It would be easy to think that the pressure has been off of late when it comes to how we look. Who needs to worry about lipstick, jeans and shampoo when we’ve got face masks, leggings and a Zoom screen? But how we feel about our appearance has taken a dive in recent months. Indeed, research by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee found that more than half of adults in the UK actually felt ‘worse’ about their body image.
So it’s unsurprising that, following in the footsteps of the ‘thigh gap’ and ‘thighbrow’ (Google it…), the weird and – sometimes less than wonderful – world of social media has come up with a new feature of our bottom halves to fret about. The ‘hip dip’ has been slowly gathering steam in the past couple of years, but has become even more of a fixation during lockdown, with the hashtag #hipdips used more than 25k times on Instagram alone.
We’re all for fixating on our lower halves in a good way, including building up a peachy behind with glute exercises (for which you’ll need one of our best resistance bands for women). But with the internet trying to – in the voice of Mean Girls’ Gretchen – make hip dips happen, all we really want to do is wiggle around to Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. That aside, read on for the truth...
What are hip dips?
Nope, they’re not a dance move that’s gone TikTok viral, but a ‘colloquial term that is given to the inward depression – or curve – along the side of your body, just below the hip bone,” explains Dr Rekha Tailor, medical director and founder of Health and Aesthetics. These indentations may also be known as ‘violin hips’ or, in scientific speak, ‘trochanteric depression’.
Many are calling them the new ‘thigh gap’ – a circa 2011 obsession that has persisted. ‘Interest in them has increased significantly in the last few months,’ adds Dr Tailor, noting that Google searches doubled in lockdown. Which leads us onto...
What causes hip dips?
In short, your genetics. Dr Ross Perry, medical director of CosmedicsUK, comfortingly describes them as a ‘completely normal anatomical phenomenon’. He says. ‘They are caused when one's hip bone is located higher than his or her femur, causing fat and muscle to cave inward.’
Similarly, Dee Hammond-Blackburn, a personal trainer at OriGym, insists that they are totally natural – and completely down to how your bones were built. She adds, ‘The skeletal structure of an individual’s pelvis, the width of their hips and their overall body fat and muscle distribution will all have an impact on how visible their hip dips are when viewed externally.’ Which is pretty much the same for every single body part.
The main thing to know is that they are not a sign of being overweight or unfit. “Recently, more and more people are thinking that hip dips – or lack of – are a sign of how healthy you are,” says Mark Fox, health and fitness expert from The Training Room. ‘Although the amount of body fat stored in that area can make them more noticeable, and extra muscle mass can also give you a more prominent look, losing body fat around that area won’t make them go away, as they’re mainly due to bone structure which you can't change.’
How common are hip dips?
More frequent than you’d think. ‘Almost everyone has a degree of “hip dip,”’ points out Dr Perry. ‘It is just more pronounced in some individuals.’ However, they are more common in women. ‘Which is due to the naturally wider position of the hip bones and a genetically different pattern of fat distribution to men,’ he adds.
That said, while on some people they are barely noticeable and others they can be very apparent, it may simply depend on your perspective. ‘Typically hip dips are most visible when you look straight at your front profile in the mirror,’ explains Sam Markham, personal trainer and co-founder of Common Purpose Wellbeing. ‘However, it’s impossible to calculate how many people have them, and how many don’t – and I think we should therefore accept and celebrate how unique we all are.’
Do hip dips go away?
It’s a misconception that you’ll be able to erase them entirely from your body. ‘However, exercising to reduce fat and build muscle can help to reduce the appearance of hip dips,’ says Dr Tailor.
Rhea Sheedy, a dance teacher and founder of Ballet Fusion , advises, ‘Focus on moves that target the gluteal muscle groups, such as bulgarian split squats, glute bridges and lunges. Walking and running are also great for shaping the legs while core workouts – especially those targeting the abs and obliques – will help to shape the waist.’
However, Sheedy points out that, ‘You'll sometimes see hip dips in people who train a lot as more muscle mass – or pronounced strength in certain muscles – can create more noticeable hip dips.’ In fact, hip dips were previously known in the dance world as ‘dancer’s dents’, due to a serious amount of butt squeezing, hamstring, hip and leg work. See ballerina Misty Copeland.
What’s more, Dr Tailor warns, ‘It’s not advisable to focus too much on exercising one specific area such as the bottom, as it can result in overworking one area and lead to injury.’ Hammond-Blackburn adds that you also shouldn’t forget how you fuel yourself. ‘Consuming a nutritious diet will play a huge role in how effective a training programme is, too, especially one that contains a good amount of protein. This will help to trigger muscle growth in the area and burn excess body fat.’
While moving your body and eating well is always great, the one single thing that will make you feel better about your hip dips is compassion. Fox insists, ‘Give yourself a little self-love and embrace those hip dips (or lack of)! The human body is amazing and beautiful.’ Wise words.