feminine physique is ultimately defined by what we eat as a society at large. Let’s go on a time traveling adventure to witness the ongoing evolution of the beautiful body.

Start your flex capacitors…

It’s 1935.  The country is in the grip of the great depression. Meat is expensive, and produce, if it isn’t canned from the year before, comes from whatever is in season. Starchy, high fiber foods are added to every meal enhancing the feeling of fullness and staving off hunger. Sugar is a rare extravagance. Some are lucky enough to afford an annual sweet for Christmas, although many look forward to receiving the exotic gift of an orange on their pillow Christmas eve.

A curvy figure is the epitome of health. It equates to vitality, wealth, sexuality, and the ability to bear healthy children. Aphrodite incarnate.

Now time travel to 2010. Oh. Hold up. We are already there. In the past 100 years we have seen farm subsidies on corn and soy commodities, WWII, the boon of the 1950s, and better living through chemistry – which introduced chemically enhanced flavor to food while keeping it fresh longer, like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated things and msg…just to name the greatest hits.

Currently we are in the midst of another depression. Fresh fruits and vegetables, and local, organically raised meats are expensive. Wild fish prices continue to rise. Chemicals, new technologies, and processes make packaged food readily available and inexpensive.  So many chemicals are found in these inexpensive packaged foods, that often there is no “food” left at all.  As a nation, most of what we eat contains sugar. All things considered, it’s a rather bizarre obesity epidemic created in the US where often citizens are simultaneously overweight and malnourished.

Now, in 2010, aphrodite looks something like this:

Being skinny now embodies a certain attitude towards health. Skinny now equates to health, energy, financial success,  happiness, sexuality, and youth. It says, “I have time to exercise and take care of myself.”

This is not to be a comment on whether it is right or wrong, just that it is. Standards of beauty have been alive and well in humanity since the dawn of time. We are instinctively hardwired to aspire to a certain ideal, whatever it may be at that time.

Societal ideals will continue to exist. Seeing beyond the cultural ideal takes strength and vision, but it also coincides with our favorite approach to health  – the moderate one.

One response to “The changing shape of the ideal body

  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

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