A silly new trend has taken hold of Chinese social media — millions are trying to touch their belly buttons by reaching around their backs. Why, you may ask? Well apparently there’s a scientific study that claims if you can do this, you don’t need to lose weight.
My first reaction to this was, seriously?? Then of course, like everyone else, I tried to do it a few times. Sadly, I did not quite reach my belly button, and now I feel worse than I did when I woke up and realized it was Monday. Then I asked myself, why are you letting this make you feel bad? You’re not overweight! I’m sure a number of the 130 million people who “failed” this test went through the same upheaval.
Before you too get in a fight with your belly button, let me explain the “science” behind the test and why you should take your result with a big ol’ grain of salt. No one actually knows where this alleged scientific study came from or if it even exists. And experts who are weighing in on the trend now that it’s taken over social media channels in China say your ability to do it may have much less to do with you being healthy and more to do with you being super flexible.
— HelloGiggles (@hellogiggles) June 13, 2015
In fact, several fitness instructors admit to not being able to do it for one reason or another. Xie Wei from Nanjing in eastern China told People’s Daily Online, “There are three factors for achieving it. The first is the person is thin, the second is having long arms, and the third is having good flexibility.” So essentially, you could be in fabulous shape and still not have long enough arms to complete the challenge. In fact, if you have a six pack, you may actually find it harder to do because you have more muscle to get your arm around.
However, regardless of why you may or may not be able to achieve this middle school-like challenge, your results could have a seriously bad effect on your emotional well-being and ultimately your body. Seeing tons of super small-waisted girls and celebrities completing the challenge and then realizing you can’t is a recipe for major body negativity. In fact, the craze could potentially cause people to take up dangerous eating disorders in order to be able to pass the test.
— View the VIBE (@ViewtheVibe) June 11, 2015
*Side note: That’s totally not his arm because there’s no way his thumb could be above his hand.
On the other hand, people who do pass the test may be letting themselves off the hook too easily. Charlie Seltzer, M.D., a weight loss specialist based in Philadelphia told Cosmo, “If you can touch your belly button from behind your back, you could be in better shape than someone who can’t — but you shouldn’t have a false sense of security about your health. You might have a small waist and look healthy, but your blood work could show that you’re just as unhealthy as someone who weighs 400 pounds.” If you’ve ever heard the term “skinny fat,” then you know what he’s talking about.
— Belly Fat Formula (@fatbellyblog) June 12, 2015
Ultimately, weight loss experts say the “study” on which the belly button challenge is based is bogus, and you should just try and stay fit and eat healthy rather than obsess over your ability to touch your belly button. And if you can do it with ease, that doesn’t necessarily say anything about what’s going on inside your body. Case in point, I had a best friend in high school who could do the challenge with both arms simultaneously, and she ate large fries for lunch every day.
However, if you’re going to do the challenge “for fun,” make sure you stretch first. Pretty sure I pulled or dislocated something in the process.