Survival of the beautiful
Beauty may not simply be in the eye of the beholder.
That's what evolutionary psychology, backed by years of research, suggests.
From an evolutionary perspective, people have evolved to value certain physical features because they convey important information about one's age, health and genetic quality, psychologist Norman Li said.
The Singapore Management University associate professor told The New Paper: "This information is important because, at least in ancestral times, it impacted whether people could have viable offspring."
It seems that attributes necessary for survival and reproduction have seeped into modern standards of beauty.
A 2015 study published in Evolution and Human Behaviour shows the close fit between sex-differentiated morphology and standard of attractiveness.
Psychologists at the University of Texas (UT) found that men prefer women with a 45-degree lumbar curvature - the curve from back to buttocks.
This is an optimal angle that allows women to better support multiple pregnancies.
Body shape, determined by the waist-to-hip ratio (calculated by dividing your waist circumference by your hip circumference), matters too.
A 2004 UT study found that a range of 0.67 to 1.18 in females is attractive to men, while a 0.8 to 1.0 ratio in men is attractive to women.
People in the ideal hip-ratio range are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes, studies have shown.
Waist-to-hip ratio in women is highly related to their fertility too, said Prof Li.
He added that facial symmetry is also an indication of good genes - essential for survival, a sign of good health, and a good choice for mating.
The human body develops by cells dividing neatly.
If every division were to be perfect, the result would be a baby with complete facial symmetry.
Genetic mutations and environmental pressures mess up the symmetry.
These physical attributes (and therefore attractiveness) change as people age, which in part explains why people visit aesthetic clinics, said Prof Li.
Women - and increasingly more men - apply cosmetics and go for procedures to visually reverse the effects of ageing, he said.
The hot and cold of fat reduction treatments
In my quest to achieve a more satisfactory waist-to-hip ratio, I tried out two different fat reduction procedures last month.
Non-invasive, no complications and minimal downtime. I had to put them to the test.
One was a cryolipolysis session at Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic. Called CoolSculpting, the fat-freezing procedure promises to reduce that offending jiggle.
It is best suited for those with a healthy body mass index and stubborn pockets of fat, Dr Chan said.
After a chat with him about my problem area - my thunder thighs - I was taken to another room for a pinch test.
Yes, there is a fat bulge that can be put through the treatment, said one of Dr Chan's assistants.
The treatment areas were marked out on my inner thighs. A pad saturated with cooling gel was then applied. The pad protects the skin and ensures consistent thermal contact with the applicator.
There was a suction force and a blast of coldness for the first 10 minutes after the applicator was fixed on my left inner thigh. The discomfort faded in the next 25 minutes as I busied myself with my smartphone.
The shock came when the applicator was removed from my left thigh - the treated part was numb and sore. It was like a muscle ache, and I was told that it would linger for a few days.
Dr Chan's assistants started massaging the treated part to "pop" the fat cells before they are passed out from the body naturally.
The same was repeated with my right inner thigh.
The numbness and soreness lingered for a few days, but did not affect my daily routine.
A week later, I went to Cambridge Therapeutics, this time for my Vanquish Me treatment.
With a large panel positioned over the problem area, Vanquish Me targets the fat layer (without skin contact) and heats it up to 45 deg C to kill the fat cells.
I slept like a baby for the whole 45-minute treatment, thanks to the comforting warmth the panel emitted. The best part? No downtime at all.
It's been close to a month since the two treatments. My thighs saw a 0.25-inch reduction, while my waist stayed at 24 inches.
To be fair, it typically takes a few sessions to see noticeable results.
At $700 a pop on average (the price varies from clinic to clinic) for a session, it is a good lunchtime quickie for those who can afford it, especially to shape up for any festivities.
This article was first published on March 13, 2017.
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