I'm asking this question for several reasons:
1) It seems like there have been a lot of questions lately from women who are struggling to get their body fat to a lower % and to be rid of belly fat in general.
2) I'm becoming increasingly aware of all the ways women are told their bodies are "wrong": our bodies are too hairy, so we should shave. Our breasts are misshapen, so we need corrective bras. Our faces are not feminine and pretty enough, so we need make-up, etc.
3) I was watching some of the movies on netflix where the white guy traverses through the jungle with camera crew to find the "untouched" natives. I was struck by the similarity of the women's bodies to my own (which I too have internalized as wrong). I took some screen caps (the movie was called Pururambo).
And one of the men for comparison:
I know this is only one group of people, but it seems to be the norm from what I've seen of people living beyond the bounds of western civilization. Let me know if you want any more references, I didn't want to overwhelm this question with pictures.
So, can we let ourselves be OK with a rounded belly?
omg people....the womens bodies DO NOT LOOK INSULIN RESISTANT or 'wheat bellied.' you obviously have no idea what cultural women's bodies look like- sans i think cliff said the ideal was no ideal. women, ALL fertile women SHOULD carry their weight in their belly, rounded from one side of the hips to the other. it makes a protective barrier promoted by estrogen and womens wonderful leptin receptors on their ovaires. it is NORMAL for a HEALTHY WOMAN, to have a rounded belly.
seriously, this is the main reason i dislike this site. first, people assume ANY WEIGHT WHATSOEVER that is not muscle must be someone dietary f*ckups..get real
real women in evolution are there to MAKE BABIES and reproduce. thats their purpose, for real. they build, breed, and evolve women who will be able to carry babies. the point is to carry on the culture.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know of many men who love them some skinny chicks; but I know many men who love them some cushy ladies too. Some like boobs, some like bums, some like feet.
Rounded bellies are the norm for women if there is a baby in there (or there was a baby in there recently).
The world is a diverse place - so there should be all shapes and sizes and we should embrace that and not force people into a 'norm'.
I mean isn't that sort of what we came to paleo for - to escape the 'norm'?
In developing countries, higher waist circumference is positively tied to infant survival, which is the opposite situation from the West. A jungle horticulturalist diet is marginal to begin with* and then you add in pregnancy food taboos and parasites, and it's understandable why this is the case. Extra body fat is a buffer.
These also could be women who have just given birth. Either way, anthropologist Steven Gaulin says that women tend to gain weight around the middle as they either age or have children because of the fact that it helps support larger babies, who are more likely to survive. A woman who has had many children already has a stretched pelvis and can handle it. And older women who has never given birth before...well, natural selection is figuring she isn't going to have many children and the ones she has better survive, even if it's at the cost of her life.
From what I know, the health of infants in Papua New Guinea is a little better than the Hadza, which another person mentioned. The Hadza are too thin and their health suffers for it. As far as I'm concerned it's an indication that the Hadza and other "bushman" tribes are adapted to an environment that was once more plentiful. The Melanesians have been living in their locality for a very very long time and are very much genetically distinct. Sexual selection could also be a factor, as interviews with Melanesians typically confirm that men prefer women with a higher WHR than the West or Asian, and that women desire to have "fat arms."
Then the pattern is that after menopause, a woman in these cultures (and in our culture until very recently) gets thinner and thinner, which is sometimes referred to as "wasting." I understand why Western women take hormonal replacement to avoid the negative effects of this, but it often means they keep the weight.
Either way, none of these women are obese. In America, many people are so overweight that it affects their mobility. They would not be able to use that boat the first woman is in.
*did anyone see the human planet episode in Papua where they are hunting bats and talking about how little meat they get? Meat hunger is quite common in the jungle and it's debatable whether the jungle is really any more of an optimal environment than a modern European city. Also, if you want to see how much better coastal/island Melanesians look, do a search for "Trobriand" on Flickr.
Well, we know that women carry more weight around their bellies, hips and thighs to support child-bearing. And the human female abdomen is not flat like a pancake - even in slim women, it's slightly convex. So I do think the answer to Dunnie's question is YES. However, I agree that these pictures are not the best example of this - seems like pregnancy or recent childbirth may be involved there.
I also agree with Dunnie that the media and modern culture has completely skewed our conception of what a normal healthy woman looks like. Photoshopping, the use of pubescent and underweight models, spray tans, hair extensions, plastic surgery, liposuction, brazilian waxing, labia trimming, restylane, botox, teeth bleaching, anal bleaching..... it's a brave new world.
Each and every person is beautiful to me.
Each of us needs to manage our body composition and overall body fat. Having a correct image of what that should look like can be difficult. It starts with wanting the body that you already have. It is refined by proper diet and reasonable exercise.
A proper example of a goal is knowing you weigh 15 lbs more than you did five years ago. Maybe I should try to lose 5-10 lbs of weight. That is healthy and good.
A poor example is someone at an ideal body weight (or worse below ideal body weight) wanting too lose weight to look like someone else.
The pictures of natives could be misleading. It may be they are already eating a western diet.
I agree that a little "belly" on lots of women, or a slightly higher body fat %, is an evolutionary "that makes sense" for wanting to have healthy babies. This is totally anecdotal, but I had a series of super-fit friends trying to get pregnant, and several of them couldn't conceive until they let their body fat % climb up a bit (under the supervision of a very open minded OBGYN in our small community). It may really depend on your background/hormonal levels, but it really seemed to help these girls get pregnant. As an ICU nurse my mom also recalls in the late 80s/90s she saw a lot of aerobic instructors (it was that kind of time!) in with their babies, enough that the doctors were suspicious that their extremely high activity levels of prolonged, high intensity aerobic exercise may have taken enough resources away from their pregnancy that it caused birth defects (lots of the babies were in for breathing problems and heart fluttering).
I also know that when I was rowing for the varsity team, I had to maintain lightweight status (128 lbs, I normally weigh in at 137 lbs), and no matter how slim I got I always had a little belly. Not like a swollen belly, just an extra fat pad on my lower stomach. My waist circumference was very slim, but on my lower stomach and hips I always had a bit of extra fat. I was also one of the few lightweight rowers that maintained a regular menstrual cycle throughout the rowing seasons. Most of the girls would have a normal menstrual cycle, then they would really slim out before regatta season, and their periods would disappear right around when their 6-packs appeared. They also probably had quite a few nutritional deficiencies however, from having to lose weight so quickly.
I think this is probably very variable between cultures (my Chinese relatives have little concave bellies, my Lithuanian friends have very slim hips with a lower belly fat pad, my Inuit friends have wide set ribs/bellies/hips) and doesn't seem like the end of the world! If you are healthy and fit, but have a little extra for baby-time, should be all good!
So how do you explain this:
That's a very recent mother. She doesn't look "fat" to my eyes. None of the pictures of the Hadza I've seen lead me to believe that the Pururambo are very healthy. BUT...culturally, the women may have a different role, may do less work, may be allotted more food, I don't really know, as I haven't done the research, and I'm making assumptions.
These people are mal-nourished and don't have a proper diet to burn the fat. Also they don't do cardio exercise frequently and for that reason the belly will remain fat.