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Stop Hating the Parts of Your Body That Don't Exist

Jul 28, 2011 at 11:18 AM Chime in now

You have no waist


Cankles, muffin tops and your waist aren't real. Feel better yet?


Sitting down? Because I'm about to tell you something that, I promise, is going to blow your mind: You do not have a waist.

You really don't. If you go through any medical anatomy textbook, you will not find "waist" listed anywhere. It isn't a joint or a muscle or some kind of external organ. It's simply a term invented by tailors to help them figure out where to put pants.

I learned this a few weeks ago from my Alexander Technique teacher (Alexander who? It's a mind/body practice, kind of like meditation, where you learn all about your body's anatomy and how it fits together and then use that awareness to move, sit, stand more easily). She explained that the literal halfway point on our bodies is where our hips hinge in their sockets. That's anywhere from six inches to a foot below where I'd been thinking my body's halfway point lived!

While I've got your attention, you should know that you also don't have a neck. That's another tailoring term, used to fit ties and shirt collars over the top part of your spine. Not even the tippy top -- your spine technically goes all the way up to a spot behind your nose and between your ears -- just near the top. Someone call Nora Ephron. We can all stop feeling bad about our non-existent necks.

Not only did this information immediately make me feel taller -- because it turns out, the top half of my body is a lot longer than I ever gave it credit for -- it also made me realize how long I've spent, like Nora, obsessing about body parts that we've entirely made up. My waist has felt like my body's greatest failure  ever since someone explained to me that Marilyn Monroe was allowed to be a size 12 because she had an hourglass figure, and that meant her waist was still small. I am not an hourglass. I'm what they call "short-waisted," "apple-shaped," and, of course, "muffin-topped." 

But all of that is crazy talk. And when you start looking into it, there are a lot of body parts causing us major agita that actually don't exist at all. Over on The Beheld, the fabulous Autumn Whitefield-Madrano is exposing cankles, back bacon, bat-wings and muffin tops. She writes: "We keep coming up with these terms to describe parts of women [...] that aren't a part of their bodies at all -- even the slenderest woman will have a 'muffin top' if her pants don't fit right. We name it to shame it." 

So what if we didn't? What if we agree to focus on the body parts that we actually have, instead of wasting time stressing about the ones we invented? We spend plenty of time hating actual body parts (noses, feet, thighs, skin). So let's let ourselves off the hook for the fictional ones. The easiest way to do this is buy clothes that fit -- hey, presto, no more muffin top or back bacon. Then try to let go of the myth that we should be teensy anywhere we're not boobs. It's tricky, but reminding yourself that it's all just a story might help.

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