Is Shapewear Putting The Squeeze On Your Health?

  Diamonds aside, waist-whittling, hip-trimming shapewear may actually be a girl’s best friend. Historically, women have relied on body altering undergarments, from the boned corsets of the past to sleek, modern-day Spanx brand slimmers and the like, to achieve a more flawless figure. But could such constricting means of achieving fashion’s fantasy of perfection cause actual real-life harm?  

  Some women live by the motto that “beauty is pain.” Just ask those who stuff their bodies into two or even three layers of shapewear undergarments, despite experiencing breathing difficulty, hours of discomfort, and complications with blood circulation. While this may sound extreme, reports have recently surfaced that the number of health issues surrounding the use of shapewear products, including the popular brand Spanx, are becoming an increasing concern. Pinched nerves, acid reflux, and heartburn complaints are just a few of the issues that medical professionals have identified as a result of the use of compression garments. Dr. Orly Avitzur, a practicing neurologist and medical editor for Consumer Reports has written, “…the medical risks are not insignificant. 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, as one of my young patients discovered when she began wearing Spanx under her soccer uniform."  

  Curious, and somewhat alarmed, we sought the advice of local lifestyle and healthy living expert Holly Pellham Davis (below, left) of Clean Fresh Living to weigh in on the matter.  Davis was initially introduced to Spanx as a twenty-something, size two actress. “For centuries, women have cinched their waistlines with more barbaric vices than these modern, silky smooth, tightly woven fabrics, “ Davis notes. “Perhaps, what we have here is a situation of a misuse of the product. Shapewear is meant to smooth things out, hold ‘parts’ a little tighter and maybe a bit higher, but not at the cost of crushing or bruising your guts! If you are unable to breathe, bend, swallow normally, or feel anything other than comfortable support, I would not advise wearing the garment.”  

  Davis’ assessment is sound. However, given the rise in shapewear related health concerns, the question remains as to whether women are going to the extreme to conform to what society has deemed to be beautiful – no matter the physical cost. LailaMonet (above, right), a professional full-figured model and company spokes model for Shavonne Dorsey Designs, has used shapewear for years. She has never experienced any medical complications, even at a previous weight of 332 pounds. As one who uses both shapewear and a waist-slimming corset, she concurs with Davis that moderate use is key. “I purchased a corset to help train my waist to keep its natural small sizing, but I do not wear the corset every day, “ explains the curvaceous beauty. “I wear it off and on, sometimes four to eight hours during the day, but never longer than that.” As it stands, it appears that the issue revolves around what categorizes ‘responsible use’ of shapewear products, rather than the garments themselves. Given the current societal pressures to be thin or to have a perfect hourglass figure, however, the surge in health-related issues involving Spanx and other compression garments may continue to rise. Davis observes in conclusion, “For all too long, we as women have done everything we can, sometimes to the detriment of our health, to look better and to be beautiful.  It is our complete wellness that matters most. After all, healthy is beautiful.”   Holly Pellham Davis headshot via; LailaMonet headshot credit Chanel Williams-Mitchell.    

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