Apple-shaped women who carry their weight around their stomachs tend to feel worse about themselves than those who are pear-shaped, a study suggests.
It considered 1,093 women and measured their bodies as well as their percentage of body fat, while asking them questions about their weight.
Those with fat around their abdomen were more likely to label themselves overweight and say they wanted to weigh less compared with those who carried it on their hips, buttocks and thighs – a body type often described as pear-shaped.
The researchers then studied a further 215 women to find out if their body shape had an effect on how attractive they felt. ‘Women with fat distributed in their hips, buttocks and thighs did not view themselves as less attractive nor did they have lower self-esteem, no matter how much fat they had on their bodies,’ said study author Dr Michael Barlev, an assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University in the US.
Apple-shaped women who carry their weight around their stomachs tend to feel worse about themselves than those who are pear-shaped, a study suggests (stock image)
‘Women with fat distributed in their abdomen, in contrast, viewed themselves as less attractive and had a lower self-esteem the more fat they had on their bodies – it’s quite a striking difference.’
Dr Barlev said the women’s feelings may be a response, in part, to the way society regards them. ‘Society views and treats women differently depending not only on how much fat they carry on their bodies but also on where on their bodies they carry it,’ he added.
This might be for evolutionary important reasons, he said, in that storing fat on the hips, thighs and buttocks – the gluteofemoral region – may be better for reproduction, so men evolved to find it more attractive. He explained that research had shown storing fat in these lower regions could be a sign that a woman had not yet had children, meaning ‘she has her whole reproductive career ahead of her’.
Gluteofemoral fat is also a store of fatty acids mobilised during late pregnancy and milk production for baby brain growth, he said.
Those with fat around their abdomen were more likely to label themselves overweight and say they wanted to weigh less compared with those who carried it on their hips, buttocks and thighs – a body type often described as pear-shaped (stock image)
And studies have shown that a high ratio of gluteofemoral to abdominal fat is linked to better health for the mother after giving birth and better brain development for children.
‘One take-away that I think is very important is that these findings overturn what we think about fat,’ said Dr Barlev.
‘Rather than all fat being unattractive or “bad”, this shows that some women who will be classified as overweight or even obese can actually have very positive psychological outcomes.
‘For example, everyone thinks self-esteem goes down in heavyweight women. We’re showing that’s not the case for women with a gluteofemoral fat distribution.’
The findings were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.