Help me pare down my shape!
August 10, 2010 5:44 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to become less pear-shaped? Pear shape = Tiny breasts, huge thighs. Resources for work-outs, success stories or even ways to help me accept myself the way I am are greatly appreciated!

Anonymous because I am incredibly embarrassed by my body and have serious self esteem issues.

I am an A-cup, with tiny boobs. No cleavage to speak of. Pretty thin face and upper body until you get down below the waist: big butt and thighs. Not only has the size of my butt been the center of a few conversations (I was not the one to bring it up), but every boy I have ever been with has commented, either jokingly or not, on how disproportionate my body seems.

When I was young, I figured my boobs would grow later on and sort of balance out the rest of my body. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I am pretty sure I'm passed the age of boob growing (in 20s now)--ruling out of course, getting knocked up or a pair of fake boobs.

Thinking about my body shape sends me into depression that gets worse whenever someone tries to cheerfully say, 'at least you have good birthing hips.'

SO, I want to change, but don't know the best way to do this. If I diet, I'm afraid that lowering my body fat will shrink what is left of my already teensy rack and I already feel bad enough that it's so teensy. So I figure the best thing is to work out? I'll be back in grad school in the fall and will have access to the gym and their group fitness classes like endurance cycling and yoga. They also have all those basics like treadmills, ellipticals and a weight room.

I plan to attend the cycling class and maybe even yoga, but have a question about running. I can run at most, a mile right now. I noticed on my walk this morning that almost all of the women runners out had really thick thighs and calves, and they seemed to run and look like seasoned runners. Would running be a bad option for me?

Also, I read that working out my upper body is possibly a good way to balance out the pear shape. I can't do even one push up nor do I know how to lift weights. Tips?

Other than that, I would love just any words of advice, success stories, you'll-just-have-to-learn-to-love-your-body, etc. [sidenote: my ex started seeing a girl with a fantastic body (big boobs, small butt, just think opposite of me) and I've been letting that get to me lately]

Oh, BTW I am 5'6" and 140 pounds.

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Developing your shoulder muscles will help you appear more balanced.

My boobs grew 2 cup sizes over my 20s so don't rule out further growth.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:46 PM on August 10, 2010

Oh, about a year on hormonal birth control increased my breasts from B/C cups to their current DD, even though I'm the same weight as in high school (30-32 band size).
posted by halogen at 5:47 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm 5'9" and recently went from about 175 lbs to more like 150. I have a very similar body type to yours (34A/B bras and size 12 pants before the diet) but so far all the weight has come off the lower half, and my small boobs don't appear to be any smaller. I'm just a little less disproportionate and a lot less self-conscious.

Best of luck! :)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:49 PM on August 10, 2010

Joining the gym and taking yoga and cycling are GREAT ideas. The yoga will help build your upper body, and doing some weights for strength would also help with that. But mainly it'll be wonderful for you because making progress at the gym is an awesome way to feel better about your body.

I am also pear-shaped, and quite overweight. But I still feel really Good about my body for having made it through a tough bootcamp class this evening. Once you make the gym a frequent habit you will start caring more about whether you can do shoulder stand or do that cycling climb harder than you could the week before.

You will begin to start caring more about what your body can DO and less about what it looks like. And the confidence that comes from that will help you appreciate your many attractive qualities.
posted by ldthomps at 5:57 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm the same height as you and have been 140 pounds, and when the weight fell off I wasn't so much devastated about my boob size as glad that my knees were again safe for public viewing.

Also, get the 'what not to wear' book and look up the 'huge thighs' chapter.
posted by tel3path at 6:12 PM on August 10, 2010

I'd say I am pear-shaped, in that my hips are larger than my breasts, and I know that I have to work to balance it out, as all the women in my family have this build. If you can look at your Mom and/ or sisters and see the same thing going on, you are probably like me.

I do lunges and squats to tone down my thighs and firm up my hips. I find that stair machines are better than bikes because you aren't sitting, so your hips get a workout, too. I'm also working on toning my upper arms to get that overall fit look I used to have (put on weight as a result of hypothyroidism and still have 10-12 pounds I want to lose).

Please don't be self-conscious! Lots of men like curvy hips, and you shouldn't feel like you have to fit in some hourglass mold to please the others. Think about the men you find attractive. Do you narrowly define the perfect body type a man should have before you are interested? I bet you don't. And honestly, with the exception of a few jerks out there, I've found moat men are more accepting of women's bodies than we are of our own.
posted by misha at 6:13 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ack. Most men, not moat men. You don't want to date alligator people!
posted by misha at 6:14 PM on August 10, 2010 [11 favorites]

Definately the gym - it'll make you feel better about yourself in general AND I really recommend talking to a trainer about what you want to achieve (balancing out your body). Most gym's will give you at least one free consult with a trainer when you join so they can show you how to use the weights and discuss what you want to achieve.

I lost a bit of weight from going to the gym and lost at least a cup size (or two) - BUT despite this, building up my chest muscles has actually made my chest seem more full. By the way, I do very little cardio (just some elliptical trainer maybe 20 mins 2 of 3 times a week, and cycling outside the gym) so I mostly stick to weights.

I've always had pretty solid calves and thighs. They're much more toned now but they'll always be on the bigger side. But now I think it's kind of cool! You can really tell the difference between a big butt/thighs and large toned butt/thighs. So don't be afraid of stuff that works your glutes and hamstrings - you still need muscles there and it will change the shape of them! (on preview - like Misha said)

The gym will allow you to build muscle in certain places to balance out your shape, and it will make you fitter and healthier, which will do wonders for your self esteem!

Also - buy yourself at least one set of nice gym gear (doesn't need to be expensive, just stuff you feel good in). That'll help you with getting there in the first place.

I'm sure that within a coupld of months you'll be hooked on the gym and really see some changes in your body!
posted by nothing too obvious at 6:16 PM on August 10, 2010

Regardless of what goes on below the waist, learning to love your small boobs, if you can, is an awesome feeling -- this from someone who finally accepted things and started buying her A cup bras in the girls' department (where they cost $8 a piece! and usually only require a cheap extender for the band). Don't bother trying to make them look fuller, rounder, bigger, whatever than they are, but flatter what you have with well-tailored, fitted shirts with a rather high neckline -- I think a lot of flat-chested women make a mistake in trying to wear scoop necks and push-ups as if to somehow prove that they really have breasts, and end up they want to prove they have breasts. I've actually found that for me bras which are a little flattening look better than cups which produce two small mounds with an expanse of flat chest in between.

When you carry yourself, stand, and dress as if you think your body is a pretty cool shape, it goes a long way to helping you believe it. Really and truly. And there are plenty of other cool things about being small-chested besides cheap bras.

Working out -- yes, strengthening the shoulders, chest and arms can help balance your appearance. Any kind of strength exercises where you end up seeing real progress in muscle development can make you feel better and more confident about yourself as a person, which in turn makes you feel better about yourself as a body, regardless of whether your body shape has caught up to where you think it should be.

For arm strength, start with this site: One Hundred Push Ups It can actually make doing more than one push-up at a time an attainable goal.
posted by frobozz at 6:33 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wear dresses! Preferably with some detailing in the shoulder area- like:
wide boatnecks,
V-shaped necks where the outside of the V starts at the outer edges of the shoulders,
cap sleeves to visually widen your shoulders,
fluttery sleeves at the shoulders,
puffed sleeves,
ruching over the bust to add volume there,
bright colour, shiny texture, or pattern on the top half- paired with a more subdued bottom half
or an oversized, interesting collar.

The most flattering dress designs will add bulk to your top half, which will visually balance your bottom half. Look for dresses that also have narrow waists, and maybe add a belt to nip it in even more. And seek simple lower halves on your dresses- not tooo much extra fabric or details in the hip or hem area, as that will visually widen your lower half. All of the dresses I linked would flatter a pear-shaped body.

So think of finding clothes that widen your shoulders, emphasize your little waist, show the width of your collarbones, and skim fluidly over your bottom half. It'll also balance you out to have relatively big, long hair if you're into that, and carry substantial purses that are bigger than one of your butt cheeks (a teeny purse bouncing beside a wide bum makes the bum look wider).

There are some pear-shaped celebs, too, whose style you can follow. Many of these women also have big boobs but often you don't need boobs to look hourglassy- emphasizing the curve of a small waist will also achieve this.
Check out Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Tina Fey, and Shakira.

When you look at celebs- ignore their magazine shoots, those are airbrushed like crazy and the person's proportions will have been altered. Only look at their candid and red-carpet shots to see what their body is really like.

Jennifer Love Hewitt looks great with a wide boatneck and cap sleeves, not as balanced when her top has slim-cut sleeves and an overly detailed hem that hits right at the hip. This halter thing was a bit of a mistake, too.

Michelle Obama looked amazing in this wide V neck dress with a slim skirt, and great in this textured jacket with V-shaped patterning over a slim skirt, whereas these tiny, close-set halter straps give her body more of a pyramid shape and make her look more bottom-heavy.

Beyonce looks lovely in this V-necked wrap dress, and less put-together in drapey, shapeless outfits.

It took me a while to realize how nice my curves were- basically I found one really flattering dress by copying a celeb who had a similar build to mine- and I got so many compliments I basically started wearing dresses all the time. I hope this is helpful and helps you love your shape more- hips are hot!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:44 PM on August 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

Just dropped in to say, PLEASE do not consider using hormonal birth control for the sole purpose of increasing your bust size. I'm only saying this because I saw it mentioned above as a cause of larger breasts. Halogen, I know you weren't offering it as a suggestion, but I've actually known women to go on birth control for the stated reason of increasing their bust size, which is why I'm commenting.

As a data point, hormonal BC increased my bust from a B cup to a C cup for about a year. Then they went right back down to their normal small B size.
posted by pecanpies at 7:05 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate to quote MIMS, but:

"Palm on ya ass, that's if you let me touch/I don't care about your breasts, you could be a A cup
I know what I like and baby that's below the waist"

Ok, now watch this Ciara video. Also, here is a photo of Beyonce. On the spectrum of beauty, she'd be much closer to goddess than disproportionate. Shakira? Shakira again.

Now go to this facebook group (NSFW, probably).

It seems that you are coming from a certain cultural sense of what is beautiful. You mention that your ex is seeing a girl with a fantastic body, but many people would not consider that beautiful. Some people would, yes. Don't hate on other women, but realize that there are so many kinds of beauty. Love the beauty that you have.

You may never get over what your culture has told you is 'beautiful', but perhaps try just flaunting what you have for a bit. Emphasize your lower half and maybe take belly dancing classes to help you appreciate it. Don't wear bras and wear cool strapless/strappy/thin things. Show off your body, seriously. In the words of Scarface, "Short skirts and boots/Thick ass with thighs".

You should stop dating the guys you have been and try somebody from a different culture. It might help you realize just how much your body type is appreciated. In fact, before I started dating my current boyfriend, I didn't even think that men cared about breast size. Only some men like that.

If all that fails, consider plastic surgery. Don't even feel guilty about it, either. You only have one life, and you deserve to meet your own beauty standards for it! Working out is always a fantastic idea no matter what you want your body to look like.
posted by 200burritos at 7:08 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Exercise can work, depending on how your body carries/loses weight. However, this is really variable. I am also pear shaped, and I find that while I can lose a little in the lower half of my body, there is only so far it will go - the bulk of any weight loss I experience tends to be, sadly, in my breasts. (Which isn't to say that the same will be true for you! Just sharing!)

Exercise is not going to change the basic shape of your build. I know it's easier said than done, but it would be much healthier for you to work on your body image issues (via therapy, if necessary) rather than get plastic surgery just to please some jerks who said whatever it was about you.

Oh, and re people's comments about your body - there's a strong chance that they didn't mean anything negative about whatever they said. One of the first guys I slept with, when I was very young, said "Oh, you're so tiny..." upon seeing me without a shirt on for the first time. This gave me a complex about my flat-chested-ness and un-proportional-ness for years. Then I realized he was just a dumb kid who either meant it to be a compliment or didn't mean anything by it at all. For all I know mine were the first real-life breasts he'd ever seen.

And, of course, any man who really does shame you about your body? Kick his ass to the curb. Seriously, you deserve better.
posted by Sara C. at 8:08 PM on August 10, 2010

I have a friend with your same body type, and I am very jealous of her body and how clothes look on her. Her waist looks tiny in contrast with her butt. She can wear semi-transparent or revealing tops and she always looks elegant, never slutty. She gets a lot of positive attention from men, too.

I think her secret is that she is very careful when choosing her clothes. She adapts everything to get a perfect fit (her mother sews), and she always looks amazing.

[sidenote: my ex started seeing a girl with a fantastic body (big boobs, small butt, just think opposite of me) and I've been letting that get to me lately]

That's the body shape of women in my family (well, some of us didn't get the boobs.)
Guess what, we are all jealous of women with butts and thighs.
posted by clearlydemon at 8:33 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might try looking for daily fashion blogs done by pear-shaped women. I'm totally jealous of their tiny waists. The blogger Bitchcakes really shows off her pear-shaped and revels in her booty. She's at her "goal weight" and her thighs are big (maybe from lots of bike riding, but she's definitely a pear). But she looks amazing and oozes confidence.

So, yeah, working out is great. But one great change would also be to learn how to appreciate your bod a bit more. Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 8:52 PM on August 10, 2010

I have never said this before, but to those who mentioned the option of "plastic surgery" I want to scream WTF!!!

In your last sentence you disclosed that you are 5'6" and 140 pounds - so your overall body weight is great. You could try an exercise program to redistribute your weight, but I'm guessing it's your perception of your appearance that's distorted.

Rare is the woman who thinks she has a great body and your recent experience with an ex who is now with someone who has large breasts and small hips only feeds into your negative self image.
posted by kbar1 at 12:01 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Anonymous because I am incredibly embarrassed by my body and have serious self esteem issues

There is nothing wrong with your body. Get your mind right.

every boy I have ever been with has commented, either jokingly or not, on how disproportionate my body seems

Get better boys. Find one who is made horny beyond reason by pear-shaped women.

Thinking about my body shape sends me into depression

Then you're a far, far better candidate for CBT than plastic surgery.

You could start simply by writing down the thoughts that occur to you as you contemplate your body, then editing what you've written so that it appears to be derived from a description of some other bodily characteristic that isn't emotionally problematic for you. For example take something like

I have an enormous arse and tiny boobs. OMG I am such a freak show. Nobody is ever going to love me looking like this. I might as well go and hide in a hole.

and edit it so that it reads

I have brown eyes and wavy hair. OMG I am such a freak show. Nobody is ever going to love me looking like this. I might as well go and hide in a hole.

Clearly, the edited version is complete bullshit.

And you know what? So is the unedited version.

Responding to "my body shape is an ugly shape" with "at least you have good birthing hips" is really destructive because the "at least" part is implicitly agreeing with the proposition that your overall shape is ugly, and the "you have good birthing hips" part is a feeble, ineffective attempt at spin. Spin is no use to you. What you need is better bullshit rejection.

In fact your best response to any suggestion that your body is an ugly shape is more along the lines of BULLSHIT! My body is FINE and if YOU have a problem with it you can FUCK THE FUCK RIGHT OFF because I AM NOT GOING TO WASTE MY LIFE DEALING WITH YOUR SHIT.
posted by flabdablet at 2:25 AM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Tons of great advice here about working out and generally feeling better about what your body can do.

Just want to chime in about your comment that your shape (or butt size) has been a conversational topic. Well, heck yeah! Sounds like you have some beautiful curves and a totally grabbable ass (and there are a lot of people who will want to be all over that)!

Do you think for a second that when Jay-Z tells Beyonce he wants to have a party with that butt of hers she feels awkward and self-conscious about size?

Channel your inner Kardashian (or Beyonce, Shakira, or Jennifer Lopez), embrace and learn to love that sexy shape of yours, and when someone tells you that you're disproportionate, you look 'em in the eye and say, "You got that right, baby. I am looking gooood."
posted by dzaz at 4:00 AM on August 11, 2010

***and his new girlfriend thinks her ass is too small.
posted by dzaz at 4:02 AM on August 11, 2010

Oh the threads been a bit light on workout resources. You sound open to the idea of lifting weights, go for it! I started using free weights a few months ago and am really enjoying it (and the results, my shoulders are starting to look awesome and my bra straps stay put for the first time in my life).

If you dont enjoy running, don't run. When I started at the gym I assumed I needed to do the same as all those other women on the treadmills but I was bored and I realised I really wasnt very good at it, so I stopped running so much.

If you do enough body weight stuff (squats, step ups etc) you're getting a good work out anyway. No need to pound away on the cardio machines for very long if thats not your thing. Added bonus, you don't have to wait your turn to heft the lighter dumbbells and do 30 step ups in the free weight corner of the gym. You do have to get over feeling a bit intimidated by all the boys draped all over the weight benches but that soon goes. Once you figure out a few lifts and get comfortable with them you start to notice that everyone else around you is doing pretty similar workouts, who knew! You're suddenly a fully fledged member of the gym bunny club. and are two sites Ive found really useful. I used the dumbbell workout starter article on as a starting point for my workout.

Nthing what SaraC said though, your body is going to adjust itself in ways you can do little to control. You can't take water out of only one end of the pool.
posted by Ness at 5:28 AM on August 11, 2010

some fantastic advice above and I particularly want to emphasise the CBT because it seems you're hanging around with a few toxic people who think it's OK to make the kinds of comments they have made and which so hurt you. They were ignorant and if you had a little more self-esteem you might realise that you don't have to put up with that shit.

You also might have a bit more confidence in your body shape, enough to give off those vibes that will attract the right kind of attention.

for all those people saying look at Beyonce, look at Shakira... I would find that even more intimidating if I were the OP to be honest.

The way your adipose tissue is laid down is a feature of genetics, all the gym in the world will only make small changes to this, you are a healthy weight and it will maybe tone you a bit but that's not where your hurt is at.

Plastic surgery is indicated in serious cases of body dismorphia as a part of treatement that starts with counselling, sometimes phamacological treatments for depression and only the OP can decide if this case qualifies. I have seen people decide on a boob job after counselling and it made a huge difference. I have also seen someone who had a lot of fat sucked out of her thighs and hips area and now has a better shape in clothes but a very dimpled appearance out of them which makes her even more self-concious about taking her clothes off. It can help but only if you start out with some counselling or other support. OP: Do you have a family physician you can discuss this with? Are other members of your family this shape and what is their quality of life?

I completely accept the feelings here to love yourself, but sometimes we have learned the toxic lessons too weel from a culture onsessed with appearance and the struggle of changing our midset is often less than something which at first glance appears drastic to others. Only the OP can decide whether she has the energy for a mind-change or whether she needs to do something to her body in order to feel better. All our answers can do is signpost so OP take a look at some of the info on body dismorphia and see if you can get some emphathetic advice from a trusted friend.
Good luck
posted by Wilder at 5:37 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Definitely wear dresses. My best friend is incredibly pear shaped and she hasn't worn anything with legs for years.

But please don't feel ashamed of your body. Everyone has different preferences. I think pear shaped bodies are far more aesthetically pleasing than hourglasses or bodies with giant boobs. I used to have a body like Joan Holloway but then turned myself into a pear shape with a breast reduction and I'm far happier with what I see in the mirror because it conforms to what I think is attractive.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:03 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hear you. I'm short and pear-ish shaped with smallish b-cup boobs, a tiny waist, and proportionally giant hips and butt (5'2", 34-23-37. 37!). Worse, I'm also weirdly long-waisted for a short person and not only are my thighs short, they are, as a horrible person once told me, "meaty." UGH. And, it does not change with weight: I was a skinny ballet dancer through my childhood and adolescence, and I've always had this general shape, even when I was 17 years old and 87 lbs.

Things that help:
1) As mentioned above multiple times, dresses. Pants look great on men and on women shaped more boyishly. Pants are not flattering on girls with hips. I mean, once in awhile, pants with a very specific cut can be, but I have, as I've gotten older, I have mostly forsaken pants.

1a) Dresses should be cut in a way that flatters. Avoid tight miniskirts unless you are looking to emphasize. I have found a-line and circle cuts to be lovely. A slightly-above-the-knee pencil-style skirt is trickier but if it fits exactly right it can work. Especially with heels.
1b) Shorts, of course, are no good.

2) Tall boots with heels. Tall boots with heels lengthen the leg and attract attention towards the feet and ankle and calf areas. A heavy bottom half looks less heavy if it is also longer. I loathe summer because I cannot trick the world into thinking I am a leggy 5'5", which is what I spend the fall, winter, and spring doing.

Also, look at porn from the 1950s. I flipped through some once and I was pleased and astounded that girls in porn in the 1950s all look exactly like me!
posted by millipede at 6:33 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I remember when I was 13 years old at the family Christmas party, debuting my brand new clothes from the Delia's catalog, and my uncle made a comment about 'another pear shaped [surname]'. It has haunted me in various proportions ever since.

That said, I wanted to contribute a bit and elaborate on some of the great advice already given. While I am still not thrilled about my ass and thighs, I have come a long way from feeling resentment and hatred toward my own body. And that was what it truly was--I resented my physical presence, which is very sad.

I have failed at gym memberships at various times in my life, and what made an epic difference was bikram yoga (heated yoga, 26 postures in the same sequence every time). Now bikram yoga is a placeholder in my advice for any type of exercise that works for you, but what was important for me was 1. that I was getting exercise 4 days a week for the first time since middle school, and 2. it was difficult as all hell. I felt proud of myself, and genuinely thanked myself after each class .. over time, the resentment and hatred started to melt away, and were replaced with appreciation and gratitude. I know this sounds cheesy, and I swear to you that I am a cynic and an agnostic. It has been nearly two years, and while I am still pear shaped, my thighs are becoming toned, and my arms are no longer spindly by comparison. My chest muscles are toned to deceptively affect cleavage!

I recommend bikram over, say, trying to spot reduce with squats because I am now seeing effects of a balanced workout that I didn't even know I wanted. Yoga is also great because it helps with the peace of mind thing. Whatever you approach for exercise, be open minded and try to find an activity that you won't resent the entire time you are doing it. There are some days when I'd rather get a tetanus shot that get in the hot room, but by and large I look forward to the time I take for myself.

As far as clothes are concerned, I love to rock plunging necklines and flaunt the flat chest. It took me over a decade and a half to not hate my tiny, tiny boobs, and I am making up for lost time! I never wear a padded bra (in as far as one can find an un-padded bra in a 32A), and, OH! I nearly forgot to mention one of the best results of my yoga practice: effing amazing posture. This is the "making it" of faking it 'til you make it. Good posture is the best way I have found to wear my flat chest, and it just effects sexiness when I see ladies of all shapes and sizes with their heads up, shoulders back. My other trick is really thin denim with a little stretch. AG jeans has a denim called "suave", and I feel like it makes me feel more streamlined in the thighs.

Sorry .. this is an artless ramble, but this issue is very near and dear to me! Good luck, and please, be patient with yourself. Be forgiving. Someday I hope you will love your body as I hope someday I will love my body (not quite there yet). <3
posted by reparata at 6:48 AM on August 11, 2010

Learn to love your shape. There are plenty of guys who are positively driven to distraction by your body type.
posted by Scoo at 7:15 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm just going to comment on the exercise part of the question.

The first thing I'd recommend is to drop the word "tone" from your vocabulary. All it does is engender confusion. Physiologically, muscle tone means passive contraction of a muscle, i.e. the way your postural muscles contract to keep you standing up. There are no "toning exercises," and people who talk about such things are confused. Fat can be lost through diet and exercise, but genetics will determine the distribution of that fat. You can't target bodyparts for fat loss with specific exercises. You should do squats, and they can help you lose fat, but not through any kind of targeted "toning" effect.

So there are limits to what you can do about the shape of your body, but that doesn't mean you can't make huge changes to it with intelligent exercise. I would caution you, though, to avoid making a mistake I see a lot of exercise beginners fall victim to, and that's starting with goals that are too specific. When a person decides to exercise for aesthetic reasons, it's natural that they're going to have specific goals, or a certain bodypart that they'd like to focus on. However, this often leads to some seriously flawed training -- a very common example is the guy who wants big arms and so he does a million silly arm exercises and doesn't make much progress.

When you're a total beginner, one of the best things you can do for your health and fitness, and one of the most effective ways to change your body, is simply to become stronger. I could go on at length about why that is, but there's plenty of places where you can read about the benefits of strength training. But it's important to realize that for the best results, this means strength all over, not just in one bodypart. And becoming stronger means continually improving your ability to lift heavier weights with full range-of-motion exercises that involve many muscles working together, not lifting the same light weights over and over and isolating individual muscles. Once your body is adapted to training and you aren't a total beginner anymore (which may take several months to a year of training), then it makes sense to step back, evaluate your progress, and focus on your specific goals. But right now, you have no frame of reference. You don't have a weak point -- your whole body is a weak point. Picking and choosing a specifically tailored-routine at this point would be putting the cart before the horse. To quote a coach of mine, you've got to build the foundation of your house before you start picking out the window dressing. There are plenty of personal trainers out there who would like you to believe otherwise, because they want you to think that you need them to come up with some individually-customized program for you full of esoteric movements. You don't. Right now the best thing for you is to get stronger all over with a very few basic movements.

So having said all that, I think the best thing for you to do would be to spend a few months on a basic beginner strength program and see where you end up. You'll be able to plainly see your progress in terms of weight lifted and I have no doubt you'll see positive visual differences in your body as well. Stronglifts 5x5 is a popular program on the internet, although I'd strongly recommend the very similar but superior Starting Strength book and program instead. There's also a wiki where you can learn more about Starting Strength. If you really feel unable to figure this stuff out on your own, another option would be to find a Crossfit affiliate, where you'll be able to take a class and have someone tell you exactly what to do. But I think you can do it on your own for a lot less money.

Beginner strength programs are very simple, but they are not easy. But nothing that will really change your body is going to be easy. You'll start light and continually increase the weight in very small increments. Relatively few people embark on and stick with this kind of program for many reasons -- because they're intimidated, because they believe in a lot of incorrect received wisdom about training, or because they're taken with the latest exercise fad that everyone else at the gym is doing. But if you do it correctly and consistently, you will absolutely achieve major improvements in both appearance and performance, both of which will do wonders for your confidence.
posted by JohnMarston at 8:22 AM on August 11, 2010

Every girl I've dated was built like you, and personally, I think it's super attractive. (Just my 2 cents on the "helping you accept it" side).
posted by SputnikSweetheart at 10:00 AM on August 11, 2010

On the exercise front, if you don't feel like running, don't run. It's a high-impact exercise that can cause a whole lot of injuries if you don't take care of yourself (right shoes, stretching, proper running posture, etc), and if you don't feel like doing it - well, you don't have to! If you want to, awesome! Get good shoes and enjoy the fresh air. In terms of thigh/calves getting bigger, they'd tighten up and the muscles are going to get more solid, but unless you're doing heavy weight-lifting, taking a huge amount of protein and running extreme miles every day, I don't think they'd get 'bigger', or at least not along the lines I think you're thinking of.

If you don't feel comfortable starting out with barbells and whatnot in a public gym right away, there's an excellent bodyweight workout here by Gubernatrix, and pretty much all of the exercises she lists there can be done in easier progressions. Seconding stumptuous as a well-rounded resource. Strength training takes time, and you have to stick with it, but the benefits are totally worth it. Weights are awesome.

On the small boobs bit - I'm flatter than a pancake squished flat under an anvil, but strength training hasn't made it worse (worse at this point would be my chest collapsing under it's own weight into a singularity), so don't worry too much about your cup size dropping when you start working out. Is it going to drop? It depends on how your body distributes fat, and you won't know until you start working out. I find that having a solid upper body helps balance out the lack of breasts and I like being able to lift heavy things. Like you, my chest ain't going to change for me unless I stuff some saline bags in there, so try and love yourself the way you are. It's hard, and it sucks sometimes, but this is the only skin you've got. It's nobody's but yours, and it deserves a whole lot of care. I won't tell you this is going to happen over-night; bam, you love every bit of yourself - it probably won't - but you can do it. I look, with all honesty, like a slightly muscular boy from behind and I will tell you right now some days it drives me absolutely nuts because I still gotta deal with having a grumpy uterus on top of this shirt not fitting. Some days it doesn't, because I like being able to do pull-ups and run really really fast, and those days are awesome. You just got to work on having more awesome days than argh-rar-bad days and you're set.

And I'll tell you right now, you sound gorgeous to me.
posted by zennish at 11:06 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

"There is nothing wrong with your body. Get your mind right."


I feel a bit bad that I only answered the body-related stuff and didn't say anything about this part.

"every boy I have ever been with has commented, either jokingly or not, on how disproportionate my body seems"

Mean people are very good at picking up whatever it is you feel bad about and using it against you. It's like they're telepathic about this stuff. Mean people say stuff because they think it will work, not because it's true.

"Get better boys. Find one who is made horny beyond reason by pear-shaped women."

Dita von Teese doesn't respond to questions about which of her body parts she likes and which she doesn't. Why do you think that is?

"Thinking about my body shape sends me into depression"

You know, even if you do have big thighs, they're just big thighs. Having big thighs is not the worst thing in the world. It is not something that will stop you from looking good. It is not something that should reasonably stop you from feeling good. So maybe CBT or some other professional intervention will help.

Look, here's where I'm coming from. I'm an acne sufferer. I used to obsess about my acne. People used to tell me that acne was something that just was and that I should get therapy to learn to accept it and deal with my anxiety and obsessions and so on. But I wouldn't, because I knew what I wanted and I did in fact feel happier when I got it. My anxiety and obsessions reduced, instead of migrating to some other issue which was what everyone told me would happen. Having people tell me that the problem I thought I had was not the real problem, and that fixing it would not improve anything, only made me feel pathologized and furious, as well as very alone in my struggle.

Because of this, and also because I am not a shrink, when somebody comes to me in a state of distress about their appearance I try to help them with their appearance, which is something I do have the expertise to help with.

But here's the thing: acne is a disease. I don't think disease is something simply to be accepted. Big thighs and small boobs are not a disease. Not only are they not a disease, they're not even a bad thing. Very often they're a good thing, but in either case, refusing to accept them will not make them go away. Even if you lose weight (which in reality you do not need to do, and which will probably be a lot of work) you will still have relatively big thighs and relatively small boobs. You will be the same overall shape, just smaller and maybe a bit firmer. How would you feel then? Would you feel that you had to undergo voluntary surgical mutilation in order to feel all right? I personally would stop at that kind of drastic action, maybe you wouldn't, but how would you know if it was going to work or not?

You could end up spending a huge amount of time and energy for very little reward. From my own point of view, I think it's worth stocking your wardrobe with the things that make you look smashing, and expending normal efforts to stay fit and healthy. But you have to stop yourself before you start fighting a losing battle against yourself, whom you have a duty to love.
posted by tel3path at 1:21 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

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