Bodies come in different shapes and sizes, influenced by a person’s frame and composition. This is part of what makes every human unique.
Some bodies are curvier, some have broad shoulders, and some have more musculature.
People usually have a defined body type after puberty, but this can change based on activity level, dietary habits, and other major lifestyle and hormonal changes.
This article focuses on common body shapes, common body types, what determines body shape, and ways a person can improve their body image.
A person’s body type depends on the distribution of muscle mass and fat. Some people are long and lean, while others are curvier.
Likewise, some people find it challenging to gain weight, whereas others have difficulty losing weight.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
In the 1940s, psychologist William H. Sheldon introduced the concept of different body types, or somatotypes.
While many people tend to think that this type of classification only refers to males, it can also describe the female body. This classifies the body based on how lean a person is or how easy it is for their body to store fat.
Per this classification, there are three different body types:
- Ectomorph: This is when the body is lean and slender and tends to have less body fat and muscle. People with this body type can often find it challenging to gain weight in the form of muscle or fat. Fashion models are an example of this body type.
- Endomorph: This is when the body has more stored fat, lots of muscle, and gains weight easily. People with this body type are not always overweight. Football lineman and Marilyn Monroe are examples of this body type.
- Mesomorph: This is when the body is athletic and strong. People with this body type are neither overweight nor underweight. Swimmers and volleyball players are examples of this body type.
Females tend to have more fat mass. They also tend to be curvier due to a combination of larger breasts, wider hips, larger buttocks, and bigger thighs.
While every body is unique, there are several broad categories for the female body shape. An older 2004 article notes that this historically stems from the fashion industry.
Common shapes include:
- Pear or triangle: People with this body shape have narrower shoulders than their hips. A person tends to distribute most of their weight in the buttocks, lower hips, and thighs.
- Inverted triangle: This is when the lower half of the body is smaller than the top, with shoulders wider than the hips. People with this body shape tend to gain weight in the upper body and stomach areas. They also tend to have larger chests and narrow hips.
- Rectangle: This is when there is no major definition at the waistline and hips. People with this body shape have similar hip and shoulder width, and the body tends to be in equal proportions.
- Hourglass: This is when both the top and bottom halves of the body are equally broad. People with this body shape tend to have a smaller waist than the chest and hips.
- Oval or apple: This is when the top and bottom halves of the body are narrow. People with this body shape tend to carry weight in the chest and stomach areas and have slender legs.
- activity level
Changes in activity level and diet may affect a person’s body shape. For example, if someone is an ectomorph and wants to gain some weight, while they will have to put in some extra effort, they can do it successfully with a proper diet and exercise routine.
While some people may find it helpful to identify their body shape, others may find little benefit. The appearance of a person’s body can change with exercise and diet. Additionally, a person’s body type may not be an indicator of their overall health.
A person who seems to have an ectomorph body type may believe that they will not experience as many benefits from working out as a type that may find it easier to gain muscle, such as endomorphs.
However, people with all body types will notice improvements in strength, flexibility, and weight if they follow an exercise routine to reach their goals.
Some people may assume that certain body types are less likely to develop conditions due to overweight or obesity. However, this is not necessarily true.
Low amounts of physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and not following a healthy, balanced diet are all risk factors of having metabolic obesity. While some genetic factors also exist, experts have not investigated this link fully.
People should not assume that they are at a lower risk of developing conditions associated with obesity due to their particular body shape.
A person who displays characteristics of one body shape but wants to look like another may develop poor body image issues or body dysmorphia. In some cases, a person may develop disordered eating patterns.
The researchers suggest that people who see a “thin ideal” on social media may be at a higher risk of developing disordered eating patterns in an effort to achieve this ideal.
Eating disorders can severely affect the quality of life of people living with these conditions and those close to them. Early intervention and treatment greatly improve the likelihood of recovery.
Anyone who suspects that they or a loved one has an eating disorder can contact the National Eating Disorder Association for advice and support via:
- phone or text at 800-931-2237
- online chat, by going to this link
These services are only open during specific hours. Someone in crisis can text “NEDA” to 741741 at any time to get support from a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.
Alternatively, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) run a Disaster Distress Helpline that people can contact on 800-985-5990 for 24-7 support.
Many other resources are available, including:
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
- The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness
- F.E.A.S.T., who provide support and educational resources to friends and family who want to help someone living with an eating disorder
Sometimes, people do not feel comfortable with their body shape.
For example, a very curvy person may wish for a more rectangular-shaped body, while someone with a rectangular-shaped body may want to have more curves.
It is common for some people to feel pressure around the concept of the “ideal body” shape or type, but ultimately there is no ideal body shape — health is the most important factor.
The National Eating Disorders Association outlines some thought patterns a person can consider for a more positive body image:
- Appreciate what the body can do.
- Remember that beauty is not skin deep.
- Be around positive people.
- Shut down negative self-talk.
- Wear comfortable clothing that inspires confidence.
- Be critical of social media images.
It is important for people to consider that all bodies are beautiful and unique but are only a part of what defines a person. How individuals treat others and behave are also important aspects.
If a person suffers from poor body image issues or body dysmorphia, they should seek support from a medical professional.
(Video) How to Exercise & Diet Correctly for Your Body Type | Joanna Soh
All bodies are special and unique. One aspect of what makes them unique is their shape and how they carry weight and muscle.
There are many different body shapes and many different body types. Sometimes, people do not feel comfortable with their body shape. If a person has concerns about their body, they should consult a doctor.
The five main body type shapes are rectangle, inverted triangle, hourglass, pear and apple.What are the main 3 body types? ›
People are born with an inherited body type based on skeletal frame and body composition. Most people are unique combinations of the three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.What do the 3 body types look like? ›
According to Sheldon, endomorphs have bodies that are always rounded and soft, mesomorphs are always square and muscular, and ectomorphs are always thin and fine-boned.How do I tell my body type? ›
To determine your body shape, start by looking at your midsection and determining if it is the largest part of your body. If it is, and you have slimmer legs and hips, you have an apple shape. Alternatively, if your midsection and bust are smaller and your hips are wide, you are likely pear-shaped.Which body type is best for female? ›
One of the most desired body shapes is an hourglass one. It looks the most balanced of all, and if you have this body shape, then it means your hips and bust measurements are equal in size, and you have a waist that is well-defined and narrower than your bust and hips.Can Endomorphs be skinny? ›
I received A LOT of questions asking me whether it is possible to achieve a lean body and slim down your legs as an endomorph female. The short answer is- yes, definitely! But, in order to do so, you need to exercise and eat right for your own body type.What is the most preferred body type? ›
Based on various studies, the ideal body shape is the hourglass type body shape. The amount of these qualities vary between culture and race, but as long as you hold an hourglass shape, then you have an ideal body shape.Do you inherit your body type? ›
Studies suggest that while your genes may determine up to 80 percent of your weight and body shape, environment and personal choice still play a significant role. So even if you're a dead ringer for your mother in old family photos, it doesn't mean you'll enter middle age with the same body.How do endomorphs eat? ›
Endomorph diet plans usually focus on avoiding refined carbohydrates and eating a mix of healthful fats, proteins, and carbohydrates from vegetables, nuts, fruits, and whole-grain foods.Can Endomorphs get abs? ›
Endomorphs – if you are endomorph, then sorry, you're going to have to work hard for your abs. Endomorphs gain weight much more easily than the other two body types. These types may need some extra cardio added in to their routine to burn off some more calories, and they have to watch what they eat closely.
What is the rarest body type? The hourglass body shape is the rarest body shape as it requires equal bust/shoulder and hip proportions with a dramatically smaller waist size.What is the fattest body type? ›
Endomorph You tend to have more body fat than the other body types in this framework. Catudal says that women who are endomorphs may be described as curvaceous, while men may be called stocky. You tend to carry weight in your belly, hips, and thighs.What body types are attractive? ›
When we asked women what body-fat percentage they found most attractive, 58% chose the body with a flat stomach, and 39% chose the body with abs. The average man is overweight, but only 3% of women chose that body-fat percentage.What body shape is 34 30 36? ›
Ruler Body Shape (Rectangle/ Banana Shape)
Tend to put on weight in stomach and bottom, while maintaining slender arms and legs. E.g. 34-30-35, 36-33-37, 40-36-42.
The rectangle is the most common female body shape.What is a top hourglass figure? ›
Hourglass shape can be of two kinds- top hourglass or bottom hourglass. Top hourglass is when everything fits as per the characteristics, except that the bust is slightly bigger than the hips. And the bottom hourglass is exactly the other way round, that your hips are slightly wider than your bust.What does a mesomorph body look like? ›
According to Sheldon, people with a mesomorph body type tend to have a medium frame. They may develop muscles easily and have more muscle than fat on their bodies. Mesomorphs are typically strong and solid, not overweight or underweight. Their bodies may be described as rectangular in shape with an upright posture.What is the most attractive weight for a girl? ›
Subsequent studies have found that a body mass index in young adult women of between 18 to 19 is the most attractive.What does curvy body look like? ›
Basically, curvy body type measurements are larger than skinny ones. They include a bigger ratio between the hips, waist or chest. There are no specific measurements that define a curvy body type, as all female bodies are unique.Am I an endomorph or mesomorph? ›
Endomorphs are rounded, with lots of muscle and body fat, a stockier structure, and a slower metabolism. (Think of football linemen.) Mesomorphs are athletic and muscular, capable of gaining weight or losing weight easily thanks to their efficient metabolisms.
A mesomorph has a large bone structure, large muscles and a naturally athletic physique. Mesomorphs are the best body type for bodybuilding. They find it quite easy to gain and lose weight. They are naturally strong which is the perfect platform for building muscle.Is endomorph just fat? ›
Endomorphs are said to have a higher percentage of body fat and less muscle mass. They're often heavier and rounder but do not necessarily have obesity. Because of their physical makeup, people with endomorphic bodies are more sensitive to calorie consumption than people with other body types.Can an endomorph look skinny? ›
Endomorphs may also be "skinny fat." That means that they have a reasonable Body Mass Index (BMI), but do not have good muscle definition. They may not look fat, but they're not toned either. Most likely, those around a skinny-fat person would not describe them as being out of shape.Can Endomorphs get skinny? ›
Reducing calorie consumption can also be challenging. “An endomorph has to be the strictest about their diet, including total calories and how many calories come from carbs, but if they do those things, they can slim down,” says Catudal.What is the perfect figure size for a girl? ›
According to the class 12 CBSE Health and Physical Education textbook, 36-24-36 is considered the best shape for females. “That is why in Miss World or Miss Universe competitions, such type of shape is also taken into consideration,” states the textbook.Which body type gets fat easily? ›
People with an endomorph body type tend to have a slow metabolism, making it easier for them to gain weight and harder for them to lose it.What type of girl do guys find attractive? ›
Men prefer a woman who can stay calm and relaxed. Beauty is more than make-up and a fancy haircut. Men find women more attractive when they are neat and clean. Men find women who smell nice, who have clean hair and hydrated skin more attractive than a face perfectly covered in makeup.What are the 12 system of human body? ›
The different systems of our body include- cardiovascular system, endocrine system, digestive system, respiratory system, excretory system, lymphatic system, nervous system, muscular system, and skeletal system.What are the 12 physical systems of the body? ›
The 11 organ systems include the integumentary system, skeletal system, muscular system, lymphatic system, respiratory system, digestive system, nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, urinary system, and reproductive systems. The VA defines 14 disability systems, which are similar to the body systems.