On the heels of the thigh-gap craze, social media is offering up yet another viral and ludicrous measure of a “good” body: The Belly Button Challenge, which started trending on China’s version of Twitter last week and quickly spread around the world, involves reaching one arm around your back to try and touch your navel. The idea is that if you can reach your belly button, you’re fit; if you can’t, you need to lose weight.
Where do we start?
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The Daily Mail reports that web users claim the challenge is based on a U.S. study. But no one seems to be able to find the original research. Read: There’s no actual science involved here!
The notion is totally bunk, confirms Ronald S. Sha, MD, the medical director of the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. “This is an amusing diversion that means absolutely nothing about an individual’s weight or health,” he told Health. “It’s much more a reflection of a person’s upper extremity flexibility and arm length than of a healthy weight.”
Plus, of course, even someone who “passes” the test because she is slender (and perhaps has extra-bendy shoulders and longish arms) could have many of the same medical issues as an obese person. The so-called “skinny fat” problem is a real and common phenomenon.
It’s true that waist circumference is one of the factors doctors use to assess a person’s risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health concerns. But there is a scientifically-approved method for measuring it, Dr. Sha points out—no contortion required.
If you want to check your belly fat at home, use a tape measure pulled snugly around your abdomen at the top of your hip bones and parallel to the floor. Note the inches after you exhale. For women, a waist circumference up to 35 inches is considered healthy.
As for the Belly Button Challenge, it’s just another example of an arbitrary beauty standard that requires women to twist themselves into pretzels. This time, literally.
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