When the saying, “strong is the new skinny” exploded on social media, it seemed like a positive step forward for female body image.

However, women may now feel the pressure to be both strong and skinny, fueled by unrealistic body images in the media, including social media, research shows.

“I think the standard for female beauty has always been unrealistically thin,” said Brooke Whisenhunt, a psychology professor at Missouri State University whose research specializes in obesity, eating disorders and body image.

“Now I feel like we’ve added another variable that is difficult for most people to obtain,” she said. “We’ve made our ideal less realistic for women over time.”

Roles in action and superhero movies have seen stars from Alicia Vikander to Brie Larson transforming their already-thin figures into muscular powerhouses.

Strength training was the most popular fitness genre in the U.S. in 2017, according to ClassPass, a global company that offers access to 8,500 fitness studios.

There’s also no shortage on social media of posts from women showing off their figures, and the lengths they went to obtain them, whether in the gym or in the kitchen. Instagram shows more than 60 million posts with the hashtags #fitspo and #fitspiration at this moment.

Whisehunt and a former student, Frances Bozsik, gathered nearly 150 female undergraduate students to see if the women were aware of more female models featuring thin but muscular physiques and whether they wanted to achieve that look too.

Half of the nearly 150 undergraduates were shown images of Miss USA pageant winners from 1999 to 2013 and rated them on muscularity, thinness and attractiveness.

The undergraduates’ ratings showed that both muscularity and thinness of the pageant winners increased as the years wore on, according to Whisenhunt.

The other half of the nearly 150 undergraduates were shown two different versions of the same photo of a model. In one image the model was left as is. The other image was digitally enhanced to remove muscles from the model’s frame.

The undergraduates found the thin, muscular image of the model more attractive, Whisenhunt said.

Bozsik, now a Ph.D. candidate at University of Missouri-Kansas City, conducted the research nearly two years ago as part of her master’s thesis. It was published in January in the research journal Sex Roles.

“It seems as though the quest for a toned body adds just one more thing to strive for — another layer of pressure for women,” Bozsik, who was not available for comment, wrote this week about her research. “Not only do they need to restrict caloric intake, but they also need to add a muscle-building exercise routine.”

Whisehunt said their research did not attempt to answer why or how the feminine ideal appeared to shift.

“My own hypothesis is the media, including social media, is creating increased pressure for women to not only be thin but to be fit as well,” she said. “The reality is that our thin ideal has gotten thinner. We have an underweight ideal that is now muscular.”

The idea of women pursuing a more muscular, stronger physique would be healthy if it was not combined with a level of “thin” that has long been almost impossible to achieve for most women, according to Whisenhunt.

Kristin Freeberg, of Tampa, is a 25-year-old online personal trainer.

She said her female clients are no longer “scared” to try strength training. Though they usually start it to try to shape a certain body feature, they stick with it for reasons beyond the superficial, according to Freeberg.

“Once they start doing it, they tend to get more into it because it’s fun to try to challenge yourself more,” she said. “They realize it’s a good mental thing you’re doing for yourself and it helps to relieve stress.”

In their research, Whisenhunt and Bozsik observed that many social media fitness posts by women focus on achieving a certain look, rather than health.

Switching that mindset among women can be part of the solution, according to Whisenhunt.

“We need to be talking about motivation for exercise as less about how I can make my body look, to what I can do to make my body healthy,” she said. “Women worry more about calories burned on the treadmill than cardiovascular health.”

Freeberg, who has more than 11,000 followers on Instagram, said she challenges her clients and her social media followers to “love yourself no matter what.”

“My strong body is going to look different than your strong body,” she said. “I tell my clients to focus on their health more than what their body looks like. If you’re eating right and taking care of your health, your body is going to take care of itself.”

Freeberg added that she has also not seen extreme pressure to be both thin and muscular among the people she interacts with online.

“From my interaction with social media, people are more interested in being strong now rather than focusing on being super skinny,” she said. “They’re going for the strong look rather than the extremely thin look that models are.”

Parents and educators can also help give girls a realistic body image by educating them on “media literacy,” Whisenhunt recommends.

“In the same way we used to talk about Photoshopping thinness, we need to talk about muscularity and how most likely the images flashed onto our screen are not real, including social media,” she said. “Chances are they took many, many pictures to pick the one that looks the best.”

She added, “It’s about challenging the assumption that everyone looks like that naturally, or that I could look like that if I worked hard enough.”

Tell us what you think. Is there new pressure for women to be both strong and skinny? Are #fitspo and #fitspiration posts on social media inspiring or damaging? Tweet us @GMA!

Beauty Standards: See How Body Types Change Through History

Perceptions surrounding beauty and body types not only vary by culture, but have evolved significantly throughout history.

In a visually dynamic attempt to recreate this evolution, BuzzFeed Video showcased a diverse cast of models to depict more than 3,000 years of women’s ideal body types by each society’s standard of beauty.

Here are the ideal types broken down by place in time:

Ancient Egypt (c. 1292 – 1069 B.C.)

In this era, the ideal woman is described as:

  • Slender
  • Narrow Shoulders
  • High Waist
  • Symmetrical Face

In Ancient Egypt, women were encouraged in their independence and beauty. Ancient Egyptian society promoted a sex-positive environment where premarital sex was entirely acceptable and women could divorce their husbands without shame.

Ancient Greece (c. 500 – 300 B.C.)

During this time period, the ideal woman was:

  • Plump
  • Full-bodied
  • Light Skin

Ancient Greece worshiped the male form, going so far as to proclaim that women’s bodies were ‘disfigured’ versions of men’s. In this time period, men faced a much higher standard of beauty and perfection than women.

Han Dynasty (c. 206 B.C. – 220 A.D.)

In this time period, the ideal woman had:

  • Slim Waist
  • Pale Skin
  • Large Eyes
  • Small Feet

Small feet is one aspect of Chinese beauty that has continued for hundreds of years. During the Han Dynasty, Chinese culture favored slim women with long black hair, white teeth and red lips. Historically, the Chinese people have favored women with ultra-femininity.

Italian Renaissance (c. 1400 – 1700)

In this era, the ideal woman is described as having:

  • Ample Bosom
  • Rounded Stomach
  • Full Hips
  • Fair Skin

During the Italian Renaissance, it was the wife’s duty to reflect her husband’s status, both in behavior and outward appearance. A full body, light hair and light skin all were thought of as the superior indications of beauty.

Victorian England (c. 1837 – 1901)

This time period featured beautiful women as:

  • Desirably Plump
  • Full-figured
  • Cinched-waist

Ahh, the era of the corset. In this time period, women cinched their waists with tight-fitting undergarments to give the perception of the desirable hourglass figure. This time period lasted through the reign of Queen Victoria, considered by many as one of the most influential figures of the time.

Roaring Twenties (c. 1920s)

In this time period, the ideal woman had:

  • Flat Chest
  • Downplayed Waist
  • Short Bob Hairstyle
  • Boyish Figure

Beauty in the 1920s featured an androgynous look for women. They wore bras that flattened their chest and wore clothing that gave them a curve-less look. Women even shortened their hair, leaving behind the long-held belief that long hair signified beauty and desirability.

Golden Age Of Hollywood (c. 1930s – 1950s)

In this era, the ideal woman is described as having:

  • Curves
  • Hourglass Figure
  • Large Breasts
  • Slim Waist

The boyish figure trend didn’t last for long. Fast-forward a decade and the hourglass figure is back. The classic example of this ideal woman’s body is Marilyn Monroe, the Golden Girl of Hollywood.

Swinging Sixties (c. 1960s)

This time period adored this female look:

  • Willowy
  • Thin
  • Long, slim Legs
  • Adolescent Physique

Peace, love and thin seemed to be the motto of ideal beauty for women in the 1960s. “Swinging London,” a term used to describe the flourishing fashion and cultural scene of London in the 1960s, influenced women’s dress and style in America during the same period.

Supermodel Era (c. 1980s)

This era celebrated this body type:

  • Athletic
  • Svelte, but Curvy
  • Tall
  • Toned Arms

This time period brought about an exercise-crazed phenomenon. Workout videos were all the rage, encouraging women to be thin, but also fit. This era also saw an upswing in anorexia, thought by some experts to be caused by an widespread obsession with exercise.

Heroin Chic (c. 1990s)

The ideal body type of this time period featured:

  • Waifish
  • Extremely Thin
  • Translucent Skin
  • Androgynous

Homeless chic, anyone? The celebrated body of this time period was a woman who looked thin, frail and neglected. Model Kate Moss was the heroine of this heroin decade–pale, withdrawn and thin.

Postmodern Beauty (c. 2000s – Today)

Our current beauty standards for women include:

  • Flat Stomach
  • ‘Healthy’ Skinny
  • Large Breasts + Butt
  • Thigh Gap

Kim Kardashian, as unfortunate as it may be, is the poster woman of ideal beauty standards for the modern woman. Women are expected to be skinny, but not too skinny, with large breasts and a big butt, all while maintaining a flat stomach. Women increasingly are seeking plastic surgery ‘fixes’ to achieve this look.

*original post and all photos can be found here

Bonus: Women’s Makeup Throughout History

So, what do you think? What causes these dramatic shifts in beauty standards? A leading female historical figure or a famous model? The fashion industry or Hollywood?

Why Do Men Find Women’s Legs So Alluring?

Source: Sexy Legs With High Heals/Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have spent far less time studying men’s attraction to women’s legs than the typical man on the street devotes to gazing at them and maybe finding himself spellbound by them. To heterosexual males at least, what’s so special about female gams?

In preparation for this post, I first examined what evolutionary biologists have theorized about this phenomenon, and found most of their findings limited and inconclusive. Two of scientists’ discoveries, however (see, Quora.com, “Why do men lust after women with long legs?”) seem to confirm what most men (lay experts that they are) already grasp intuitively.

That is, studies have shown that men prefer women with longer than average legs, and they also favor women who have a higher leg length to body ratio—and, interestingly, the opposite is true of women’s preferences in men.

Still, my later investigation of several Web forums centering on this age-old topic was much more fertile. And they are what constitute the main focus of this post. In essence, what I learned from these forums is that a man’s bestowing so much attention on a woman’s legs is perhaps best understood as a kind of “visual foreplay” for them.

Curiously, many forum respondents contrast women’s legs to their breasts and buttocks (in the vernacular, commonly referred to as “T & A”). In these comparisons, female gams are generally perceived as more suggestive, sensual, and seductive—whereas T & A are viewed as much more “in your face” sexual. One discussant, for example, sees women’s legs (along with their eyes) as representing the very “core of feminine sensuality,” proclaiming them a “soft whisper,” compared to the “loud trumpet” of more intimate, or private, parts of the female anatomy (see Quora.com “Why do men find women’s legs so attractive?”).

In another forum (“Why are men attracted to women’s legs?” Armageddon Online Forums), a respondent, obviously puzzled by his primary erotic preference, notes, “I love everything about the female body. However, for some reason, a sexy pair of legs is the first thing that grabs my attention. But why?”

And, though hardly conscious of it, he partly answers his own question by admiringly describing women’s legs as “slender, soft, smooth, and perfectly toned.” Moreover, he and many others allude to the length of female legs as itself contributing to their magnetic appeal and depicting an ideal of feminine pulchritude, which may, in fact, explain why tall fashion models far outnumber shorter ones.

It’s fascinating how many discussants on this topic seem to regard a woman’s legs aesthetically almost as much as they do sexually—as monuments of, or testimony to, a woman’s general comeliness or beauty. More than a century ago, Freud was so bold as to link the human aesthetic sense to sublimated sexual desire.

And though there may be some question as to just how “sublimated” we can consider a man’s attraction to female legs, there’s no doubt that such an attentional focus is at a farther remove from other, more direct, points of male sexual interest—or to the sex act itself. To return to what I described earlier, wondrously gazing at a woman’s legs might have mostly to do with a man’s innate attraction to the sensual, rather than the more explicitly sexual.

Yet, regardless of how this attraction is appreciated, the word that probably best characterizes such an allure is tantalizing—or, in some cases, taunting. Note the words of this respondent: “With clothing, legs can . . . be both revealed and concealed, which makes them almost uniquely empowered to allow women to tease and seduce men and inflame their imaginations. Legs being long, a little can be revealed, then a little more, then . . . and so on, all the way up. It all depends on how much wants to show. And sometimes less can be more.” (Quora.com).

In brief, a woman’s legs can at once please and tease. And while the partial display, or exposure, of a woman’s breasts or butt “function” more obviously in this seductive manner, it’s undeniable that for many men a pair of shapely legs alone have the power to effect this enthralled response.

Source: “Before Sunrise,” by Sandy Manase/Deviant Art

In a large variety of ways, contemporary culture, as well as mass media, have served to further intensify men’s fascination with women’s legs. And much historical evidence suggests that female limbs have always “exhibited” the ability to incite men’s carnal desires—at times, to the point of infatuation or fetishism.

Especially on TV and in ads, legs today are presented in a manner that can be seen not simply as provocative but as, at times, almost salacious. Shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” or Olympic events like ice skating and women’s (girls’?) gymnastics, can have the mixed, “non-athletic” consequence of leaving some men salivating.

Images of curvaceous female gams often seem deliberately calculated to encourage such prurient interests. Which may be why bare legs are so frequently “on parade” in commercials for men’s toiletries, sports cars, and alcoholic beverages. If many male turn-ons don’t extend that far beyond their adolescent visual preoccupations, Madison Avenue is only too happy to cater to these earlier fixations. And the least flagrant way they can do so is through focusing a male’s attention on a beautifully curved pair of well-toned legs (though, hopefully, just short of the point that the product being marketed is forgotten altogether!).

Moreover, in diverse ways, our highly materialistic culture seems almost to demand that women “heighten” their natural femininity to make it more enticing. To conform to societal standards, women are pretty much expected to shave their legs, which unquestionably increases their smoothness and erotic appeal. On top of this, skin softeners are promoted widely to further embellish such kinesthetic allure. And giving oneself a tan, or donning nylons or pantyhose, or wearing high heels, can enhance this effect still further.

As one forum commenter—and leg aficionado—puts it, such glamorous coverings give women’s legs “an even smoother, sheerer texture and conceal minor blemishes, suggesting physical perfection.” And high-heeled shoes “flex the muscles of the legs with each step, emphasizing shapeliness and fitness.” Additionally, “short skirts or slit dresses . . . draw the eyes to the legs and emphasize them.”

And addressing fellow males generally, this same contributor opines: “If you come to associate women’s legs with sex during puberty, that will probably stick with you for your whole life.” And, even more empathically, “A male who grows up surrounded by all this can be forgiven for developing an obsession with women’s legs” (“Why do men lust after women with long legs?” Quora.com).

Additionally, many exercises touted especially for women promise how much they’ll improve their legs’ muscle tone, and so increase their seductiveness. In short—and frankly, this is rather sad to say—all manner of things are promoted that almost compel women to regard their bodies as sex objects, presumably to help them most effectively appeal to a male’s senses—that is, sight (emphasizing shape, lines, and curves), as well as texture and touch.

Paradoxically, these aggressively marketed “enhancements” cut two ways: They can be seen as prompting women to further sexualize—even “objectify”—themselves (with clearly negative implications for their self-esteem), even as they hint at how they can gain additional power over all-too susceptible men. And if what Swiss-born writer Madame de Staël famously proclaimed some 200 years ago—namely, that “the desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man”—then, oh-so-rivetingly, women may be caught in the same biological bind as men are.

Finally, it ought to be noted that forum respondents frequently stress the intimate relationship between a woman’s legs and the more “pivotal” parts of their anatomy. And they do this quite aware that though a woman’s seminal opening may grant them the highest degree of sexual gratification, their legs yet offer them a “purity” of visual pleasure comparable to it.

One commenter, for example, comically admits: “If I had to pick one thing I like best it would be legs—in part because they go up and make an ass out of themselves.” A most curious pun that, at least indirectly, intimates how the higher up a man goes, figuratively, in making love to a woman’s legs, the closer he gets to what so many discussants rhapsodize as “absolute heaven.”

And this same contributor, glorifying what so many males find bewitching about the female anatomy generally, confesses that “there isn’t one inch of a woman’s body that doesn’t amaze and intrigue me. Every curve is a mystery yet to be revealed.” And—speaking specifically to “leg people”—he’s led to ponder: “Maybe it’s more about the journey than the destination” (“Why are men attracted to women’s legs?” Armageddon Online Forums).

NOTE 1: Of the many posts I’ve written on human sexual preferences, here are that most closely complement this one:

“You Can’t Much Help What Turns You On,”

“The Triggers of Sexual Desire: Men vs. Women,”

16 Things You Hate About Your Body — That Men Actually Love

Think guys only like “perfect” bodies?

Hate your hips? Whether they are too flabby, too bony, too narrow, too wide or otherwise unpleasant to your eyes, chances are, most men find them attractive.

Women waste an immeasurable amount of time sweating about body parts that men find sexy in any number of physical states.

Check out this list to find out why you should learn to love your so-called flaws after all.

1. Feet

Many men secretly love women’s feet. They don’t even pay attention to the usual body parts that you may be squeamish about. So go get a pedicure with your favorite color and add some enticing jewelry like a gold ankle bracelet and a beaded toe ring. You may be surprised and delighted by your man’s reaction. —Dr. Erica Goodstone

2. Hands

How delicate and inviting are your hands? What do they reveal about you? If you tend to hide them in your pockets or keep them squeezed into tight fists, you may be indicating that you are insecure and withholding. Try opening your hands and becoming a symbol of receptivity, caring and readiness to connect. —Dr. Erica Goodstone

3. Fingers

Do your fingers appear well groomed and classy. Are your nails neatly shaped with fresh polish in a pleasing or interesting color? Have you used your fingers to gently massage your man’s shoulders or to sensually tease his arms and back? You may be surprised at how appealing your hands can be as he imagines being tantalized by them. —Dr. Erica Goodstone

4. Back

How strong and smooth is your back? While some men are attracted by legs and butts, your man may enjoy stroking your smooth and shapely back. Whether you have defined muscles or just a nice back, without excess fat or skin problems, you may be surprised at how a man loves to massage your back and imagine the thrills you have in store for him. —Dr. Erica Goodstone

5. Butt

You’re worried that you have a big butt. So what! Do you realize that there are many men who just love that. They are actually aroused by the way it looks and also how it feels. Roundness is good. Men’s bodies are more angular so their brains actually crave and appreciate the roundness of a woman’s body, and you don’t have to be skinny. —Dr. Erica Goodstone

6. Lips

So, your lips are not big and luscious. They’re narrow and small. No worries. You can still run shivers up his spine if you use them in the right places on his body. And don’t forget the power of the words you utter in his ears. Use your most seductive tone and tell him how sexy and powerful he is. —Dr. Erica Goodstone

7. Makeup-free face

Women tend to feel self-conscious when they walk out the door without their makeup on. But most guys actually prefer minimal or no make-up. For example, Kim Zolciak, star of Bravo TV’s Real Housewives of Atlanta, made the news when people found out that she is actually much younger than she appears with layers of makeup on. —Larissa Rzemienski

8. Extra padding

Women tend to get upset when they don’t quite squeeze into their jeans, but in reality, men love a little extra padding. If padding isn’t popular, then why is Kim Kardashian on so many magazine covers? —Larissa Rzemienski

9. Fine lines

It may sound tempting to run out and get some Botox to fix those fine lines and wrinkles, but a natural face wins out over the too tight, unnatural face. Plus a few fine lines are proof of life experiences, confidence, and a greater wealth of knowledge. —Larissa Rzemienski

10. Love handles

There’s a reason they’re called love handles — so don’t get so insecure about the five extra pounds on your waist and hips. Men don’t really like emaciated and angular women with nothing to grab. —Julie Spira

11. Earlobes

If you’re humming to the song Do Your Ears Hang Low? — don’t fret. When he’s nibbling on your ears, he’s not using a measuring tape to decide on the shape of your lobes. Men love to nibble, so, take off the huge hoops when you get home and give him some space for some earlobe TLC. —Julie Spira

12. Breasts

While flat-chested women think men won’t want to date them, those who are top-heavy are saving up their money for breast reduction surgery. Meanwhile, at the end of the day, men love confident women, regardless of breast size. Go ahead and wear a push-up bra or a full-support bra to make you feel more comfortable. Wear sexy lingerie to bed, but take a pass on surgery. He’ll have fun fondling your breasts, no matter what size they are. —Julie Spira

13. Vulva

Stop the surgery to make the lips symmetrical! Men don’t care and don’t notice. This most personal part of the female, the entire vulva area, is an elixir for men to behold. —Katherine Forsythe

14. Cellulite

Men may not love cellulite, but they don’t hate it like women do. What turns guys on is the whole female body. They tell me women are too hung up on parts. One woman was so obsessed about her cellulite-laden butt that she backed away from her lover as she stood up after sex. Finally, she said, “OK, I have cellulite in my butt!” He said, “What’s cellulite?” I rest my case. —Katherine Forsythe

15. Big thighs

In primitive times, big thighs in women meant strength, stamina and the ability to protect children. While that’s not much comfort in today’s sculpted body culture, it’s still a turn-on for many men. Some cultures revere women with larger legs and derriere. Consider Brazilian dancers and many African tribal rituals. Before you get all tied in knots over your big thighs, ask yourself, “Whose issue is this?” It’s yours, not his. —Katherine Forsythe

16. Fat belly

Sneak a peek at belly dancers and the Venus de Milo. Bellies? Yes. Large ones. Yet, they’re two sex symbols that have lasted millennia. Why? Again, it’s the ‘tude, not the tiny tummy. Men tell me that resting their head (either one) on the belly cushion is hot. Try adjusting your ‘tude before you start the latest diet fad. If you are considering a tummy tuck or liposuction, be sure it’s your tummy that needs the procedure, not your brain. —Katherine Forsythe

If you’re looking to improve your self-esteem or need to talk about any other area of your life, reach out to our experts! They’re here to help.

A Contemplation of Thick Thighs

On paper, my reasons for hating this new shape are transparent. The weight I’ve gained is symbolic for something else entirely — ugly men, who always smell like dirty laundry and stare blatantly at my crotch if I happen to be sitting pretzel style. Men like Joe, who’s gaze is like teeth sinking into my flesh the way they would sink into a steak. Its not a flattering thing, but shameful. And there is no denying that the thinner I got — the more weight I lost and its subsequent effect on my corporeal substantiality — the less I attracted men like Joe. Instead, this ethereal quality that an underweight body imposes attracts a “higher ranking” sort of male. Kinder, gentler, and much less likely to reach out and run an awkward finger up the back of my shorts.

This is all in my experience, of course, but its been so glaringly distinct that I’m actually ashamed of the male gender on a whole. Not all, but most. Y’all should be better than this.

I am floundering within this healthier weight the way one flounders as they lucid dream. I know I’ll wake up soon, and be back within the emaciated caricature that I began 2019 with. It was a safe and clean body, one I was confident going outside in, one that I didn’t feel embodied the very definition of gluttony and an ugly, predatory lust. A brand of lust that has nothing to do with actual attraction to the female form but everything to do with power over it.

Reality sees that I wont wake up soon. This is me now and it looks like I’m stuck this way. I draw comfort from the fact that I’m not alone — I’m more normal now than I was then, after all.

And it’s not like this new, stronger form is a bad thing. For one, I’m a hell of a lot warmer now than I was back when I had a gaping thigh gap. I can wear jeans, which I couldn’t before the weight gain because they didn’t make them in a size small enough. I’m not constantly dropping my phone by placing it on my lap and having it slide right on through to the floor, and I’m gifted with an ability to walk, skip, and run the way my spindly little deer legs previously could not manage.

Even more importantly (to me, anyway,) I’m finding that the shame I feel toward these thicker appendages runs parallel to an equal, concurrently occurring swell of confidence. The way I go back and forth between feeling alright about my body and wanting to hide it forever is borderline violent, but certainly to be expected throughout the process of gaining health, as well as weight.

I bought two pairs of jeans last month, both high waisted and snug. They hug my hips and make my ass look good — even if, despite the heaviness of my lower body, the ass itself leaves much to be desired.

(In many ways, my natural weight is curvy in all the wrong places.)

I will put on these jeans, and suddenly find myself admiring the firmness with which I now exist.

I will be walking down the street and find myself strutting a little, knowing fully well that I am no longer cowering behind emaciation. Instead, I’m gripped with a new and powerful feeling of being. Being alive, being grounded, being a woman.

My efforts to separate weight, particularly the size of my thighs, with sexual predation are on-going. It is a perpetual bickering match between the ghosts in my brain and I’m just kind of existing here, at my keyboard, trying to sort out their voices into some sort of coherent belief. Hopefully one that isn’t so brutally harmful to me as my eating disorder was.

Because half the time I like this new body. I’m proud of it. I want to strut around and use my heavier form to bulldoze all the men out there who are like Joe. Men who see female flesh and believe its there for them, and that the woman it belongs to should be grateful for their harsh and greasy touch.

In existing within this new body it’s becoming increasingly clear that the body itself is not at fault for any abuse or harm that has been inflicted on it.

A healthy form is not something that is, by nature, worth the degradation I’ve always associated it with. Rather, my hips and belly and thighs and shoulders, all the parts of me that are now so much softer than before, are just as lovely as these same parts I see on other women and admire so deeply.

It is this that I want to continue learning, and it’s what I want to teach others as well. I want to flip a magic switch so that we (as women) can see our physical forms how others see us; we are forest trees, our health and strength growing roots into who we are to the people around us, as well as who we are within ourselves.

That is what health gives us. That is what is important.

Kevin KaneGetty Images

“Your body only changes when you change it,” said the woman standing over me, which, sure, hard to argue with that. She looked around, waiting for us all to look reinspired, but we wouldn’t be. This was our 50th crunch, which followed three minutes of hard planking. We had kettlebelled it. Now we were about to “take a break” and hammer out our obliques by doing the elbow-to-opposite-knee maneuver. Our trainer delivered her instructions in the manner of someone who wanted to yell at us to quit being such babies but whose boss had warned her to be nice.

This class was called Butt and Gut, one I took in anticipation of a vacation I was going on, but I couldn’t figure out when the butt stuff would start. It was always the gut. Maybe it used to be different — back when having a squishy and unseemly butt was as out of the question as having a squishy and unseemly stomach — and they’d never gotten around to changing the name. Day after day, it was my gut that looked up at me like a sad child who had been punished for doing nothing wrong.

I’ve been alerted to the fact that we are living in the age of the butt. (The fact that body types go in and out of style is a bananas phenomenon that deserves its own story.) Your butt, ladies, is now allowed to become as big and floppy as you’d like. Let it luxuriate and dimple. Implant it if you need to. Does anything sound better than having a silicone pad inserted into your butt? It must be like having a cloud chair wherever you go!

Christian AslundGetty Images

But the age of the butt exists only as a footnote to our real age, the age of the abs — ahem, The Age of the Abs — which has been ongoing and shows no end in sight. How big our boobs seem when they’re hanging over the straight line of our six-packs! How glorious our new fat asses look when seen in profile with our washboard abs! We’ve been living in this age for a long time. Is it time to talk about why we’ve chosen abs as the thing we pick on? The thing that is maybe the reason you read Cosmo?

As far as body distractions go, our abs obsession isn’t exactly detrimental. It falls somewhere smack in the middle of the dystopic anorexia goal of “I will have thigh gap” and the more innocuous “I wish my posture were a little better.” A strong core is essential and often the first thing you work on when you’re in physical therapy for other parts of your body. “Everything evolves from the core, so if your core isn’t strong, the rest of you isn’t going to be strong,” physical therapist and certified athletic trainer Michael Weis told me as he oversaw treatment for an injury I might not have experienced if I’d had a better core. “If you have a strong foundation, you can do anything you want, but if you have a weak foundation, you can’t. Think of your house. Would you build a $2 million house on Play-Doh or on concrete?” Setting aside the fact that he thinks journalists own $2 million houses, he’s correct. It is wonderful to take care of yourself, and everyone should do whatever you want to make your body the way you want it.

Sean MurphyGetty Images

So why not be enthusiastic about one’s abdominals? Why not set up a Tumblr devoted to their perfection, like so, so, so many people have? Because there might be a disparity between the strong core Michael Weis is talking about and the shadowy rippled abs of our dreams. Because we might have taken this too far.

We have become people who publishers know will purchase a book called Zero Belly Diet. Not strong, not flat. Just zero. No more belly. We have debated buying those Kardashian-endorsed waist-cinchers, just in case. A million Victorian-era women can’t be wrong (yes, they can, by the way). We have plunked down $200 for a device called the Ab Circle Pro, whose makers claimed that a mere three minutes of usage was equal to 100 sit-ups, which is part of what made them the target of a Federal Trade Commission complaint in 2012. We have become people who purchase the Ab Roller. We have become people who purchase the Ab Roller Plus. And when the Ab Roller doesn’t come through, we have become people who blame our own bodies or our lack of willpower. I’m here to tell you, it’s not you. It was never you.

When it comes to our midsections, some academics argue we may be operating under a real evolutionary imperative. Back in 1993, a researcher named Devendra Singh, working out of the University of Texas at Austin, proposed that there is an ideal waist-to-hip ratio of 70 percent, which not only makes a lady optimally attractive but is also associated with higher fertility and lower risk for diabetes, heart disease, and various cancers. The hourglass figure, Singh suggested, promotes social drooliness in onlookers. And because evolution thinks we’re still just sitting around waiting to attract a big, strong mate (because evolution never read Cosmo or learned how far we’ve come), well, a flat belly it is.

Is it time to talk about why we’ve chosen abs as the thing we pick on? The thing that is maybe the reason you read Cosmo?

Abs have been a symbol of perfection since at least the Ancient Greeks, says Amanda Luyster, PhD, lecturer in art history at the College of the Holy Cross. Back in the Byzantine era, abdominals were first worked into portrayals of Jesus Christ to drive home the point that he was special, potent, incredibly powerful. “The six-pack abs are a way to show the specialness of this body and draw attention to the physicality through which salvation is effected,” she says.

Flat abs used to be mostly for men. In ‘Venus and Adonis,’ painter Peter Paul Rubens makes her squishy, him chiseled. GettyGetty Images

In 19th-century Britain and America, fitness became the focus of the so-called Muscular Christianity movement, after the Industrial Revolution and all that sitting had made our bodies soft, soft, soft. Exercise was preached to make for an ideal of Christian manliness. In 1924, an Irish physical culture instructor named Frederick Arthur Hornibrook published The Culture of the Abdomen: The Cure of Obesity and Constipation. Hornibrook called out the swollen belly of the modern (well, 1924 modern) man and prescribed a series of rhythmic exercises based on “native dances.” The book went through 18 printings and remained a popular way for the British to lose weight until the 1960s. Still, these messages were mostly targeted at men, says Pirkko Markula, PhD, a professor in socio-cultural studies of physical activity at the University of Alberta in Canada.

In the early 1990s, a plucky fitness instructor with a beautiful face and very little body fat named Tamilee Webb took to the gym and taped a video that would be known as Abs of Steel. The video contained three 10-minute segments, easy enough to do — you can do anything for 10 minutes, right? — and was the follow-up to Webb’s video Buns of Steel 3. On the video’s cover was Webb herself, oiled and tanned, dressed in a royal blue exercise bra and bikini bottoms as low-rise as the 1990s would allow, which is to say right at her belly button. Her stomach — now her stomach was something (it still is). In the picture, you can’t see her head or her legs, but that’s the point, according to Webb, and also probably why the video did so well. It outsold the crazy-popular Buns, and Webb went on to star in a sequel, Arms & Abs of Steel, and 19 other videos.

Tamilee Webb

Webb wasn’t prepared for how well the abs video sold. Now, talking to me before one of the classes she still teaches for a fitness club in California, she guesses why. “Your abs are anterior,” says Webb. “They’re the front, so if I’m approaching you, if the body was naked or had on a bikini, what is the main thing people are drawn to? It’s almost like the center point of everything.”

Still, more of us owned Abs of Steel than actually used it on a regular basis, according to a study out of the University of My College Dorm Exercise Video Shelf. Girls in the ’90s, at least the ones I knew, were mostly doing step aerobics. Abs toning didn’t really blow up until one day when a budding young pop star was asked how she stayed in shape and the answer was that she did up to 1,000 sit-ups per day.

Who was it? Why, it was Britney, bitch! Britney came along, slithering up a high school hallway in a sexy schoolgirl outfit, abs so hot, they needed to be exposed to air — they needed to breathe. Britney’s abs became the abs we aspired to. I tell you now, there are people who can identify an actual era in Britney’s career by what her abs looked like at a particular time. They can tell “Oops!…I Did It Again” abs from “I’m a Slave 4 U” abs and be right.

Jonathan KnowlesGetty Images

And that is how we’ve gotten here, to the point where a rock-hard belly is the ultimate signifier of hotness and hard work. We’re women, and once we set goals, we are hell-bent on achieving them. So we keep working at it, counting each can — if it’s a six-pack, each one is a can? — until we have the full half dozen. Last year, a model made the news for figuring out a way to have a six-pack when she was pregnant.

The biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD, told me, “with women piling into the job market in cultures around the world, we seem to want to have real independence. And part of that is really being healthy and even able to protect yourself.” And so we’re back to the Byzantine era, where we’re abbing it up so that we look like we want to be perceived: like really powerful men.

But our goals might not always be in line with biological possibility. Most women, unless they are in the abs business, are not naturally able to achieve the rock-hard stomachs we see on Instagram. “Paradoxically, the areas where we store fat — upper arms, abdominals, pelvis, thighs — are the areas that remain the leanest,” says the University of Alberta’s Markula, who is also a Pilates instructor. “Abdominals are among the most difficult to get to that lean and toned shape.”

Janet Jackson’s abs make a comeback at age 40. As she tells Us Weekly, she dropped 60 pounds in four months. John ShearerGetty Images

It is only fair to paint you a disclosure here. I hope I don’t sound bitter. I am someone who has, to say the least, struggled with my abdominal area.

Let me tell you about my stomach. Maybe it’s best to think of it as the world’s grossest smiley face, with a grin of stretch marks punctuated by a floppy belly-button nose. It is where I house my C-section scars. It is where three tiny white marks still exist from a laparoscopic appendectomy I had 10 years ago. It is something I’ve stared at straight down from above. I have sucked it in. I have given it the finger.

But also, my stomach is where my kids lean when they watch movies; it’s the part of me I hold when I laugh. I sort of love my stomach too, since it is representative of the life I’ve lived. There is an incredible metaphor in the abs. This is the part of our bodies where pregnancy is most present, where high emotionality is expressed — emotional eating, the convulsions that come with crying. This is a body part that historically was hard, associated with men, and soft, associated with women. Now we, the women, just want our bellies hard. We want the softness eradicated like it was never there.

You feel your emotions in your stomach. We have chosen the place where we feel our emotions and tried to spot-reduce it away.

They talk about the heart, but you feel your emotions in your stomach — the dead drop of fear, the fluttering of love, the jitters of excitement, the pit of sadness. We have chosen the place where we feel our emotions and tried to spot-reduce it away.

I am not saying you shouldn’t tone your abs if you want to. I’m just saying you should know why. I’m just saying you don’t really have to if you don’t want to.

About a week after that Butt and Gut class, I left with my husband for Mexico — our first vacation alone in years. I wore my frill-free black industrial-strength swimming costume, panels here and there to prop things up and flatten things out, more of an apology than a bathing suit. Three women were also there to celebrate their birthdays. Their stomachs looked like mine and they wore bikinis, and I thought about how these women, with their raucous laughing and their friendship, they know how to live a life. I never went back to that class.

This article was originally published as “Stop the Absanity” in the August 2016 issue of Cosmopolitan.

Why not all women are biologically built for a flat tummy

Sarah Fielding MakeItGrateful.com Published 2:07 PM EDT Oct 14, 2019 Hand creates heart shape around belly button Nastco, Getty Images

The idea that for a woman to be beautiful and healthy she must have a flat stomach has infiltrated mainstream society. Not only is this far from the truth – women are beautiful regardless of stomach size – but it is also a rarity to have a perfectly flat stomach.

“This belief is setting women up for failure because a woman’s stomach isn’t meant to be flat,” Ashley Wood, RN, BSN, contributor at Demystifying Your Health, told Grateful, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Over and over again, I see friends and strangers killing themselves to suck any bit of bulge from their stomach, feeling inadequate any time they see a stomach roll. For years, I felt the same way, terrified to put on a bathing suit, feeling exposed and ugly, desperate to fit the standards society had told me I needed to meet.

It feels like every day I see another article that perpetuates this narrative, promising a certain food or exercise move will finally allow me to achieve this mystical flat stomach. It suggests that any problems in life would be solved if I could simply accomplish that goal. Well, I can’t, and that’s actually OK. In fact, it’s great! Letting go of a goal you can’t achieve and allowing yourself to focus on those you can gives you back control of your life.

This may be hard to believe after what feels like a lifetime of hearing that a flat stomach is gold. So, as with any myth, the best way to tackle it is with facts. Here’s why some women are not biologically built for a flat stomach.

More: What you should know about your oral microbiome


There is a very big reason why some women cannot achieve a flat stomach, and it is called reproductive organs.

“The design of a woman’s anatomy is different than men,” Wood says. “In addition to having room for digestive organs, like your stomach, liver and intestines, it has to have space for your reproductive organs and needs extra padding to protect all of these vital organs. This process of naturally storing fat cells in the stomach area begins during adolescence and young adulthood in preparation for childbearing later in life.”

Yes, right when we enter adolescence and start being told exactly what our body should look like is when it starts to take on a mind of its own.

Visceral fat vs. subcutaneous fat Barks_japan, Getty Images

Men and women also lose fat in different ways.

“When men lose weight, they tend to lose their visceral fat, which is the layer of fat behind their abdominal muscles, while women typically lose subcutaneous fat, which is the layer of fat just below the skin,” said Caleb Backe, a certified personal trainer and health expert for Maple Holistics. “Both your visceral and subcutaneous fat contribute to your achieving a flat stomach, which is why some women find it harder to do so than others. Furthermore, factors like hormone regulation play a role in storing visceral fat, which is why many women are not biologically built for a flat stomach.”


Just like it protects your organs, each thing your body does is for a reason. As you fight what your body does, it puts you at odds with what it needs, sometimes to the point of danger.

Ariel Johnston, a registered dietitian who specializes in treating eating disorders, cautions clients that they’ll likely see fat accumulate around their stomachs.

“When weight restoring through increased nutrition, the weight is distributed unevenly and goes to the stomach first,” she said. “This is amazing because it is the body’s way of telling us that it needs the extra fat layer there to protect itself. The mechanism behind this isn’t fully understood, but after adequate time and nourishment, the fat is redistributed throughout the body.”

Yes, your stomach will go up and down, looking different at certain times than others. “It is normal for the stomach to expand after a big meal to accommodate for the food nourishing your body. This isn’t necessarily bloating; just your body doing it’s work to break down food in the stomach,” Johnston says.

Having a flat stomach is not the key to being healthy or happy. There are some days in which I see my stomach poke out in my shirt or still cringe at first look when I’m in my undergarments, but life is simply too short to go after something unattainable while hating myself.

“I tell my clients that a slightly rounded tummy or some rolls is normal and that their worth is so much more than what they look like in a swimsuit,” Johnston says.

More: 6 breast cancer survivors share the biggest lessons they learned

Instead of diets and habits that promise women something they don’t need to and can’t achieve, let’s start celebrating women for who they are.

Stop worrying about what your tummy looks like; instead, focus on how it feels. Kombucha is full of healthy probiotics that benefit your body. Learn how to make it below.

Published 2:07 PM EDT Oct 14, 2019

Lust Is Complicated, But Studies Show These 19 Things Make Men More Attractive to Women

Romantic attraction is a complicated thing that scientists still don’t completely understand.

But, through research and experimentation, they’ve come up with many ideas about what draws one person to another.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the most compelling scientific insights about the traits and behaviors that make men more appealing to women.

The best part? None of the items on this list require you to get cosmetic surgery or do a major personality overhaul. We’re talking small tweaks, like acting nicer and swapping your deodorant.

Read on for simple ways to step up your dating game.

Look for the universal signals of flirtation

Rutgers University anthropologist and best-selling author Helen E. Fisher says that women around the world signal interest with a remarkably similar sequence of expressions.

As she shared at Psychology Today, it goes like this:

“First the woman smiles at her admirer and lifts her eyebrows in a swift, jerky motion as she opens her eyes wide to gaze at him. Then she drops her eyelids, tilts her head down and to the side, and looks away. Frequently she also covers her face with her hands, giggling nervously as she retreats behind her palms.

“This sequential flirting gesture is so distinctive that Eibl-Eibesfeldt was convinced it is innate, a human female courtship ploy that evolved eons ago to signal sexual interest.”

Look for someone ‘in your league’

Men — and women — are attracted to people who are as attractive as they are.

In one study, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley looked at the behavior of 60 heterosexual male and 60 heterosexual female users on an online dating site. While the majority of users were inclined to reach out to highly attractive people, they were most likely to get a response if that person was about as attractive as they were (as judged by independent raters).

“If you go for someone roughly to you in attractiveness, it avoids two things,”Nottingham Trent University psychologist Mark Sergeant, who was not involved with the study, told The Independent. “If they are much better-looking than you, you are worried about them going off and having affairs. If they are much less attractive, you are worried that you could do better.”

Present yourself as high status

A 2010 study from the University of Wales Institute found that men pictured with a Silver Bentley Continental GT were perceived as way more attractive than those pictures with a Red Ford Fiesta ST.

And a 2014 study from Cardiff Metropolitan University found that men pictured in a luxury apartment were rated more attractive than those in a control group.

Interestingly, men don’t seem to be more attracted to women when they’re pictured in a high-status context.

Look older

Psychologists call it the “George Clooney Effect.”

As 2010 study of 3,770 heterosexual adults suggested that women often prefer older men. As the women became more financially independent, they said they liked older guys even more.

“We think this suggests greater financial independence gives women more confidence in partner choices, and attracts them to powerful, attractive older men,” lead author and University of Dundee psychologist Fhionna Moore said in a statement.

Evolutionary psychologists say that younger women and older men often pair upbecause while fertility only lasts from puberty to menopause in women, it can extend long into midlife for many men. Society also gives men greater opportunity to accumulate status and resources as they age.

Grow a light beard

In a 2013 study from researchers at the University of New South Wales, researchers had 177 heterosexual men and 351 heterosexual women look at images of 10 men in one of four conditions: clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, or full beard. Participants rated the men pictured on several traits, including attractiveness.

That women said the most attractive beard length was heavy stubble.

“Facial hair correlates not only with maturity and masculinity, but also with dominance and aggression,” write authors Barnaby J. Dixson and Robert C. Brooks.

“An intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive,” they add.

Build muscle (but not too much)

In a 2007 study from University of California, Los Angeles, 286 women looked at pictures of shirtless men and indicated which ones seemed like they would make the best long- and short-term partners.

Results showed that women were more likely to want short-term relationships with the guys who had big muscles.

The evolutionary signal that might be at work here?

Characteristics like muscularity are “cues of genes that increase offspring viability or reproductive success,” say authors David A. Frederick and Martie G. Haselton.

But Frederick and Haselton took away another telling finding: Less-muscular men were thought to be a better fit for long-term relationships. So if you want to catch a woman’s eye and hold her attention, you may be better off not going overboard.

Be kind

One of the best documented findings in psychology is the halo effect, a bias where you unconsciously take one aspect of somebody as a proxy for their overall character. It’s why we think beautiful people are good at their jobs, even when they aren’t necessarily.

As psychologist and writer Scott Barry Kaufman notes, the halo effect works in other ways too.

In a 2014 Chinese study, more than 100 young people looked at images of men and women’s faces and rated them on attractiveness. Each face pictured was paired with a word that described either a positive personality trait — like kindness or honesty — or a negative personality trait, like being evil or mean.

Results showed that the people described with positive traits were rated more attractive.

“Even though beauty is an assessment of fitness value, there is no reason why assessment of fitness needs to be purely physical,” Kaufman writes, meaning that acting kind can make you appear more attractive.

Wear red

A 2010 cross-cultural study — with participants from China, England, Germany, and the US — found that women are most attracted to men wearing red.

In one experiment from the study, 55 female undergrads looked at a color photo of a man in either a red or green shirt, and then rated the man’s attractiveness.

Sure enough, the man was rated significantly more attractive when he was wearing a red shirt. The results were similar when researchers compared the red shirt to other color shirts as well.

Interestingly, participants generally weren’t aware that the man’s clothing color was influencing their perceptions of his attractiveness.

Make your partner laugh

Multiple studies indicate that women are more attracted to men who can make them laugh. Interestingly though, men generally aren’t more attracted to women who can make them laugh.

In one 2006 study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, researchers asked undergraduate students (they didn’t indicate their sexual orientation) to indicate how much they valued a partner’s ability to make them laugh and their own ability to make their partner laugh.

Results showed that women valued both their partner’s sense of humor and their own ability to make their partner laugh; men valued only their own ability to make their partner laugh.

Walk a dog

In a 2014 experiment from the Ruppin Academic Center in Israel and the University of Michigan, 100 Israeli women read vignettes about men.

Some of the men were described as “cads”: They would cheat on their partner and get into fights. The other men were described as stereotypical “dads”: They would work hard at their job and take good care of their kids.

Whenever the story featured a cad who owned a dog, women rated that man as a more suitable long-term partner than a cad who didn’t own a dog. Cads with dogs were even rated slightly more attractive than dads with dogs.

The researchers concluded that owning a pet signals that you’re nurturing and capable of making long-term commitments. It can also help you appear more relaxed, approachable, and happy.

Play good music

In a 2014 study, researchers at the University of Sussex asked about 1,500 women (whose average age was 28) to listen to simple and complex pieces of music and rate the attractiveness of the composer.

The results showed that women preferred the more complex music, and said they would choose the composer of the more complex music as a long-term partner.

Practice mindfulness

Australian researchers recently studied undergrads participating in a speed-dating session, and found that mindful men tended to receive higher attractiveness ratings from women.

Before the session began, 91 students were asked to fill out a mindfulness questionnaire in which they indicated how much they agreed with statements like:

• “I perceive my feelings and emotions without having to react to them.”

• “I notice changes in my body, such as whether my breathing slows down or speeds up.”

• “I’m good at finding the words to describe my feelings.”

After each interaction with an opposite-sex partner, students privately indicated how “sexy” they found their partner and how much they’d like to date that person.

Results showed that men were generally more drawn to physically attractive women. (Independent coders had rated the students’ attractiveness beforehand.) But women were generally more attracted to mindful men.

Play extreme sports (carefully)

A 2014 study led by researchers at the University of Alaska at Anchorage found that women are attracted to men who take what the researchers call “hunter-gatherer risks.”

More than 230 undergrads filled out questionnaires about how attractive they would find a partner who engaged in certain risky behaviors, as opposed to a partner who engaged in low- or no-risk behaviors.

Hunter-gatherer risks included mountain biking, deep-sea scuba diving, and extreme rollerblading. “Modern” risks included plagiarizing an academic paper, casually handling chemicals in a lab, and not updating the virus-protection software on your computer.

Low- and no-risk behaviors included biking along paved paths and carefully handling chemicals in a chemistry-lab class.

Results showed that women said they would be more attracted to men who engaged in hunter-gatherer risks — the kinds that were similar to risks faced by ancestral humans. Women said they would be less attracted to men who engaged in modern risks, which might seem just plain dumb.

Wear a scented deodorant

Simply knowing that you’re wearing a new fragrance can make you act more confident, and even make you seem more attractive to other people.

In a small 2009 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers gave one group of male undergraduates a spray with antimicrobial ingredients and fragrance oil, and provided another group with an unscented spray that didn’t contain antimicrobial ingredients. Over the next few days, the men who used the scented spray reported higher self-confidence and felt more attractive.

The strange part? When a group of women were shown silent videos of the men, they found those who were wearing scented spray more attractive, even though they obviously couldn’t smell them. The researchers determined that the men using the scented spray displayed more confident behavior, which in turn made them more attractive.

Chow down on garlic

The smell of garlic on your breath is generally regarded as an instant romance killer. But a recent series of studies, from researchers at Charles University and the National Institute of Mental Health in the Czech Republic and the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom, suggests a different story when it comes to body odor.

In one study, eight men ate a slice of bread with cheese and 12 grams of fresh garlic; another eight ate bread and cheese without any garlic. For the next 12 hours, the men wore cotton pads under their armpits and were instructed not to use any deodorants or fragrances.

The following day, all the men returned to the lab, where 40 women sniffed the pads and rated the odor on pleasantness, attractiveness, masculinity, and intensity. Results showed that the garlic group was rated more pleasant and attractive and less masculine and intense.

Do volunteer work

A 2013 study from UK researchers found that women find men more appealing when they do volunteer work.

About 30 women looked at a picture of a man with a brief description of his hobbies, which sometimes included volunteer work. The same procedure was repeated with about 30 men looking at a picture of a woman. Everyone rated how attractive they found the person pictured for a short- and long-term relationship.

Both genders rated the person pictured as more attractive for a long-term relationship when they were described as a volunteer — but the effect was stronger for women rating men.

Show off your scars

That scar on your chin from when you fell off a bike could help you attract a mate.

In a 2009 study, researchers at the University of Liverpool and the University of Stirling took photos of 24 male and 24 female undergrads. They digitally manipulated half of the images so the subjects appeared to have facial scars — for example, a line on the person’s forehead that looked like the result of an injury.

Then the researchers recruited another group of about 200 heterosexual male and female undergrads to rate all the people pictured based on attractiveness for both short- and long-term relationships.

Results showed that men with scars appeared slightly more attractive for short-term relationships than men without scars. Women, on the other hand, were perceived as equally attractive regardless of whether they had scarred faces.

Use open body language in your online dating photo

A 2016 study — from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Northwestern University — suggests that we’re more attracted to people who display expansive body language.

In one experiment included in the study, the researchers created profiles for three men and three women on a GPS-based dating app.

In one set of profiles, the men and women were pictured in contractive positions — for example, by crossing their arms or hunching their shoulders.

In the other set of profiles, the same men and women were pictured in expansive positions, like holding their arms upward in a “V” or reaching out to grab something.

Results showed that people in expansive postures were selected as potential dates more often than those in contractive postures. This effect was slightly larger for women selecting men.

Look proud

A 2011 University of British Columbia study revealed a curious finding: Heterosexual men and women prefer different emotional expressions on potential mates.

In one experiment included in the study, researchers had nearly 900 North American adults look at photos of opposite-sex individuals online.

The researchers were specifically comparing people’s perceptions of expressions of pride, happiness, shame, and neutrality (other people had already identified the emotion behind the expression in the photo). For women evaluating men, the most appealing expression was pride, and the least appealing was happiness.

Even weirder, an expression of shame was relatively attractive on both men and women.

This is an update of an article originally posted by Drake Baer.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

More from Business Insider:

4 reasons why men find athletic women attractive

The first appearance of a woman will let a man know whether he likes her or not. Athletic women stand a chance to be easily noticed and then followed by men.

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Their well-toned bodies are a huge attraction. Men want women who are able to take good care of their bodies by ensuring they remain in good shape.

Thus, women with an athletic body are a huge attraction to men because of the following reasons:

1. Athletic women are disciplined

A person who gets to hit the gym must be disciplined. This also means that she is self-motivated and has goals that she aims to achieve. This is one character that men find attractive in such women.

2. They are beautiful

A person who hits the gym or is playing light games like table and lawn tennis; badminton among others have a well-trimmed body. They have the most sought after flat tummies and of course, their curves are well drawn. This is one appealing thing that gets down well with men.

3. They are confident

Because of the beauty that comes with the physical exercises, these women have the confidence of approaching anyone, be it in public or in their personal lives.

The confidence also shows that they are tough to and would withstand any hardship in life.

Worldwide, the type of female body most desired is slim and muscular

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