What’s the ideal body size for a woman? It’s a lot different than it was 100 years ago. The woman considered to have the ideal body size back in 1913 was Elsie Scheel. She was a 24-year-old student at Cornell University. And after studying 400 women, scientists decided that she was the epitome of perfect health.

So, what were her stats? Elsie was 5-foot-7 inches tall, and weighed 171 pounds, which is about 36 pounds more than what would be considered her ideal weight today. According to the CDC, the so-called “perfect” female specimen of 100 years ago would’ve had a BMI – or Body Mass Index – of 27, which is firmly in the “overweight” category.

Even back then, Elsie was criticized by the media as being heavy, out of proportion, and fatter than the Venus de Milo. But despite her dimensions, Elsie Scheel did live a long and healthy life. She played basketball. She was a nurse. She ate sparingly, and avoided candy and caffeine – but she also enjoyed a good steak now and then. According to her granddaughter, she never took painkillers and she drove until very late in life.

So, what’s does the ideal woman look like today? The New York Post interviewed surgeons who said the ideal body is that of actress Penelope Cruz – who isn’t stick thin, nor does she fall into the dreaded overweight zone, as far as BMI.

But, is there a happy medium between Elsie Scheel and Penelope Cruz?

Yes. In fact, studies show that having a Body Mass Index that’s slightly overweight might help you live longer. Some experts believe having a bit more padding makes people less prone to osteoporosis. And others say being a bit overweight can provide more of the energy reserves needed to survive a severe illness – like heart failure. So, maybe it’s time to stop trying to achieve perfection and zero in on what really matters: wellness, longevity, and strength.

Lesson Expert

Jennifer Boller

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