Your Hip Dips Are Not A Problem & They Don’t Need To Be Fixed

Photographed by Rochelle Brock
Content warning: This article touches on instances of disordered eating that some readers may find upsetting.
Like most people, I didn’t realise I had hip dips until I saw someone else freaking out about them on social media. In 2017 I joined a Facebook fitness group with more than 20,000 members and began to see daily posts from girls saying things like: "Pleaseeeee tell me there is a solution to these hip dips or whatever’s going on with my butt. I didn’t realise it looked that bad until I tried on these trousers" or "Anyone here have hip dips and was able to transform them? Help!"
What, exactly, is a "hip dip"? It is just a saccharine term for describing the indentation that may or may not exist between your hips and your thighs. Some people have them, some people don’t. There’s nothing wrong with you either way. Yet somehow hip dips have entered the insidious body-shaming realm of thigh gaps and ab cracks – either an unattainable aspiration or a "problem area" – which, I think we can all agree, is a notion that belongs in a bygone era of calorie counting.
Relentless negative self-talk about body image would affect anyone’s mental health so, sensibly, I muted the group and tried to forget about it. But years on, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with my hips because once I had seen the supposed "problem area", I couldn’t unsee it. Since then, I have come across hundreds of young women obsessed with the shape of their hips. All you have to do is search the term "hip dips" on any social media platform and you’ll be flooded with posts containing negative self-talk, from Instagram "before and after" images which are probably airbrushed anyway to thousands of YouTube videos and articles giving you "10 steps to get rid of hip dips for good". 

Hip dips have entered the insidious body shaming realm of thigh gaps and ab cracks – either an unattainable aspiration or a 'problem area' – which, I think we can all agree, is a notion that belongs in a bygone era of calorie counting.

Now, hip dips and the debate surrounding them are nothing new. Nor is the notion that hip dips are supposedly a "problem" needing to be "corrected". This mentality has become so entrenched that there is now even a hip dip body positivity movement which seeks to rehabilitate the conversation around this body part which, let’s face it, should never have been maligned in the first place. 
However, none of this is to say that the conversation about hip dips isn’t impacting young women – like me – negatively. Serena, a 23-year-old university graduate, first heard about hip dips on the Instagram of Kayla Itsines (a fitness influencer with 12.6 million followers). "She posted on her story and said something like 'You guys have been asking me about hip dips and different exercises to combat them' and I literally had to go and Google to see what she meant," Serena tells me. "At that moment I thought, Oh my God, I’ve got hip dips and it’s something I need to work on. I didn’t even realise it was a problem area."
Yara, a 26-year-old scientist, had a similar experience to Serena in that she also noticed discussions around hip dips online before she began to scrutinise her own body. "People were talking about hip dips and fitness pages said things like 'how to get rid of hip dips'," she explains to me. "Then I started seeing it mentioned in magazines alongside 'foods to eat and to avoid', which is ridiculous because biologically speaking, it’s the shape of your hips and nothing to do with how you eat or exercise."
As a scientist with a more than cursory understanding of the human body, Yara knew it made no logical sense but she still worries. "I still feel insecure because the people you see on social media, magazines and TV don’t have hip dips." As a result, Yara is hypervigilant about what she wears – she tends to avoid fitted clothing that might show or emphasise her hips.
Most of the women I spoke to about hip dips mentioned celebrities with hourglass figures as the main reason body ideals have changed, thus fuelling the desire to "fix" their hip dips. Unsurprisingly, the Kardashians came up in conversation a lot.
But if hip dips are just part of your bodily makeup then there's no point trying to change them, right? Hannah Lewin, a personal trainer who has been training women for over five years, says that getting rid of them is pretty much impossible. "From a biomechanics standpoint, they are natural, inward-facing curves that are caused by the shape of your pelvis. They’re associated with your skeletal structure so you can't change it and no amount of fat loss will," she explains. "There's lots of things you can do in terms of your hamstring or abdominals, kind of lower body exercises to make sure that the whole area is strong because the last thing you want is a tight hip flexor, tight hamstrings or a more unstable glute area." However, she says, changing the actual shape or look of your hips can't be done. "[Hip dips] are essentially part of your bone structure and you can’t change your bone structure."
So if hip dips are entirely biologically occurring, why are we being sold products and exercise regimes to target this area? Hannah believes it’s down to the entire industry based on toxic diet culture. "People will always make money off other people's insecurities, whether it's fitness influencers on Instagram, companies doing diet injections or selling 'teatoxes'. There’s a lot of money to be made in selling or promoting products to impressionable people," she explains. 

As a scientist, I knew it made no logical sense but I still feel insecure because the people you see on social media, magazines and TV don't have hip dips.

Yara, 26
Hannah tells me that she has seen an increase in clients asking to get rid of hip dips in the past few years but tries to stay away from focusing on aesthetics in her training and helps clients build strength instead. If the obsession seems severe, she may even tell them to seek further psychological help.
I reached out to Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and cofounder of My Online Therapy, to ask what kind of psychological issues may be at play here. "If someone is getting obsessive about a particular part of their body, then it suggests an unhealthy body image," she says. "Childhood experiences, self-esteem and the extent to which someone considers their body to be their main sense of identity and self-worth can all play a role in determining whether someone is vulnerable to developing problems with body image." 
Dr Touroni worries that pervasive narratives of so-called self-improvement can lead to body dysmorphia or eating disorders. This might present itself as excessive exercising, taking laxatives, bingeing and vomiting, limiting food intake and obsessing over one’s appearance.
Rosie, who is 29, tells me that she is ashamed to admit how much her hip dips have affected her. "I bought padded hip pants because I wanted to wear American Apparel disco pants and look like the models who had no hip dips," she reflects, before telling me that she has even looked into surgery such as liposuction or implants to fill in the "dip" and achieve a rounder, curvier look.
Dr Jane Leonard, a GP and cosmetic doctor, tells me that requests for hip dip surgery – to smooth out the dip – are becoming more and more popular in her practice. This, she says, is a recent development. However, she stresses that psychological links need to be explored by the practitioner, doctor or surgeon performing the procedure and that it’s important to explore any indications of body dysmorphia beforehand.
The very fact that this is happening explains the need for the body positivity movement around hip dips. But it’s important that we continue to interrogate the way that society routinely picks and chooses women’s body parts as diet culture’s next victim. 
Hannah believes that Instagram has contributed to this problem specifically, affecting what results her clients are looking for and what they feel is realistic. "I feel that before people would have a fitness goal and it was personal. They’d say ‘I want to start running’ or ‘I have an idea of how I want my body to look’," she tells me, "but now people are scrolling through Instagram, putting aside their genetics and biomechanics and wanting to look like someone else entirely. The Discover feed is like a catalogue of bodies where you can pick how you want to look." 
Hannah believes our quick-fix culture and the availability of filters and apps like Facetune might also be having an impact. She’s also concerned that unqualified fitness influencers are promoting information that’s not entirely accurate. "Genuine, long-term fat loss is really hard work," she adds. "Quick fixes are effectively used to make money, there’s no real concern for the user and how it might impact them."

I bought padded hip pants because I wanted to wear American Apparel disco pants and look like the models who had no hip dips.

Rosie, 29
So how do we start moving away from the toxic messaging around hip dips? Dr Touroni thinks we need to chip away at the concept of the "perfect body" and encourage a relationship with our body that is loving and accepting, focused on health and balance rather than perfection – aka body neutrality. She recommends unfollowing any brands on social media that imply that anyone needs to "change" or improve themselves and instead engage in activities that bring us more in touch with our bodies, like body scan meditations, yoga and exercise. "As we know, body types mostly come down to genetics. Love, compassion and acceptance should be the primary message we’re sending out – both to ourselves and others," she concludes.
Social media users like Serena want more honesty and transparency from the people promoting workouts targeting specific areas, while Yara thinks we need more offline conversations about hip dips from people who are knowledgeable. "I don’t want people just to say ‘Oh I don’t feel insecure about hip dips' when they actually do, I think it’s about talking openly and addressing the fact that people are now insecure about this area but also addressing that it’s a normal phenomenon." She wants to hold influencers and personal trainers accountable for spreading misinformation and for mainstream media to acknowledge that this is actually a really damaging issue which is causing real harm to young women. 
If you or anyone you know is struggling with disordered eating, please contact the Butterfly Foundation at 1800 33 4673. Support and information are available 7 days a week. 
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