There’s a lot wrong with the legend of the Sabines – a group of wives, sisters, and mothers of an Italic people who lived in the central Apennine Mountains just north of Rome. Legend has it that the Romans held a mock competition and abducted the woman of Sabine on the 18th of August 753 BCE with intentions to populate their own city and ensure growth of their nation.
The act was entirely wrong and may this history never repeat itself but there is something noteworthy of mentioning about the painting.
At the time, the population of Rome was predominantly male. When Romulus’ soldiers went looking for women to marry, they chose the Sabine women. The Sabine women were not only educated, fertile, and prized by their men but they had the right to inherit and own property which included the right to vote. These women had established a civilization that was sustainable and what might be comparable to our present day North American one.
Look closely at the womanly figures depicted in Nicolas Poussin’s painting The Abduction of the Sabine Women (1633-34). Does perhaps this shapely figure not depict the normal response of a women’s body to an established and albeit nourished way of life? The Sabine people lived at Latitude 42 degrees N, exactly between the latitudes of New York and Toronto. Should we not be comparing the figures of our present day women to those of the women who were also living in a similar society?
So often our generation of middle aged women are compared to our slighter, ‘less obese’ pioneer ancestors who worked long days to clear the land and build a home in a rugged new world. Food was scarce, winters harsh, and ultimately, survival was the priority; it’s no wonder as a population, their BMI or percentage of body fat was so much lower.
The point is – let’s not confuse the demonized and stereotypical unhealthy ‘obese’ look with those beautiful curves. According to the legend, the Sabine women were the epitome of health. Metabolic healthiness is a reflection of good nutrition, controlled stress, adequate sleep, and physical and emotional stability. When we don’t have those factors listed above in check, we begin the process of metabolically breaking down and putting on visceral fat a.k.a belly fat rather than the normal subcutaneous fat that gives women their shape.
Curves are beautiful. Let’s embrace them and the balanced lifestyle that makes sure those curves stay in the right places.