Want to Look Slimmer? Stand Straight

It has been said that the fastest way to lose a couple of pounds is to stand straight. This is true. You don’t actually lose any weight but good posture can make you look like you are slimmer than you really are.

When you stand properly, your chest is lifted and shoulders are drawn back. This makes your chest appear broader if you are a man and makes your breasts look higher and firmer if you are a woman. With the chest lifted, your abdomen is pulled in instead of just “hanging out”. Your waist will appear to be at least one or two inches smaller. You will look taller and leaner.

Let's face it, no matter how expensive your clothes, haircut or make-up, it is very difficult to look attractive with rounded shoulders, a sunken chest and a protruding belly. Not only that, poor posture can make you look old before your time. It can even make you look depressed or insecure.

Lower back
Poor posture doesn't just make you look unattractive; it can also cause problems in your joints and muscles. The spine is wonderfully designed to take all kinds of loads if aligned properly. But if thrown out of alignment by improper posture, pain can eventually appear in the lower back, neck, shoulders, and even the hips and knees.

Posture faults
According to Barbara Brehm, exercise physiology professor at Smith College, the most common posture problems are rounded shoulders, a forward head (chin jutting forward), a protruding abdomen, and swayback (an exaggerated lower back curve). She says it's not uncommon for all four to occur together.

Many people have poor posture because ''everything we do brings us forward -- working at a desk, reading, eating, talking to someone over a table'', according to Susan Bergholtz, former chief physical therapist at New York Hospital. She believes that ''80 percent of all back pain and 95 percent of all pain between the shoulder blades is due to bad posture.''

Emotional problems
In his book “BodyMind”, Ken Dikewall claims that chronic poor posture may be related to the chronic emotional state of an individual.

Examples of these emotional states are repressed anger, depression, and low self-esteem. He says that for these people, poor posture cannot be cured with exercise or physical therapy until these negative attitudes and emotional problems are taken care of first.

Muscular imbalance
Many cases of poor posture are caused by an imbalance in muscular strength and flexibility. Take the example of rounded shoulders. A person who slouches while doing long hours of deskwork may, over time, develop shortness and tightness in the muscles of the chest and front of the shoulders. Meanwhile, the muscles in the rear of the shoulders and between the shoulder blades become long and loose. There now exists an imbalance between the muscles in front and behind. If this person would do exercises to stretch the muscles in front and exercises to strengthen the muscles behind, his or her rounded shoulders could be ‘’fixed’’.

Standing correctly
How does one stand correctly? Have a partner view you from the side. The center of your head, shoulders and hips should fall in line. There should be a slight inward curve in the neck, a slight outward curve in the upper back and slight inward curve in the lower back. When these curves are exaggerated or flattened, the spine is misaligned.

Then have your partner view you from the front. There should be an imaginary line from your nose to your navel (belly button) to a point between your feet. Your hips and shoulders should be parallel to each other. If one hip or shoulder is higher than the other, you may have scoliosis or a lateral curvature of the spine. Consult an orthopedic doctor.

Conscious habit
If you have been standing incorrectly for a number of years or decades, your poor posture will seem ‘’natural’’ to your body. When you first learn to stand or sit correctly, it will not seem right. It might even seem a little uncomfortable.

To correct your posture, you will need to make standing properly a conscious habit. Carolyn Winuk, a physical therapist at the Richard M. Bachrach Center for Sports and Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, has developed some techniques you can use throughout the day:

· To prevent rounded shoulders – think of tucking your shoulder blades into your back pocket.
· To prevent a protruding belly and /or swayback – picture zipping your tightest pair of jeans. Draw your lower abdomen in and away from the zipper.
· To prevent your chin from jutting forward (the ‘’turtle’’ look) – imagine a taut line from the bottom of your chin to the top of your chest.
· To prevent your spine from resembling a ‘’letter C’’ – visualize a string gently pulling the top of your head to the ceiling while you are sitting and standing.

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