The shape of things
IN recent years, we have seen scores of models and Hollywood starlets starve themselves in the name of fashion.
Runways and red carpets are littered with females, young and old, with hip bones visible through their designer dresses and heads that seem too large for their bodies.
Magazine editors and social commentators waxed lyrical about the latest starlet to 'go too far', then, often in the same issue, featured stick thin models and stories on the latest get-skinny-fast fad.
It seemed that everyone thought the race to be thinnest was a dangerous trend, but no one wanted to do anything about it.
There were always a couple of curvy women who defied the odds, but generally speaking, if you weren't prepared to conform to the skinny trend, you weren't going to be seen on screen as anything other than the quirky best friend.
And while the trend may have started in La La land, it quickly moved into real life, with women and girls trying to emulate celebrities' size zero figures, often with devastating effects.
In recent years, many fashion designers have distanced themselves from girls who are clearly not a healthy weight, embracing instead, models they deem as more healthy looking (although the fashion industry's idea of a bigger girl is still a size 8 - 10).
And while the fashion industry may be advancing in tiny little baby steps, Hollywood seems to be bounding in strides towards accepting women of all shapes and sizes.
We see magazine cover pages with photos of Catherine Zeta Jones, Salma Hayek or Jennifer Lopez proudly showing their curves.
Curvy women such as Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, and Christina Hendricks have become the fashion icons. In a recent US magazine survey, more than 5,000 people who voted for the top 100 best celebrity bodies choose the more curvaceous girls at the top of the list. Jennifer Lopez, famed for her ample bottom, came in at number one.
It seems women in Hollywood are showing proudly their figures rather than starving themselves to fit in a size eight or six. Big boobs and ample hips are suddenly all the rage.
It's worth noting that the size zero trend was instigated and perpetuated largely by women, not men.
Most men have long loved curvy women, and a recent report confirms it.
Steven Platek, an evolutionary cognitive neuroscientist at Georgia Gwinnett College conducted a study with a team of researchers who found that watching a curvaceous woman can feel like a reward in the brain of men, much as drinking alcohol or taking drugs might.
Shapely hips in women are linked with fertility and overall health, and as such, the researcher says, it makes sense evolutionarily speaking that studies across cultures have shown men typically find hourglass figures sexy.
To explore the roots of this behaviour, the researchers had men rate how attractive they found pictures of the naked derrieres of seven women before and after cosmetic surgery that gave them more shapely hips.
These operations did not reduce weight, just redistributed it, by implanting fat from the waists into the buttocks.
Brain scans of the men revealed that seeing post-surgery women activated parts of the brain linked with rewards, including regions associated with responses to drugs and alcohol.
The scientists also found that changes in a woman's body-mass index or BMI - a common measure of body fat - only really affected brain areas linked to simple visual evaluations of size and shape.
This may be evidence that body fat influences judgments of female beauty due more to societal norms than brain wiring.
"The media portrays women as wholly too skinny," Platek said.
"It's not just about body fat, or body mass index."
Perhaps the most celebrated of the new breed of curvy women is Kim Kardashian. Her famous figure has bought her millions of fans, and made her a fotune.
Speaking about weight and body image to British Cosmopolitan Kim said she 'couldn't care less' if she was a size 4 or a size 14.
"I have cellulite. So what! I've never claimed to be perfect. It's crazy anyone should assume that just because you're in the spotlight, you're flawless.
"If I was stuck on a diet my whole life, I would be really miserable. I love to eat.
"Personally, I've always loved the curvy look."
Celebrity endorsement aside, there could be many more reasons to celebrate your curves.
Last week the BBC published research, by scientists at the Universities of Pittsburgh and California, suggesting that curvy women are cleverer.
The American researchers used data from a study of 16,000 women, collecting details of their body measurements and their scores in cognitive tests, they found that those women with a greater difference between the waist and hips, scored significantly higher on the intelligence tests, and so did their children.
This suggests that women with an hourglass figure are brighter and have cleverer children, too.
This could be explained as a result of higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids on the hips.
In this area, the fat is likely to be full of Omega-3, which could improve the woman's own mental abilities as well as those of her child during pregnancy as the Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the growth of the brain during pregnancy.
Maybe more shocking than all of this is the knowledge that we could possibly learn something from a Kardashian, but I have to agree with Kim when she says, "If you can't enjoy life, what's the point? Love your body, whatever its shape. Don't torture yourself."
Curvy women we love