We all know that fashion can be a lot of things: exciting, transformative, communicative, and most importantly: fun.
That said, there are some facets of fashion that — over time — could be damaging our bodies and our overall well-being (yeah, we know: not so fun). We’re talking about the actual things that we put on our bodies, as well as mind-sets we adopt for the sake of “looking the part,” which often means you’re not actually channeling legitimate style so much as you’re regurgitating what’s “now” as dictated by hoards of other people.
To explain what fashion habits — both literal and figurative — that could be doing potential damage, we enlisted Will Torres, a health and fitness expert and owner of Willspace, a private training studio in New York City. Read on to educate yourself!
1. Teetering On High Heels
Probably one of the worst things you can do for your body alignment is wear high heels. According to Torres, walking on the ball of your feet forces your torso to lean forward, simultaneously forcing women to straighten out by leaning back. This puts an incredible amount of stress on the spine and compresses its discs over time. It’s really important to remember that injury is cumulative: It generally doesn’t happen overnight. It can take weeks, months, or years of altered movement to show up as discomfort which often presents itself as cramping in the toes and calves, and pain in the back and hips.
While there might not be many things that boost a woman’s confidence quite like a killer pair of heels, they can be a serious hazard, causing an incredible amount of pain and discomfort. Luckily, however, it seems heel heights have reached an all-time high and are starting to fall, which is good news for shoppers, as lower heels are everywhere this season, and really, really cute.
2. Lugging Around That “It” Bag
The bigger the bag, the more things we find to fill the bag. Torres points out that women typically carry purses on one side, either on the shoulder or perched on their lower arm/crook of their elbow. This uneven weight distribution prompts the body to shift causing muscle imbalances and a slew of alignment issues, such as one shoulder being more developed and sitting higher than other (not a good look).
It can also create pain in the spine because the torso shifts to counterbalance the uneven weight. In addition, heavy bags can lead to neck discomfort and shoulder pain. A solution: Give your body a break and carry a small light bag a few days a week that’s free of extraneous objects: We’re partial to canvas totes, leather pouches or a paper-thin backpack so long as they’re generally un-stuffed.
3. Dieting and Striving for “Fashion Skinny”
Even though Torres admits that Americans might eat too much as a culture, seriously restricting your food intake for the sake of looking “fashion skinny” can actually cause your metabolism to slow down and your body to store more fat.
While young adults who don’t eat regularly may see an initial decrease in body size, by the time they hit 30-years-old, Torres says that their metabolism will be so slow that even looking at food the wrong way can cause weight gain. Along with a slowdown in metabolism, people who “don’t eat” wind up snacking, often taking in excessive sugar which is vile for the body and (ironically!) causes bloating and swelling.
4. Sucking It In
Whether you’re trying to look taller or thinner for a photo opp (ahem, street style) or squeezing into a pair of skinny jeans or shapewear, sucking in your stomach robs your body of precious oxygen, which slows your metabolism, affects your focus and performance and deprives your cells of life. According to Torres, the best way to breathe is by taking diaphragmatic breaths also known as “belly breathing” (the diaphragm is a muscle that sits between the chest cavity and the stomach cavity). When it’s able to contract properly, the lungs fill with oxygen and the belly expands.
However, if you’re holding your stomach in or keeping it tense all day to keep your jeans from popping, the diaphragm isn’t able to drop and allow room for the lungs to fill with air, causing most people to become “chest breathers.” This, according to Torres, causes tension in the body and it’s one of the reasons people experience so much shoulder and neck tension—plus it can lead to headaches, stomach discomfort, depression, anxiety and other issues.
To get an idea of your breathing style, put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Relax your body and take three slow breaths in and out. Which hand moved? For most people, it’s the hand that’s on the chest.
To become a belly breather, Torres offers this tip: “Sit straight up in a chair and place both hands around your stomach. Relax your body and begin inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Try filling your belly like a balloon with air. You should see your hands moving away from the body. Put on a great song and try breathing this way for the length of one song. Over time, work up to breathing this way for two to three songs. Be patient and enjoy the buzz.”
5. Adopting a “YOLO” Mentality
This motto—a catchy acronym for “You Only Live Once”— is responsible for tons of impulsive and destructive behaviors, from indulging in highly unhealthy eating habits, to splurging on that designer bag that you’ve been seeing on every street style blog when your credit card says you shouldn’t. While it’s true that we only live once and enjoy life, why not live once to its fullest by doing things that benefit our bodies and mind in the long run. Torres recommends living above the fray and not getting sucked into the latest trends and bad habits.