Body Image Through the Ages ~ Part 1


Image:  Actual or mental picture; likeness

What is the ideal Image of a woman?

Depends.  Depends on many variables: Culture. Ethnicity. Society. Community. Family.  Changes over time too. Would it surprise you to know that the skinny model and super thin actress look of today was not always the norm of the ideal image of women? In fact, for most of history the ideal woman was well, buxom.

Prehistoric Women

Based on figurines from the era, big hips and curvaceous, voluptuous female figures seemed to be highly desirable traits during this era. Cave men, some archeologists believe, ignored skinny women. A large hipped and voluptuous woman represented wealth and health. These women would be able to deliver many children and be a good mother, assuring the survival of the species. The extra fat was also useful during periods of food scarcity.

What we would consider obese today,  prehistoric man thought it was attractive, fertile, and nurturing.

The Renaissance

Not much seemed to change by the time we reach the Renaissance.  Again, think voluptuousness.  Full figured ladies were the epitome of sexiness. In this era the three P’s were supreme: Pale, Plump, and Perfect.

Think Mona Lisa. This is not the painting of a skinny or thin woman.

Victorian Era

An ample bosom, a small waist made even smaller with the painful help of a corset, and again, wide hips were still the rage. A tiny waist simply made the hips appear even larger. Petticoats, hoops, and bustles made the hips look even bigger.

With all of these contraptions it was a wonder women could walk. Often they could not sit down with all this paraphernalia.

Renoir Nudes

At the same time across the channel, painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir was painting beautiful pictures of real women. These are real women with real bodies. Not a skinny one among them.

The Roaring 20’s and Hollywood

The roaring twenties ushered in a decade where women did not want to look like women at all it seemed. Women wanted to look as if they had no figure, no curves at all. Women bound their breast to look flat and wore loose flat straight shapeless flapper dresses.

In the 40’s and 50’s Hollywood’s soft curvy look, as epitomized by Marilyn Monroe, was all the rage. Although she was curvy, she was extremely tiny. The look caught on.

 Skinny Era

The 1960’s brought us skinny epitomized by super-model Twiggy. From then till today women want to be as skinny as they could get. We are still in the skinny-lean era.

So as you can see, throughout much of history super skinny waif-like thin women was not the norm nor ideal body image in Western society.

The skinny, thin, and sculptured look is a modern mostly 20th and 21st century invention.

On this coming Friday, May 18th,  in Part 2 of this series, I will deal with the question, is skinny good or even healthy?

Featured Recipe    Asparagus with Pink Grapefruit Sauce
It’s Spring!!!!

And spring means fresh, sweet asparagus is available. I love asparagus.

This recipe is so divinely delicious it is hard to describe. The pink grapefruit with the sweet butter is a marriage made in heaven. YUM! It comes from the Walt Disney Family web site.

How many of you know Walt Disney has a recipe page?  Actually it is a family page with all sorts of activities, crafts, information, as well as recipes. I discovered it in the fall of 2010 when looking for some Halloween recipes to share with you. You can access it by clicking the link: DisneyFamily.

As I said this recipe delights and teases the tastes buds. Wakes them up. Perks them up.  

It not only tastes sweet the sauce is such a pretty color.

And most important it is super easy and super fast.

This is what you will need for 4 people:

1 large bunch of asparagus (1½ lbs.)

1/3 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (from ½ a small grapefruit)

½ teaspoon champagne or white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons butter, cut into 3 pieces

1 teaspoon freshly grated pink grapefruit zest

¼ teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt to taste

Here is what you do:

Wash the asparagus and cut about 1 – inch off the bottom of the stalk.

Either cook the asparagus in water or in a microwave. 

NOTE: The Disney site gives a very detailed step-by-step directions on how to cook asparagus in water. Click the Directions link to get it.

I steamed the asparagus in the microwave. To do this place asparagus above the water, cover and steam for 5-7 minutes.

While the asparagus is cooking or steaming, squeeze the juice from one-half of the grapefruit. Using a channel zester also zest the grapefruit.

This is a channel zester.

Once the asparagus is done, lay them out on a dishtowel to dry while you make the sauce.

In a very small pot, boil the juice and vinegar over medium heat………………..

 ……………………..until reduced to around 2 tablespoons, 3 or 4 minutes. What a gorgeous color this sauce is. Looks like a perfect sunset – rose-pink-peach.

Cut the butter into thirds. Whisk in the butter one pat at a time.  Let each pat of butter melt completely before adding the next. The sauce will thicken as you whisk the sauce. This will not be a super thick sauce. But you will note a thickening of the sauce.

When the last pat of butter has melted and you will see some thickening, whisk in the zest,  sugar, and ¼ teaspoon or so of kosher salt. Taste the sauce for balance — add a drop more vinegar, sugar, or salt if the sauce  needs it.

NOTE: First time I made this recipe the sauce seemed bitter. So I added more sugar. Poured over the asparagus though, it made a difference. The sauce tastes sweeter. That is what fresh spring asparagus will do. It is so sweet it makes the sauce seem sweeter. So test the sauce on some asparagus before adding sugar.

Pour the sauce over the asparagus and serve.

Bon appétit!!!


1 bunch asparagus                $3.53                         

1/3 cup grapefruit juice          $0.75 

½ tspn champagne vinegar    $0.10

3 tablespoons butter              $0.12

1 tsp grapefruit zest               $0.00*

¼ teaspoon sugar                 $0.01

Kosher salt to taste

*in cost of the grapefruit

Total cost = $4.51
Cost per person = $1.13

This is a Recession Buster Recipe©

Quote of the Day

Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment.

Ellis Peterson


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2 comments to Body Image Through the Ages ~ Part 1

  • I love this recipe!! I can’t wait to try it.

    As far as body image and size goes, I’ve been all over the place. I’m only 5′ tall so there’s not much room for error in the calories. More than 1000 a day and I gain weight. Tough when I love to eat. 🙂 I think extremes in thinness and obesity are probably both very unhealthy but apart from that, I think everyone has a set point and no matter what they do, that’s it.

    Thin people don’t struggle to be thin – they just are. It’s the same for a person who’s not so thin, but they DO struggle and they do it every day and they’re filled with guilt every time they eat too much.

    • Roberta

      You will love this recipe, Maureen. It is so delicious.

      Yes, I think, and some research indicates, there is a genetic “set point” and no matter how much you eat or exercise or weight that you lose your body tends to go back to that point. It is the guilt that comes with the struggle that bothers me. No one should feel guilty about their body and think or believe that the image that Hollywood or the food police hold up as the “ideal” means they are somehow less than if they don’t look that way.