Modern women not as shapely as they like to think
Almost half of women mistakenly believe their figures match the ideal body shape desired by men.
About 3,000 women were asked which fruit or vegetable best described their own shape, before providing their actual waist and hip measurements to researchers.
Some 27 per cent told the researchers they thought they had the coveted butternut squash figure, with small waist, larger hips and bust, while 21 per cent said they had the slightly less iconic pear figure of small waist and bust but larger hips.
Only 21 per cent of women said they believed themselves to be the far less appealing 'apple' shape, plumper around the middle and bust.
Of the rest, 16 per cent had described themselves as an aubergine, with larger waist and hips and small bust, while the remaining 15 per cent said they were carrot-shaped, long and lean with no curves, or like a broccoli floret, with large bust, skinny waist and hips.
Their vital statistics however showed that most of the women surveyed were labouring under a false impression of their own body shapes.
In reality more than half were apple-shaped, and far fewer had a pear or butternut squash figure than they thought. The average hip size for all the women polled was 36in, and the average waist size was 30in.
Experts said this confirmed the previously documented move away from the classic hourglass figure of the 1950s, when a woman's average waist size was 27.5in and her hips 39in, giving a much more curvaceous silhouette.
The lifestyles of modern-day working women may be responsible for the decline in the prevalence of the hourglass due to the high stress levels they experience their careers.
Scientists have found that working women tend to carry fat around their stomachs, rather than their hips.
Dr Marilyn Glenville, an expert in women's health, said: "Our waistlines have ballooned – women are fatter around the middle than ever – and our stressful lifestyles are to blame.
"When we are stressed the body releases extra energy in the form of fat and glucose, to prepare us for the "fight or flight" mechanism, but unless you do something physical it is redeposited as fat around the middle of your body.
"The reason fat targets the middle is because it is close to the liver where it can be quickly converted back into energy if needed."
Scientists who study waist-to-hip ratios – the waist measurement divided by the hip measurement – say a ratio of 0.7, enjoyed by women such as Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor at her peak, is most likely to be attractive to the opposite sex.
But the survey, commissioned by health and beauty event the Vitality Show being held in London next month, revealed that modern women, on average, have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.83.
It found that even women who have the 'butternut' figure today have slightly larger waists than the 1950s hourglass, although they are also more aware of healthy diets and exercise so are less likely to carry as much weight on their hips.
Today's celebrities blessed with hourglass or butternut squash figures include Mad Men star Christina Hendricks, Nigella Lawson and Kate Winslet.