Bad news, ladies: If you thought having a thigh gap, washboard abs, toned arms, perfectly round breasts, and an ass capable of balancing a glass of champagne was enough, think again. Instagram’s latest trend — the #bellybuttonchallenge — involves contorting yourself into a human pretzel to prove you're thin.
Just weeks after the Kylie Jenner-inspired swollen lips phenomenon, the belly button challenge has received more than 130 million hits to date, according to The Independent. If done successfully, the test is supposedly an indicator of health and fitness. The idea is that those who can touch their belly button from behind their back have a “good body” while those who fail need to lose weight, reports People. The trend is gaining traction because it’s easy to do at home and we all know the Internet loves physical stunts gone viral.
At first I found the test ridiculous, but then, secretly, I tried it. Much to my surprise and disappointment, I did not pass, and consequently contemplated skipping a meal and powering up at the gym. But come on: What does being able to reach around touch your bellybutton really prove? Whether or not one "succeeds" is not an indicator of health.
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As Cosmopolitan points out, “you might have a small waist and look healthy, but your blood work could show that you’re just as unhealthy as someone who weighs 400 pounds.” Besides overlooked factors, such as muscle, body mass index, and cholesterol level, the challenge could result in detrimental mental effects. Claire Mysko at the US National Eating Disorder Association program told ABC News that the challenge is especially bad for those who have eating disorder. “Social media challenges like these can stoke comparison and body insecurity,” Mysko said. “We advocate for body positivity challenges, which are empowering and encourage self-expression, not self-criticism.”
There are other reasons the test might be impossible, even for fitness instructors. Chinese publication People’s Daily Online reports that there are three factors to "successfully" completing the challenge. First, yes, the person is thin; second, the person has long arms; third, the person is flexible. So you could be in fabulous shape, but not have long enough arms to complete the challenge. In fact, if you have a six pack, you may actually find it harder to do, because you have more muscle to get your arm around.
Buzzfeed states the belly button challenge started on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. Millions of Chinese men and women, local celebrities, and now people around the world have tried it. But in exchange for a bundle of Instagram likes, these people are perpetuating a dangerously false standard of beauty and health. Not worth it.
If you can’t reach around and touch your belly button, don’t freak out. Ultimately, experts are concluding that the trend is no real indicator of health, and getting disappointed about not being able to do it isn't healthy, either. So pop your shoulder back in its socket and remember a trending hashtag should never dictate what you need to look like.
Nikita Redkar is the editorial intern for Fusion who loves writing all things pop culture and feminism - sprinkled with the occasional punchline. She likes cute animal gifs and dislikes long walks on the beach, plagues, and other cliches.