Beauty Is a Reflection of Health


Form Equals Function

Every species has its own set of characteristics which make it beautiful to other members of that species. When those traits are altered, the creature loses its allure. There’s a really great reason for this – reproduction. We are programmed to want good strong mates so that we can produce good strong offspring.

Humans are no exception. Our bodies – our skeletal structure, our hair and skin, etc. – all serve a purpose and that purpose is displayed in its form. Our noses may vary in size and shape slightly, but our nostrils should be sufficient in size to receive ample air with each life-giving breath; the brow and cheek bones should be set high and our jaws broad. Our hair may vary in length, thickness, and color, but it should be strong and full. Our skeletons may be short or tall depending on nationality, but our backs and legs should be straight, not bowed, which is a result of mineral deficiencies and bone growth abnormalities during youth. Our skin may vary in color and thickness, but it should be clear and taut. The hips of a woman should be large enough to comfortably accommodate the passage of a baby, while breasts should be somewhat generous, indicating a healthy surge of sex hormones at puberty.

Each person should differ from one another to some degree, but there are certain variations which imply imbalance and malnutrition. By the nature of self-preservation, we will not find these differences attractive. Now, humans do have a unique ability to overlook physical imperfections, focusing instead on values and actions. While this is a desirable skill since slight imperfections are normal and mostly harmless, we are doing ourselves and our offspring a disservice by ignoring the telltale signs of degeneration and by believing that beauty is nothing more than a superficial preoccupation.

Beauty is Nature’s Design

What makes a face and body beautiful is that it fits the function it is intended to serve. Faces and bodies aren’t built just to be pretty. We perceive faces as beautiful when they are functional and imply robust health. In other words, they suggest that mating with their owner will produce strong, healthy offspring. We are hardwired to recognize beauty for the sake of the survival of the species.

Faces and bodies which exhibit exceptional form can be found in every culture, in all of the most desirable people. The only differences will be in size, color, and texture. But the basics of what makes people beautiful are apparent all over the world.

Our Desire For Beauty

The Pleasure of Perceiving Beautiful Faces

While it is difficult to define beauty exactly, we all have a sense of it. We know a pretty face when we see one and when we see one; we generally enjoy staring at it. The same is true for babies. Researchers have shown that babies will gaze much longer at a highly symmetrical face than they will at a face with average symmetry. Rats, too, have been shown to fix their gaze on pictures with patterns but they lose interest when more chaotic pictures are presented. The reason for this may be that since our brains are themselves highly organized systems they can more easily do the job of perceiving, remembering, and thinking in a highly organized environment (staring endlessly into a mother’s face provides that environment). In this sense not only is it relaxing and comforting to see beautiful faces but it also might facilitate higher cognition.


Not only do we enjoy beautiful faces and bodies, but we also love to accentuate them. The use of ornaments and natural tints to emphasize physical beauty has been practiced in all societies around the world since before recorded history. Ancient sculptures which are debatably symbols of beauty have been recovered dating back as far as the Ice Age. Archaeological evidence from the Murcia province of south-east Spain (Cueva de los Aviones and Cueva Antón) dates the use of pigmented seashells used for jewelry, and lumps of red and yellow pigments used for makeup, as far back as 50,000 years ago.

The Absence of Beauty in Modern Society

The desire for beauty is part of the human condition. We enjoy perceiving it. We go to great lengths to achieve it in ourselves and we seek it out in our mates. Many of the traits that we consider beautiful are themselves outward signs of good health (excluding some strange and rare perceptions of beauty experienced by a mind as unhealthy as its desires). While we may not all understand the specifics intellectually, we still have a sense for what is most functional.

The problem with our interest in and our quest to accentuate beauty arises when health has deteriorated so considerably that such beauty is largely absent. If we lived in a culture where good looks were the norm and not the anomaly, we wouldn’t be so preoccupied with our looks. But here we are, trying to cover up our outward signs of internal degeneration. It is for this reason that our attention hovers so much on makeup, fancy clothes, hair extensions, fake nails, braces, and cosmetic procedures.

It’s Not Just a Matter of Genes

Many believe that our genes are responsible for our looks and that beauty is beyond our control. But I argue that genes not the cause of many traits we consider less attractive. Cellulite, for example, runs in the genes just about as much as eating cereal for breakfast every day runs in the genes. Being overweight is just as “genetic” as drinking low fat milk. That’s not to say that genes don’t play a role but there are controllable causes at play. Just because your mother had it (stretch marks, depression, diabetes), doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to have it too. It just means that if you make the same poor lifestyle choices, you will probably experience a similar fate.

Why Beauty Matters

Looks are a reflection of our health in the womb, during childhood, and at the present moment. Our looks can be clear indicators (sometimes embarrassingly so!) of what is wrong or was once wrong with our health. Some people, of course, do get lucky and their good genes and good childhood nutrition carry them through to a beautiful adulthood, but without some care, even they probably won’t hang onto it forever. With bad nutrition comes degeneration, whether it starts in the womb or later in life.

The following are traits we generally consider “ugly” because they are indicators of a deeper health issue, disadvantage, or weakness.

  • Crooked teeth are indicative of skeletal malformations. While the predisposition can reside in the genes, it is indicative of nutritional deficiency. The mineral deficiencies during the formative years don’t usually stop with the teeth. The same insufficiency can cause a narrow pelvis, which is bad for childbearing women (and hence bad for the survival of our species in general).
  • Pimply skin can be a result of zinc deficiencies, digestive problems, or high insulin.
  • Male pattern baldness indicates hormonal imbalances, in particular high estrogen and low testosterone – two imbalances in men which are responsible for less masculinity, less virility, less fertility, mood disturbances, and testicular cancer.
  • Eyebrows which are thin or absent at the ends indicate low thyroid. Hypothyroidism causes low energy, bad moods, and cognitive problems.
  • Female hair loss, fat around the waist, dark hair growth in places where females don’t grow hair, all signal hormonal imbalances. These women usually have trouble conceiving and are depressed.

Sub-par nutrition has turned what may have once been rare defects in human form to common everyday nuisances. The ubiquity of “ugliness” hasn’t changed our opinion of it, however. On the contrary, it has simply inspired a huge aesthetics industry that is designed to hide the signs of physical degeneration.

While us adults are stuck with a lot of our deformities and abnormalities (although many of them are reversible), we have the power to save our children from the same. We have the power to produce strong offspring which are beautiful, intelligent, competent, and strong.

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  1. Thanks for posting the cold, hard truth that nobody wants to admit! My husband and I both agree that soooooo many people would be darn near attractive if they just got healthy: lost weight, got some physical activity, that sort of stuff. No big makeovers, just health-overs. He can speak, too, having carried an extra 70 pounds and living with the stretch marks to prove it. He is WAY sexier when he’s healthy!

    Personally, all my standard health markers indicate that I’m fine, but I keep maintaining that my breakouts are a sign of something deeper. Well, that and lack of a cycle since going off the pill 6 months ago. I finally listened to everyone who urged me to seek some advice, and sure enough, the problems run much deeper than just lacking a period. My whole hormonal system is depressed. Honestly, while I’m a little scared, I’m mostly excited to see what kind of awesome goddess female I turn into once I have hormones that are working! I’ve been on the pill since I was 17 and diagnosed with PMDD, so I don’t even think my body knows how to work. I can’t wait to find out!

    • Deanna,

      I bet you won’t even know yourself after your health-over (nice term!). Getting healthy changes the way a person looks so dramatically sometimes. Having had PCOS myself, I used to look really masculine but not anymore. I am prettier and girlier since changing my diet and getting fit.

    • Deanna,
      I went off the pill after being on it for about 4 years. It was prescribed due to bone loss and amenorrhea, which I now know was due to un-diagnosed celiac disease. My doctor told me it would take just a couple of months to get back to normal. However, my cycle didn’t resume normally until a year after stopping. Now that it’s back (and I have removed wheat and other problematic foods from my diet and started eating meat again), I have a regular cycle for the first time in my life. It takes time for our bodies to fix themselves, but they are pretty good at it. I bet your hormones will kick into their normal gear soon and you will feel all the more awesome because of it!

  2. This was an excellent post. Very true- people think less of other for focusing on beauty but it’s completely natural to desire one who is beautiful.

    Also, my boyfriend has a very narrow lower jaw with a lot of crowding of his lower teeth and I was always a little concerned that if we had children that they might inherit his jaw and not mine but now (after this article… And really I knew before but i didn’t think about it enough) that that’s not a very genetic feature and my well-nourished children will have good strong jaws. His mum ate lots of bread and margarine while mine ate heaps of oysters while she was pregnant with me and my first food was lamb brains.

    • Lamb brains? Nice Sophie!

      The diet plays a huge role in the way our kids look but remember that some of it is in the genes too. Your children should look better than you but your grandchildren will look even better.

  3. The symmetry and sexual dimorphism dimorphism correlate interesting research:

    That and a healthy body lead to beauty.

  4. Peggy, do you have an answer to the million dollar question: what can we do to get rid of cellulite!

    • I was a skinny teenager when I got cellulite. Of course it did nothing to help my very unhealthy relationship with food. I had it until about two years ago when I went Primal. I say Primal and not Paleo because I don’t eat a lot of Paleo “legal” foods like coconut flour cookies except rarely and consider the term Primal to be more in keeping with an ancestral diet. Actually, I like to call it that, and sometimes use that term when discussing with others. Anyways Liz, my “genetically inherited” cellulite “magically” vanished, and I attributed it to eating lots of saturated fat, but believe that the whole lifestyle plays a role.

    • I have some answers, yes. :) Like Grace said, eating saturated fats is important for the health of our cells (including skin cells) and avoiding damaged fats is just as important. There is a whole chapter on cellulite in my book!

  5. Exellent post! I agree with Deanna; finaly someone wrote about the cold hard truth that nobody wants to admit! You put into words what I have been thinking about from time to time. By the way, I can’t wait untill your book is for sale in stores.

  6. I totally agree with your position here, Peggy. I posted on the makeover-vs-healthover theme a while ago:

    • Damn, Lauren, your writing is beautiful, honest, and insightful. I only hope to write as well some day! I love your “About me” too by the way. Very clever. :)

  7. Love this post, Peggy!

    This is exactly what I see, a beauty industry grown to unprecedented size because the population on the whole has gotten uglier.

    I still have a few smallish issues to fix, but I know at this point it’s just tinkering and some time that will do it. The difference between me and my mom though is huge! I was headed down all the same degenerative paths as her and have turned right around by getting fit and eating right. The ‘it runs in the family’ argument really applies to only a very small number of conditions, but people just love to blame their problems on it.

    Yes, a lot of people don’t know what healthy eating really is; yes, some things aren’t reversible. But I don’t believe that anybody consuming frosted cinnamon rolls and donuts and soda doesn’t know that they’re a poor dietary choice. They’re just too lazy to change their ways and use the ‘it’s genetic’ thing as an excuse.

    Maybe part of the problem in our insanely PC society is that you can’t tell people the truth. When everybody’s fat and sick and not even your doctor can tell you ‘hey, you’re fat and sick, get off your ass and fix it’ then it’s no wonder that people will blame anything but themselves.

  8. Thanks so much for your post. I can say AMEN to turning 48 in August and the Hormones began giving me the side effects you were refering to. However, you never said what changes the Diet can do to actually make the Hormones function differently? I am pre-diabetic off and on, so I have to watch carbs as well. I am 5’2″ 105 pounds, which I’ve struggled with Anorexia for over 31 years. I am on the UP now & was feeking wonderful getting to this weight with Muscle definition, tone, even had Sexual desire back after too many years to count, told I look 38, which is sweet, but feel not that on the inside. Dark circles that will not go way and my thyroid tests show fine. I’d love to hear what others my age are doing? I’ve been on Bio Identical Hormones, but the Progestine at 50mg was too high. Thought I had Adrenal fatigue, but went on Isocort & after one week, I was paranoid, moody and felt terrible. Anyone? I must say, you sound wonderful with how your life has changed for the better. Bless you.

  9. Great article! Do you have any info on how to tell if a person has zinc deficiency or high testosterone? I’m wondering if that is what I have been battling for all these years…..

    • Thanks Aimee. Zinc deficiencies often lead to frequent colds or viruses (like herpes). White flecks on the fingernails are an indication. Hair loss and acne are common in deficient individuals. And men with zinc deficiencies are more prone to prostate cancer. There are a lot of symptoms. I like to eat oysters regularly for zinc. I have not found zinc supplements to be particularly helpful.

  10. I have noticed changes, first off Im thinner, my skin is much more clear and vibrant. Feel better, Im happy pretty much all the time. This diet is much better then the average american diet.

  11. Peggy, I love this post for a lot of reasons, but I think what I love most is the obvious time and thought you put into writing it. Sometimes when I think about how we got to this place, I just shake my head in disbelief. I look something up online, say, “how much omega-3 is in shrimp anyways?” and I go to sites where people inevitably end up discussing the “risks” vs. benefits of eating shrimp, and whether or not the FDA will change its recommendation on the amount of seafood a pregnant women should be eating. I just wish that everyone could go have a chat with their great-great-grandmothers. She would set them straight and put an end to this whole fiasco. Our society lost its way when it began to value the pursuit of knowledge over wisdom, and we all became one big science experiment. I love the pursuit of knowledge, I value it highly. But it has become a tragedy.

  12. This post seems to be the synthesis of the impetus for THE PRIMAL PARENT.

    Love it!

    So true.

    As a child raised on soy milk and the vegetarian ideal…I can already tell the differences in nutrition in my own offspring.

  13. I do agree with MOST of these things but I guess I have a question! Speaking of cellulite, my mom and I have it pretty bad on the back of our thighs. To the point where up until a year ago, I wouldn’t wear shorts and always was angry that I (125 lbs) had this horrible looking cellulite on my thighs while heavier and much less fit women had nicer legs. I have been on and off with primal eating (I’m not going to lie, it has been far from perfect) and I work in a kitchen where I am constantly on my feet, walking, lifting, etc. I started recently running/sprinting and have always been one to take hikes and whatnot in the warmer months. Any suggestions other than perfecting my diet to help with this? It’s extremely disheartening at times. Thanks to anyone who has help!

    • Hi Jenn. I do have a lot of tips for improving cellulite in my book, which will be out in 2 months. Rather than focusing on eating a 100% perfect diet, you can focus on specifics that will help with the condition itself. Drinking bone broth, eating oysters, and oranges will all help to eliminate cellulite. In my book I explain why. Avoiding toxins and refined vegetable oils is important too. But going low fat won’t help either. Saturated fat and omega 3s are important for strong cells.

  14. Peggy, I really enjoy your blog and it’s helped me figure out how to decide what to eat to control my own symptoms. Thank you for telling it like it is!

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