The first people that come to mind when you think of an hourglass body are Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez.
These women have epitomised the meaning of curvy into the ‘the ideal body shape’ and subsequently, millions of women around the world try to emulate that shape. This isn’t necessarily healthy, but you can sculpt your body without surgery.
In this article, GCT’S Lifestyle Journalist Despina Karp will investigate if you can really get an hourglass figure, if waist trainers work and why weightlifting may be the key to a curvier body shape.
Firstly, what is an hourglass-shaped body? The coveted hourglass shape is the type of figure you’ve likely seen on billboard ads, magazines, influencer posts, and celebrities on the red carpet.
Well-known beauty icons such as Marilyn Monroe have this body shape. It appears with chiselled shoulders, shapely curves, and a smaller waist.
The truth, though, is that having an hourglass shape doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re healthier or more attractive.
How did the hourglass figure come into fashion?
The first representations of hourglass women seemed to appear in the 14th century. Between the 14th and 16th centuries in northern Europe, bulging bellies were deemed desirable, however, the rest of the figure was generally thin. This is most easily visible in paintings of nudes from the time.
When looking at clothed images, the belly is often visible through a mass of otherwise concealing, billowing, loose robes. Since the stomach was the only visible anatomical feature, it became exaggerated in nude depictions while the rest of the body was de-emphasised.
This was true in southern Europe around the time of the renaissance.
Fast-forward to the 18th century and body shapes begin to change. And subsequently, the birth of the waist trainer!
Depictions of nude women in the 18th century tend to have a very narrow waist and high, distinct breasts, almost as if they were wearing an invisible corset. La Maja Desnuda is a clear example of this aesthetic.
The 19th century maintained the general figure of the 18th century.
As the 20th century began, the rise of athletics resulted in a drastic slimming of the female figure. This culminated in the 1920s ‘Flapper look’, which has familiarised itself with modern fashion ever since.
In Jamaican culture the Coca-Cola bottle has become the representation of a perfect women’s body. Women with curves that are shaped to look like the coke bottle got the highest compliments from men while skinny women were mocked and ridiculed for not having this idolised body shape.
Today, we have Kim Kardashian to thank for the ‘hourglass’ body trend. Keep in mind, Kim has had ribs removed in a bid to achieve the perfect waist. In an interview with E! News in August of 2018, the star revealed that with the help of trainer Melissa Alcantara, she works out an hour and a half every single day! Who has that kind of time? Not many of us.
So, let’s talk more about waist trainers.
Much like corsets, A waist trainer is an undergarment made up of thick fabric and hard metal boning. Worn around the midsection, it’s cinched up with a lacing system, hooks, or Velcro.
It’s intended to be worn much more tightly than a girdle or shaping underwear to give you a sleeker, smaller waist. While results can be seen immediately, waist ‘training’ requires wearing the garment frequently over months.
The almost ‘instant transformation’ you see straight after you remove the waist trainer can be impressive, and the theory is that you can ‘train your waist’ into maintaining that shape with prolonged use.
According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, a waist trainer will not drastically change your body shape. Even if you have the type of body that lends itself to that shape temporarily, your waist trainer is unlikely to have a lasting effect.
The bottom line is simply that waist trainers are not likely to have a dramatic or long-term effect on your figure. This does not MEAN THAT THEY DON’T WORK!
However, if overused or cinched too tightly, they can cause health problems. The healthiest and most effective way to lose weight (and keep it off) is through a balanced diet and regular exercise, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.
How to work toward an hourglass shape with exercise and nutrition
The three target areas to work on for more of an hourglass shape are:
The emphasis of what you work on will depend on your natural shape. If you’re already slim all around, you may want to start by building muscle around your shoulders and chest area to get broader on top. If you carry weight around your midsection, you’ll likely want to prioritize melting that stomach fat away. This can be done by cardio, HIIT training or weightlifting!
Since its near-impossible to spot-reduce fat in just one area of your body, it’s important to focus on overall weight loss if you want to drop inches from your waist. But there are some exercises and workouts that have been proven to be more successful at targeting fat around your midsection and we’ll talk about these:
When it comes to slimming down your waist, yoga is an option that’s hard to beat.
In a study of 60 women with abdominal obesity, participating in 12 weeks of yoga practice resulted in an average loss of 1.5 inches around the waist! And that was without going on a low-calorie diet! Imagine if they had combined the two!
Yoga poses such as Bow Pose, Boat Pose, and Reverse Warrior can activate, tighten, and tone your deep core muscles.
Planks (Normal and side planks)
According to a study done in 2017, planks and other stability exercises have an increased ability to activate your inner core. This, in turn, may help trim your waistline and improve athletic performance. As a bonus, planks are proven to help your posture as well as your endurance for activities like running or cycling. Start off with 1 minute a day and slowly build up to 10 rounds of 30-60 seconds. Let’s get planking!
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
Another study has shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be an effective tool to blast belly fat and burn a lot of calories. This type of cardio workout requires short bursts of intense exercise, followed by a short rest period, and repeated many times. An example of this is sprinting: run hard for 40 seconds and rest for 20. Repeat ten times.
Strength training (or weight training)
The amount of weight you lift can affect how your body looks. If you want a certain muscle to grow, you need to lift heavy weights. If you are interested in creating curves, lifting weights is the natural way to do that. To form an hourglass figure, you want your shoulders to be broader than your waist and your butt to be symmetrical with your shoulders. An hourglass figure usually involves a big booty. Lifting heavy weights can increase the size of your behind! Squat, lunge, deadlift, and press with heavy weights. Consult a personal trainer before lifting any heavy weights by yourself.
Click here for the best weight-training exercises to sculpt that hourglass body.
Mix HIIT training with strength training to tone and strengthen your muscles, thereby shaping your body. This is where a personal trainer can help create a workout routine to target your individual needs.
Diet for a more hourglass figure
Balanced eating plus high protein. Concentrate on fresh whole foods and good quality protein. Protein are the building blocks of the body and can drastically help with muscle growth Cut down on sugary snacks and beverages, and overly processed foods.
The bottom line is, YES, it is possible to get more of an hourglass figure with diet and exercise, and you could try adding a waist trainer, but I would suggest conducting thorough research before purchasing one. You don’t necessarily need a waist trainer, and with the correct exercise routine, you can shape your body by losing weight and building muscle.
Instead of aiming to get the tiny waist and big hips, let’s try and focus instead on exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness and mental health instead.
Try to find motivation in getting stronger, fitter, or healthier, rather than striving for the ideal figure. Remember, a perfect hourglass figure may be hard to achieve and it’s a body shape that few people have naturally. And it’s important to remember that many celebrities we see in photographs don’t have those perfect measurements. Instead, they have pricey cosmetic procedures and use the best personal trainers, expensive shapewear, and a professional photo editor to create an illusion of an hourglass figure.
Lastly, it’s important to be realistic and remember that your measurements don’t define you!
If in doubt, See your doctor. Talk with your doctor about safe, effective ways to lose weight that won’t affect your health in the long run!
Talk to a specialist. If you’re interested in changing specific parts of your body, ask your doctor for a referral to a board certified cosmetic or plastic surgeon.
Read more about waist trainers here.
The best exercises to sculpt your body through exercise here.