Does Shapewear Discourage Proper Diet & Exercise?

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25 Jan

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By Adam Welsch
Naomi & Nicole®

Two days ago, the godfather of fitness, Jack LaLanne, died at his home in California.  He was 96.  Pioneering the movement of eating healthily and exercising every day, via his long-running television show, chain of health clubs, sensational stunts, and juicing infomercials, LaLanne paved the way for the popularity of personal fitness in all of its forms.  He was also, perhaps, the first and most vocal advocate for women’s fitness.  He not only developed a program that could be performed by any woman in her own home without any special equipment, he also encouraged women to lift weights – something that previously had been considered taboo.  Not surprisingly, the passing of such an icon has caused me to reflect on the inadequacies of my own diet and personal exercise regimen.  But it’s also forced me to think about shapewear.  As an advocate for women’s fitness, LaLanne always encouraged women to exercise, and not depend upon girdles, to maintain healthy, good-looking physiques.  So the question that’s been rattling around inside my head is this: “Does the use of shapewear discourage exercise and healthy eating habits?”

The virtues of modern shapewear are undeniable.  The right style can comfortably smooth, control, shape, or even transform just about any part of the body lying between the neck, elbows, and ankles.  The fabrics used are flexible and lightweight, and may be put together with seamless or unnoticeably-seamed construction techniques.  Some styles employ revolutionary components like silicone-finished edges that prevent ride-up, roll-down, and VPLs; others have features like adjustable waists or invisible control panels.  Options exist that allow wearers to choose whether or not to wear bras and panties as part of an overall underwear ensemble.  And all of these choices exist in a range of prices that makes shapewear attractive to shoppers of all retail channels.

But some say it’s these very virtues that conspire to create shapewear’s primary vice.  As a result of its price, performance, and comfort, buying and wearing shapewear has become extremely easy and is now a more attractive alternative to eating properly and exercising.  Shapewear, the argument goes, is an enabler.  It actually contributes to the growth of the very problem – obesity – that its existence was meant to combat because it makes it easier for consumers to hide extra weight, rather than lose it.

Through which medium are you most familiar with Jack LaLanne?

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Shapewear certainly helps hide its wearer’s imperfections.  Light control styles do smooth out bumps and bulges created by a few unwanted pounds.  Firm control styles can change the shape of a tummy, thigh, or tush that may be flabby from a lack of exercise.  And extra firm control styles may transform one’s figure to such a degree that she can drop a couple of dress sizes and look as though she’s lost ten pounds by following one of Mr. LaLanne’s programs.  But there’s a limit to what any style or level of control can do.

Regardless of the body-altering results that it may provide to compensate for the shortcomings of any diet or exercise regimen, it’s unreasonable to argue that shapewear actually contributes to weight gain or a poor diet.  First, as anyone who’s ever worn shapewear can confirm, the compression it delivers to the midriff actually depresses one’s volume of food consumption by preventing the stomach from expanding during meals to the same degree as when shapewear isn’t worn.  Some women actually leverage this side effect to prevent overeating during the holidays.  Second, though one’s appearance – at any given weight – improves when wearing shapewear, continued weight gain resulting from too much additional caloric intake, or too little additional caloric burn, will degrade that appearance no matter what type or brand of shapewear is worn.  Therefore, the incentive to eat better and exercise more should be no weaker for a woman who wears shapewear than for one who does not. Third, when a woman wears shapewear and her appearance improves, her self-esteem is invariably raised.  As anyone who’s ever tried to change their habits and lose weight knows, it’s much easier to stick to a new, difficult routine when one feels good about oneself.  Shapewear, by allowing a woman to look better in her current clothes, or fit into a smaller size of something new, can contribute to that feeling instantly.

So, can wearing shapewear contribute to a sense of complacency about one’s appearance and overall health?  Of course it can.  Anyone can choose to use anything to justify avoiding making difficult changes to a lifestyle.   But even when it comes to clothing, shapewear is not unique in its ability to be used as a tool in the challenge to look one’s best.  After all, the easiest, and most commonly pursued, weight-gain accommodation strategy has always been to simply shop for new clothes that are a size or two larger than the old ones.

Thus, having thought about it critically, I can now answer the more important, original question.  Does wearing shapewear itself discourage one from eating properly and exercising regularly?  I’d say the answer is “no.”

What do you think?

By the way, if you’ve never seen (or heard of) Jack LaLanne, here’s an inspirational clip from his old TV show:

CC Image courtesy kroszk@ on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/kroszka// CC BY 2.0
CC Image courtesy Neeta Lind on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/neeta_lind// CC BY 2.0

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