Healthy Women Do Jiggle

The title above is not mine. It’s a phrase that comes from a book called the “The Fit or Fat Woman” by weight loss expert Covert Bailey. I was reminded of it when, like many other people, I trooped off to the beach with my extended family to spend the Holy Week break.

We were about 30 people ranging from four-year-olds to sixty- year-olds. The below-18 girls are all involved in sports and the above-18 ladies are all gym regulars. In other words, relatively fit females of normal weight. The reason I remembered the phrase “healthy women do jiggle” is because with the exception of the pre-pubescent girls, all the women there (from teen-agers upwards) had a slight jiggle somewhere on their body. This “jiggling” is not obvious in street clothes but it can be seen in a skimpy bathing suit. In contrast, the men (even those who were slightly overweight and non-exercisers) hardly jiggled as they moved around.

The reason I am writing about all this jiggling and non-jiggling is to point out that women are really meant to have softer and more rounded bodies than men. A healthy body fat percentage for a man is approximately 9 - 15 percent of total body weight while for a woman it is 18 - 25 percent. Men have more muscle, less fat while women have less muscle, more fat.

Nature has made it this way because a woman needs an adequate amount of fat to be fertile (ovulation and menstruation don’t usually start until a young girl has at least 15 to 17 percent fat), carry a pregnancy to term and breastfeed even in times when food is scarce. Even at 20 percent body fat, some areas of a woman’s body will jiggle.

Writing about the hip and thigh area in his book, Bailey observes that ‘’the buttock and thigh muscles may be quite firm, but most women, unless they are very young or have inherited thin legs and hips, carry a wiggling layer of fat in that area. Even super- athletic women – those who play professional tennis or run marathons – are not as solid in the hips and thighs as their moderately active male friends. This is simply part of being a woman.’’

Women with slim legs may not have jiggly thighs but they may have triceps (back of the arms) that “wave” slightly when they wave at someone or little rolls of fat around the waist that are only obvious when they slouch in a seat. It is rare to find a woman who is completely firm in all the areas of her body. Even female bodybuilders cannot maintain their statue-like firmness the entire year. It is too taxing on their health to keep body fat levels low enough to have the leanness of a man.

Looking at the pre-pubescent girls in our family, my sister noted that they had the figure proportions of fashion models – thin legs, no hips, flat stomachs, narrow waists, etc. Pre-pubescent girls of normal weight don’t jiggle because they have the body fat percentage of boys the same age. But when they hit puberty and estrogen starts flooding their body, their femaleness appears as fat in the breasts, lower abdomen, hips, buttocks, and thighs. That’s why the body of the average healthy woman jiggles.

Models, meanwhile, are “genetic freaks”. I don’t say this in a disparaging way but simply to explain that they are not representative of the average woman. It is unrealistic to want to look like them.

It is also unrealistic to want to look like your favorite movie or music star because even they don’t really look the way they do in the movies or the magazines the way they really do in real life. What you see on-screen and in print is largely an illusion created by make-up artists, hair stylists, fashion designers, favorable lighting, and flattering camera angles and filters. Facial and body flaws can be airbrushed or retouched via computers.

On our family’s trips out-of-town, my mother likes to bring what she calls her “toilet magazines” – imported gossip tabloids like the National Enquirer – for light reading while lounging around. One of the issues she brought had a 32-page spread on “How the Stars Really Look”. Much as I don’t agree with the way the paparazzi aggressively stalk celebrities to photograph them off- guard, one beneficial thing they do is reveal that models and movie stars are just like you and me. They have their bad hair days, their skin doesn’t always glow, their thighs have cellulite, their weight fluctuates up and down, etc.

So don’t be so hard on yourself. No one really has a perfect body or even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to maintain it forever (age catches up on everyone). It’s important for your psychological well-being to have a healthy attitude towards your appearance. Improve what you can by exercising, eating right, choosing appropriate clothes for your figure, taking care of your skin, having plastic surgery if you feel you need to, etc. but gracefully (rather than grudgingly) accept what you cannot change like your height, growing old, and those areas of your body that jiggle in spite of everything you do.

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