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We Are Wired To Detect Subtle Differences In The Curves Of A Woman's Belly

Chasing Body Ideals: The Role of Skeletal Proportion

I remember being told I had poor posture when I was a kid and I shouldn’t slouch or let my stomach poof out because when I did I looked fat. But I’ve come to understand that poor posture or a fat-looking belly may not always be something we can control. Much of our appearance stems directly from our skeletal geometry. In other words,  for some of us, that ideal proportion is simply not in the cards. No matter how thin we get.

Long waistlines look thinner than short ones.

Being long waisted gives you a sexy belly and it comes from the lumbar spine

The term “short-waisted” generally refers to having a short ribcage and a short lumbar spine. In all practicality, a long lumbar spine matters more than a long ribcage.

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I have a lot of experience with this particular ratio.  My ribcage is plenty long but my lumbar spine is tragically short. My ribs used to bump into the top of my hip bone but when I changed my diet, around age 35, I grew almost an inch (I write about this in Deep Nutrition). My late life growth must have occurred in my lumbar spine because now I can bend to the side without my bones colliding. Now, when I wear pants, they sit above my hips, instead of squeezing the lower ends of my ribs. Just a tiny bit of growth–right where nature deems it sexiest–brought big improvements to my mobility and comfort.

You don’t need to be “long-waisted” to have a sexy torso.

Another sexy feature is the geometry of the ribcage.

sexy belly proportions depend on ribcage shape


Specifically, the ratio of your 10th rib to your 6th, as seen from the front (or the back). We want the number 6 rib, which lines up with the nipple, to be significantly wider than number 10, which marks the point of maximum curvature of the side of the ribcage, as viewed from the front.

As you can see in the photos, the difference is very subtle. But it’s enough to help one of these women enjoy a modeling career spanning over 2 decades. (Claudia Schiffer, the second from the left.)

Not all flat bellies are equally sexya curvy belly begins in the ribs

I also have personal experience with this ratio, or rather, the lack of it. My ribs are big and boxy, giving me more of a gorilla shape than a girly shape.

short waists can be sexy

These are all sexy women. Even though they have relatively short waistlines, with a short span between the lowest rib and the belly button compared to Claudia Schiffer (above), they are nevertheless all sex symbols. That’s partly because of the shape of the ribcage.

When you combine these two features, you create a zone of intensely attractive geometry. You get a nice long expanse of flesh above and below the belly button and an hourglass silhouette. This zone has a powerful effect on the male gaze, sucking his helpless eyeballs to it like a space shuttle caught in a tractor beam.

Of course, to be a supermodel you need a great face too. We talk about the geometry of the face in Chapter Four of Deep Nutrition entitled Dynamic Symmetry: The Beauty Health Connection. But here I want to focus on the belly because the math of the ideal torso is simpler and easier to recognize than the math of the ideal face.

Why I talk about body proportions.

I talk about the ideal body for two reasons.

First, ideal body proportions are related to health.

The concept of ideal proportions dates back to ancient Greece. Philosophers and mathematicians identified a proportion they called the golden ratio because it imparted beauty and strength to architecture and living beings. Some call it the divine ratio. Some call it the God ratio and believe it is proof of the existence of God. The Parthenon is famously constructed according to this principle, and the ratio exists throughout the natural world. Plants and animals all demonstrate golden ratio proportions throughout their bodies. (For an introduction to practical applications of the golden ratio widely used today, visit this page.)

For us humans, ideal geometry leaves more room for a baby to develop and exit the birth canal. A greater waist-to-hip ratio is also associated with greater fertility What’s less appreciated is that more ideal geometry also imparts greater flexibility, and more evenly distributes mechanical stress to reduce wear and tear on connective tissue throughout the body.

And secondly, it’s important to understand what’s achievable–and what’s not!

Focusing on waist size alone is dangerous. It suggests that we can all automatically trim down to this feminine proportion by burning off more belly fat. And people scam us for billions of dollars a year by exploiting our desire for this dainty look. Sure, we can flatten our waistlines with hard work if we want to. But diet and exercise can’t suddenly transform a blocky ribcage into a curvy one. Nor can we work our way up to a longer spine.

So if you have a short waist or a large ribcage, give yourself a break.

Unfortunately for me, I have both a short waist and a boxy rib cage. Bummer. So what’s my solution? There isn’t one!! (Okay actually there is a rather extreme solution. Surgery to remove ribs! No thanks.) Personally, I just deal with it. And I try to forgive the judgy looks I inevitably get. Nature has hardwired us to be attracted to a certain geometry. That’s just a fact.

When talking about physical features that impact how others judge our attractiveness, I like to remember these wise words from Temple Grandin: Nature is cruel. But we don’t have to be.

For more on the geometry of beauty, and how it relates to health, nutrition, and genetics, read Chapter 4 of Deep Nutrition.

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I just wanted to confirm: you grew an inch taller at the age of 35?

    If so, was this from lifestyle changes? Specifically, diet and exercise? Is it possible for an adult male in his 30’s to do the same?

    1. I have no doubt its possible for other adutls, in fact I’ve heard a few people say similar things. Especially if you have tall people in your family and are on the short end. Also if you had a terrible diet and you drastically improve. And get real SUN!

  2. What about narrow hips vs wide hips? I’m curious to know more about this. My body type is ectomorph, so I’ve always been very narrow and skinny which has had a significant impact on my confidence. People say I’m too skinny, etc. My mother had a very narrow body with hardly any curves and I have the same thing going on with my body.. I think my best bet is to eat nutrient dense food in larger quantities while doing more resistance training in all the right areas. Do you have anything thoughts on this and the cause for this body type as it not very common and isn’t ideal at all. Iver looked into it and can’t find much information on the causes of narrow hips in women. (Inverted triangle shape) Surprisingly I have given birth naturally with no pain killers to two babies on two different occasions, and it went smoothly and quickly.

    1. Yes that’s the best bet! I think the issue is genetically people are programmed to respond to low nutrtion in different ways. Some get short, some get thinner bones and a more narrow silhouette. With a good batch of progesterone in our systems and a healthy enough metabolism to responsed to it, a woman’s pelvic ligaments can relax to facilitate birth.

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