The idea of "apple-shaped" vs. "pear-shaped" bodies has been around for decades, and popularized in fitness literature during the late 2000s. The concept describes two different ways bodies store accumulating fat. These tendencies don't just affect the ultimate shape of a body as she gains weight -- they also affect how and where she will lose that weight.
Weight Loss Basics
Losing weight is ultimately a matter of physics and math. If you consume more calories through eating than you burn through activity, you will gain weight as your body stores the excess energy as fat. If you burn more than you eat, your body burns away the stored energy to make up the excess. Burning the energy means burning fat, and burning fat means losing weight. The concept of apple- and pear-shaped bodies enters into the equation because the two bodies store fat in different areas, creating distinct body shapes.
People with an apple-shaped body tend to put on weight around their middles -- in the abdomen, back and chest. Apple-shaped body types who become overweight are more likely to suffer from heart disease and adult-onset diabetes. Women with apple-shaped bodies are at greater risk for breast cancer, and may experience more issues with menstruation and irregularity. Apple-shaped bodies tend to store fat in their abdomens, as subcutaneous fat in the outer layer between the skin and abdominal muscles, and as visceral fat, also known as belly fat, around and between the internal organs.
A pear-shaped body tends to have more subcutaneous fat on the hips and thighs; this fat is stored between the muscle and the skin. People with this body type are at an increased risk for osteoporosis, cellulite, varicose veins and psychological problems stemming from poor body image. Pear-shaped women may also experience a rougher transition during menopause.
Shape and Weight Loss
According to Dr. Marie Savard in her landmark book on the subject, "Apples and Pears," apple- and pear-shaped bodies respond better to different weight loss methods. It's not so much that pear-shaped people lose weight faster or slower than apple-shaped people, it's the type of fat on your body that determines your results. Harvard Women's Health Watch points out that belly fat, a greater component of an apple-shaped body, responds better to exercise than the fat deposited on the hips and thighs, which describes the pear-shaped body. A low-calorie diet combined with an exercise program may show faster results in the waist of an apple-shaped person, due to the belly fat, which is converted to fatty acids and then used by the body for energy.
- Apples and Pears; Dr. Marie Savard
- Center for Wellness Without Borders: The 3 Somatotypes
- Harvard Women's Health Watch: Taking Aim at Belly Fat