The hourglass figure is back in a big way: Classic, coke-bottle body shapes have been dominating social media, driven by the success of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, and Scarlett Johansson.
This trend marks a seismic shift in our fashion preferences, which had been defined by the “waif” look since the 1960s, along with a return to healthier body ideals. As a specific body type, however, the hourglass figure isn’t easily obtainable by every woman. In fact, while we think of the hourglass as being the default female shape, it’s actually relatively rare: Most women (over 70%) have a rectangular or “apple” shape, while about 25% are pear-shaped; just under 10% have true hourglass proportions.
The ability to maintain an hourglass shape also diminishes with age: As estrogen levels fall during a woman’s 40s and 50s, fat stores shift from the hips and thighs to the midriff, creating the “boxy” look we associate with middle age. Most women can’t reverse these inevitable changes in body composition with diet and exercise because they’re caused by hormonal factors, not weight gain. Even if you stay the same weight throughout your lifetime, your body’s patterns of fat distribution will still change.
Why We Find the Hourglass Figure so Attractive
The hourglass figure is seen as a sign of health and optimal fertility, but surprisingly, this isn’t the reason people are inherently drawn to it. Research shows that when factors like advanced age and obesity are ruled out, the health risks and fertility problems associated with a poor waist-to-hip ratio virtually disappear. In short, your body type doesn’t determine your health status or your ability to have multiple children; your genes and your lifestyle play a much larger role.
Dramatic curves are desirable because they help us quickly identify someone as being young, female, and not currently pregnant, even when that person is viewed from a distance. In our evolutionary past, this shape made it easier for our ancestors to select good potential mates. Today, exaggerated hourglass shapes are popular on sites like Instagram because they send immediate messages about a person’s age and gender. These signals are internalized even if someone only spends seconds scrolling past a picture.
Is There Any Way to Get an Hourglass Figure Without Surgery?
If you weren’t genetically blessed with a perfectly balanced body, you’ll need to do your research before you pursue this sought-after shape: As inevitably occurs with all beauty trends, there are a number of misleading and potentially dangerous myths about how to get an hourglass figure. Women looking for a non-surgical way to sculpt their waist frequently turn to waist trainers, for example, but these devices can do more harm than good.
When you use a waist trainer regularly, you put a great deal of pressure on your lungs and digestive organs. In the short term, this pressure makes it harder to breathe properly and may result in dizziness or fainting. Over time, it can cause the organs to become displaced or reduce the blood flow they need to function properly. The effects of chronic compression from waist training include pain, digestive problems, poor kidney function, and other serious problems. For many women, these risks also come with little real gain: As soon as you remove your waist trainer, your fat and organs will start to migrate back to their original locations.
The only effective natural way to sculpt an hourglass figure is through a combination of diet and exercise: Sticking to a healthy diet (to keep excess fat off your waist) and building muscle mass in key areas, like the thighs and butt, may subtly alter your shape. However, if you’re over 30, naturally carry some fat around your middle (even when you’re at a healthy weight). If you have a lean, athletic body type, diet and exercise probably won’t give you an hourglass figure. Instead, you’ll need to talk to us about liposuction, fat transfer, and (possibly) tummy tuck surgery.
The Surgical Approach to Better Proportions: Liposuction, Fat Transfer, and Tummy Tuck Surgery
All the targeted exercise in the world won’t “spot reduce” fat around your midsection, contrary to what you’ve read on countless fitness blogs. Studies show that abdominal exercises are a great way to improve muscle tone, but they don’t actually lead to a reduction in waist circumference. If you’re already within the normal BMI range for your height, only liposuction can significantly alter your waist-to-hip ratio.
There is, however, some good news: Modern liposuction is a safe, minimally invasive procedure. If you decide to undergo surgical fat removal, you’ll probably only need to spend a week resting after your procedure, and you won’t experience much bruising or tenderness.
At Silverton Plastic Surgery, we prefer to use a technique known as “LipoPerfection” to ensure our patients’ comfort. This method uses harmless radio frequency (RF) energy to disperse saline solution throughout targeted fat deposits, gently loosening and liquefying them for easy removal. LipoPerfection greatly reduces the risk of surgical complications, including abdominal tenderness, and allows Dr. Silverton to preserve harvested fat cells for transfer.
To create a more hourglass figure with liposuction, Dr. Silverton removes fat from the patient’s upper and lower abdomen, her sides and flanks, and her back. Removing fat uniformly from all of these areas creates smooth, natural-looking curves. In total, about five to eight pounds of fat is removed during liposuction, but our patients say they look 20 pounds lighter after their post-operative swelling subsides. Because we associate belly fat with being overweight (regardless of a person’s actual BMI), getting rid of stubborn abdominal fat changes the way others see us, and the way we see ourselves.
After liposuction, some patients need to undergo a fat transfer to achieve properly balanced proportions. (If you naturally have full hips and a large bust, you may be able to skip this step without sacrificing your body goals.) Fat transfer is a highly specialized procedure wherein Dr. Silverton carefully preserves and processes adipose tissue removed via suction. First, he spins the fat at very high velocity in a centrifuge, to separate the lipids in it from blood vessels and other unwanted tissue. Then, the purified lipids are carefully injected into the breasts and/or buttocks to augment those areas. These procedures are usually referred to as “natural breast augmentation” and the “Brazilian Butt Lift” (or butt augmentation), respectively.
If you have very small breasts, Dr. Silverton may recommend using silicone breast implants to enhance your bust, in addition to fat transfer. Natural breast augmentation can only increase breast size by about one cup, so it’s not capable of changing an A cup into a C or D cup. What breast fat transfer can do, however, is disguise the edges of your breast implants and give your breasts a softer look and feel following conventional breast augmentation. (When you visit us for a consultation, we’ll help you choose the best breast procedures to give you the look you want.)
The results of both liposuction and fat transfer are permanent, so if you use these procedures to achieve an hourglass figure, your body won’t return to its prior shape. To make sure you keep your perfect new proportions, try to maintain a stable weight.
Tummy tuck surgery (abdominoplasty) is more invasive than liposuction, so we don’t recommend it as the default way to achieve an hourglass figure. For some women, however, abdominoplasty is necessary to contour a slim waist and flat stomach. Women who have had multiple children and those who have been obese in the past often suffer from abdominal muscle separation (diastasis recti), a potentially dangerous condition where the lateral halves of the abdominal muscles no longer function in unison. Abdominal muscle separation occurs when the weight of excess fat or a growing baby causes tears in the linea alba, a fibrous band of tissue that joins both sections of the abs.
Medically, diastasis recti can cause chronic back pain and increase the risk of ventral hernia. Cosmetically, it makes the lower stomach visibly protrude, no matter how slim the affected woman is.
Not only do strong, intact abs keep the body’s core strong, and exert a natural “corseting” effect that compresses the waistline into a narrower shape. As such, until the abdominal muscles are repaired surgically, it’s impossible for someone with abdominal muscle separation to achieve an hourglass figure. (Exercise alone cannot repair damaged connective tissue, and some popular abdominal exercises actually worsen abdominal muscle separation.) Loose skin that’s leftover after pregnancy or weight loss often accentuates the “flabby” look associated with diastasis recti because the loose skin forms folds and rolls around the tummy and back.
To perform a tummy tuck, Dr. Silverton carefully repairs the patient’s linea alba with self-dissolving sutures. Then, he uses liposuction to remove unwanted fat, if necessary. Once the patient’s abdominal cavity has been repaired and contoured, he drapes the skin so it lies smoothly over her new shape, before removing excess tissue, as needed.
For patients who don’t have diastasis recti, Dr. Silverton usually recommends the less invasive “mini” tummy tuck. A mini tummy tuck gets rid of excess fat and loose skin on the lower stomach, but it doesn’t require long incisions and it has a much shorter recovery period. The mini tummy tuck is a great way to address age-related abdominal fat accumulation and skin laxity issues to restore a more youthful, curvy shape.
Ready to Change Your Shape? Talk to Us About Body Contouring in Stockton, CA
Body contouring is the best way to achieve an hourglass profile, without any dangerous diets, waist training, or ineffective “skinny teas” or supplements. Liposuction, fat transfer, and tummy tuck surgery are well-understood procedures that create proven results, especially when they’re performed by a capable, board-certified plastic surgeon.
To learn more about surgical body contouring, contact Silverton Plastic Surgery in Stockton, CA online or by phone at 209-952-2251. We look forward to meeting you and helping you realize the most confident version of yourself.