In 1912, Elsie Scheel, aka “The Cornell Venus”, was hailed (and harangued) far and wide for possessing what was then considered the perfect proportions and deemed an exemplar of feminine health, beauty, and strength.
Elsie Scheel, according to several articles, “ate only three meals every two days, loved beefsteak and shunned candy and caffeine.”
This “perfect woman” had the following measurements:
chest: 34 in
waist: 30 in
hips: 40 in
In other words, “The Perfect Woman” was a total pear.
But that’s not all she was. According to this and other articles written about her, she played basketball at Cornell and was described as “very strong”. She comments, “I play a guard, where my weight helps.”
“If she were a man,” reads another article, “she would go into mechanical engineering, because she loves to work about an automobile.” So sad.
But she apparently lived a long, healthy, and hearty life, as reported in a recent New York Times article responding to the unearthing of this 100-year-old piece of cultural history.
“Miss Scheel, it turns out, lived a long life, dying in 1979 in St. Cloud, Fla., three days shy of her 91st birthday.”
The author of this article then tries to push the trendy “overweight is the new healthy” message on us (wrongfully, as I will show):
That article and others also gave her dimensions: 5-foot-7 and 171 pounds, which would have corresponded to a body mass index of 27, putting Miss Scheel in the overweight category.
This is just yet another example of how the BMI is worthless as a measure of health.
This woman was BUFF. She was MADE of MUSCLE. You can tell because, even at a seemingly portly weight of 171 lbs, her waist was a mere 30 inches.
Punch those figures into the US Navy body composition calculator which factors in waist, neck, and hip measurements, and you arrive at (yes) a BMI of about 27 but also a very healthy body fat percentage of 25%.
(I’m 5’7″ myself, so since the article doesn’t provide a neck measurement, I guessed at her neck being just a little thicker than my own, and entered 16 inches.)
Not bad for an adherent of a high-meat intermittent fasting diet.