Pear-Shaped and Proud of It

Expert says women should focus on exercise and a healthy lifestyle instead of weight loss in hips and thighs

Pear Shaped WomanMany women know how frustrating it is when their bodies won’t shed weight where they want it to.

But understanding how you’re put together can translate to a healthy acceptance of your particular body type and lead to a happier—and ultimately healthier—life, says Dr. Cathy Roy, an expert on the cellular basis of obesity who has researched metabolism in both men and women.

Because men and women are built differently—women tend to be pear-shaped, carrying fat on hips, thighs and buttocks, while men tend to be apple-shaped, carrying fat in the midsection—they lose weight differently.

Fat cells in women’s hip, thigh and buttocks areas can be stubbornly resistant to exercise and healthy eating, said Roy, associate professor of exercise science at Longwood.

“Women are pear- or spoon-shaped by nature, and, when they lose weight, they usually lose it in the waist area, visually exaggerating the fat in the buttocks, hips and thighs. The fact is that you can’t lose weight just in your thighs or your buttocks; spot reduction is nearly impossible.”

But there are serious advantages to having a pear-shaped body. A little extra weight in the hips, thighs or buttocks—often problem areas for many women—does not increase the risk for several life-threatening diseases like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or coronary artery disease.

“The good news for women who distribute their fat in a pear-shape pattern is that their risk for the so-called lifestyle diseases is minimal to nonexistent, and in some studies has actually been shown to be beneficial,” said Roy.

Conversely, men generally pattern excess fat in an apple shape—the waist/abdomen area—which puts them at higher risk of developing these same diseases. “The bad news for men is that abdominal fat is linked irrefutably to those diseases, so it’s dangerous if they keep putting on that ‘spare tire,’” said Roy.

If women can shift the focus from weight loss in problem areas to regular exercise and its advantages, that healthy, happy lifestyle we’re all aiming for is easier to attain. Roy said the benefits of exercise include lower cholesterol, improved self-esteem, improved chance of a long life, increased energy levels and improved sleep.

“My advice to women frustrated by not losing more weight, or not losing weight in the desired area, is to try not to get on the scale and try not to get wrapped up in social media,” she said. “Far too much importance is placed on body fat levels when the focus really should be on incorporating fitness and proper nutrition.”

By: Kent Booty