Getting Real About the Role of Genetics in "Ideal" Body Characteristics

“Beach body” season is coming, which means it’s the time of year we often pose ourselves in front of our mirrors and pick at our reflection, comparing our bodies to the newest trends and traits we scroll past every day on social media. 

However, we rarely acknowledge the fact that many of these characteristics correlate with genetics. This results in women doing difficult workouts and diets to look like those who may be able to obtain these characteristics more easily, if not completely naturally. In this article, we will be exploring the role of science and genetics behind some modern “body trends.” But before we begin, we want to remind you of Eve Ensler’s quote: “Stop trying to fix your body. It was never broken.”

  1. 1. Protruding rib cages and the practice of “rib cage bragging”

    “Rib cage bragging” is the practice of posing in order to show the ribs based on the assumption that the thinner the person is, the more of their ribs will show. According to Forbes, “most people can’t be a healthy weight and have their rib cages protrude” and the women in these photos are likely naturally built with slightly protruding rib cages, which they enhance through the pose of an arched back.

  2. 2. “Ab cracks”

    “Ab cracks” (technically called the linea alba) are the lines which begin at the bottom of the rib cage and ideally go all the way down the abdomen, though they often end a few inches above the belly button. While this desirable dent is often associated with intense ab workouts, it actually correlates strongly with genetics, as it results from the structure of abdominal muscles. According to Shape, “you can train your abs and make them more pronounced by working them hard, but... you're not going to change the structure [determined by your genetics]."

  3. 3. Big butts

    The good news about big butts is that they can be enhanced with workouts. However, we think it should still be noted that big butts are linked with genetics, as some women naturally carry more fat around their glutes, as well as build muscle a little easier.

  4. 4. Thigh gaps

    While thigh gaps are less popular than they used to be, they are still prominent on social media. Thigh gaps are a space between the top of the thighs when standing upright with the feet pushed together. However, according to Shape, thigh gaps are visible “in naturally thin women with a particular pelvic structure” and can therefore be linked to genetics as well.

  5. 5. Flat stomachs

    Flat stomachs constantly mock us on social media, but according to Michael Nusbaum, MD, a bariatric surgeon and the founder of Healthy Weight Loss Centers, “genetics...play a significant role in fat distribution and storage….There are people who, no matter what, are going to basically be prone to having the same belly as their mom or dad.”

We'll leave you with this quote from Anna Quindlen: “I’ve finally recognized my body for what it is: a personality-delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come.”