Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

I Want Your Body

By Tim Olds

One-quarter of women would give up 3 years of their lives to be their ideal weight, but what do people believe is the ideal body?

Professor Tim Olds leads the Health and Use of Time Group at the Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In my undergraduate days I worked in a gym, a kind of apprenticeship that all exercise science students must go through in the hope that the oppressive triviality of the job will make them aspire to higher things, like injecting footballers with dubious ergogenic substances. One meets all types in the gym, including people like Zara.

Zara came to me for an exercise program and took me on a tour of the gym, telling me exactly what sort of body she wanted. It was no ordinary body, rather a composite of what she considered the best of the best. She wanted Adam’s abs, Bianca’s boobs, Coralie’s calves … I decided then that my future did not lie in the fitness industry.

Zara is not alone in wanting to build an ideal body. A Psychology Today survey found that 25% of women and 17% of men would give up 3 years of their lives just to be their ideal weight.

So what makes an ideal body? One approach is to look at “hyperideal” bodies – supermodels, shop mannequins, porn stars. One can even, as my colleague Kevin Norton and I did, measure that most iconic of all bodies, Barbie, which we did using Vernier calipers and dental floss.

In women, thinness is critical. Garner and colleagues looked at Playboy centrefolds — yes, it’s tough work, but somebody has to do it – showing that their weight fell from 90% of the average for young American women in 1960 to...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.