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Sacrificing our bodies to shapewear: Your insides are suffering

While shapewear is doing its doing its job making women look more svelte and boosting our self-esteem, it can also be doing some internal physical and mental damage if worn in excess.


Shapewear’s dirty little secret

While shapewear is doing its doing its job making women look more svelte and boosting our self-esteem, it can also be doing some internal physical and mental damage if worn in excess.

We’re squeezing our insides

In the name of a smooth shape, we’re stuffing our bodies into a too-tight package. Compression wear has to be tight to do its job — but if it is too tight, it can literally squeeze our insides. ABC News reports that some doctors say “shapewear that is too tight can squeeze internal organs, cause digestive problems, affect breathing and cause bladder and bacterial infections.”

Dr. Orly Avitzur, practicing neurologist, medical writer and medical adviser to Consumer Reports shames shapewear in one article, writing, “Just a single layer of body slimming Lycra can create a host of health dangers, from painful, pinched nerves in the groin, to severe abdominal pain and digestive problems… Constrictive garments have also been implicated in bladder infections, vaginal yeast infections, contact dermatitis and blood clots in the legs.”

Dr. Charles Dietzek, founder of the Vein and Vascular Institute in Voorhees, Sewell and Vineland, New Jersey, supports this theory: “Wearing Spanx-type garments may result in impeded venous return from the legs if too tight from being sized incorrectly. No one can be sure that these garments cause varicose veins or blood clots. However, wearing tight pressured garments could possibly result in increased abdominal, groin and thigh pressure resulting in venous congestion in the legs with stagnation of blood flow. This could result in potential blood clots or varicose veins.”

Dr. Dietzek says wearing properly-sized shapewear can alleviate these issues. He recommends taking it off when not needed and avoiding sitting and standing for long periods of time. Doing so can enhance your blood flow and help prevent problems.

Shapewear sacrifices our muscles

Lisa A. Reed, MS, CSCS, USAW, owner of Lisa Reed Fitness LLC says shapewear actually causes your muscles to suffer if you rely on it for good posture and explains that shapewear is by no means a substitute for a quality workout: “Similar to exercising after you wear heels, you’d better be doing a post-Spanx workout to keep your abs toned and your body aligned.” She suggests wearing Spanx only in moderation and combating the effects with a strong ab workout.

How Spanx is shrinking our self-esteem

Though it’s hard to imagine getting through a first date or a high school reunion without the secret help of shapewear, we have to wonder if the constant need for Spanx has a negative impact on our mental health. Dr. Fran Walfish, psychotherapist and author of the Self-Aware Parent, relates wearing shapewear to wearing a wig to disguise thinning hair, and says it can actually make a woman feel self-conscious because there is a level of deception in making yourself look a different way.

“The woman knows her body isn’t exactly like the way it looks in the Spanx when she takes them off. When she disrobes, the guy will see something else and if she has discomfort about her body to begin with, this could cause shame and embarrassment,” Walfish says.

Instead of focusing on the parts of ourselves we don’t like, Dr. Walfish suggests working on accepting our reflections in the mirror: “We all have to accept that no one is perfect. We are all imperfect. Our journey is acceptance of ourselves exactly as we are without trying to change things.”

Turns out, real women have a lot to say about the shapewear debate! We got a few readers to share their opinions: 

Mom of two Sherri K. says, “For me, when I wear shapewear under my form-fitting clothes (especially those clingy maxi skirts!) I just feel more nicely dressed. It helps me relax a bit and not spend any time worrying whether or not I need to suck in my tummy. I only wear it when the outfit really needs that smooth look, otherwise it’s too constricting.”

Rebecca B. says, “While I bounced back quickly from my oldest son, I’ve struggled with my weight since birthing baby number two. I’d like to be one of those women who is totally happy and comfortable in the body she has now, but truthfully I miss my flat stomach and skinnier thighs… I resisted buying shapewear for a while — thinking it meant I’d given up — but once I put those bad boys on and slipped a dress over my head I was hooked. I love the confidence they give me, the way my stomach looks when I have them on and how they help my once-apple bottom perk up a bit more from its sad, post-baby status.'”

Angela A. calls Spanx her mental secret weapon: “Two c-sections, combined with two childhood abdominal surgeries, have left my midsection a little more rounded than I’d like. While it doesn’t bother me on a regular basis, I love the way Spanx smooth out the part of my body about which I’m the most self-conscious. I feel like my dresses hang better, and I know I’m not awkwardly adjusting my clothes after standing or sitting or having fun on the dance floor.”

Tell us

Would you ditch your Spanx to spare your internal organs? Or perhaps as a step in the right direction on the road to a better self-image? Share in the comments below.

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Photo credit: Peter Hermus/iStock/360/Getty Images

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