Most women generally fall into a single body shape classification - the Apple shape, or the Pear shape. These body shapes have significant implications for both health and weight loss.
However recent research has shown that a woman's figure can be classified in a number of different ways.
Bust and hips are basically the same circumference - though the bust can be up to 1" larger than the hips. The waist is then 9" or more smaller than the bust.
Where the hips are 2" or more larger than the bust. The waist is less than 9.25" smaller than the bust.
Where the bust and hips are basically the same circumference. The waist is less than 9" smaller than the bust.
The bust is 3.6" larger than the hips and the waist is less than 9" smaller than the bust.
Apple and pear classifications are useful in determining body fat distribution. It is generally thought that there are more health risks for the apple shape.
This can be determined by measuring your waist to hip ratio. A ratio of 0.8 or above indicates that you are an apple shape. A ratio of under 0.8 means you are a pear shape.
The apple shaped woman carries most her body fat in the abdominal region. She will generally have narrow hips, larger breasts, and a relatively large waist. Apple-shaped women have more fat surrounding their internal organs (visceral fat).
This kind of fat presents many more risks than subcutaneous fat; it decreases insulin sensitivity, raises blood pressure, and decreases levels of 'good' (HDL) cholesterol. These are all key indicators of heart disease risk and diabetes risk.
The higher the waist to hip ratio, the higher the risk.
The pear-shaped woman carries most of her body fat around the hips, thighs, and buttocks. She will generally have a smaller upper body (smaller breasts) and a heavier lower body.
The risks for the overweight pear-shaped woman are quite different to the apple shape. A pear-shaped woman will typically be more susceptible to cellulite and varicose veins. However recent research shows that the health benefits of the pear shape may not be what was first thought.
Due to popular culture's obsession with rail-thin women, there is considerable pressure on women to be a certain shape. However even when a pear-shaped woman loses weight - she is still a pear shape. The way that fat disappears from the body varies between individuals.
There are some who believe that a specific dietary regimen will help each body shape (although evidence for this is sketchy):
Lower carbohydrate diet (avoiding processed and 'white' carbs).
Lower fat diet (avoiding full fat foods; cheeses, butter).
The book The Body Shape Solution for Weight Loss and Wellness by Marie Savard is well worth reading. It contains a complete solution (nutrition, exercise, etc) for each body shape.