Growing up, Emma June hated her hips ― or more specifically, she hated her “hip dips.”
Hip dips are naturally occurring indents or depressed curves below the hip, located on the outside of the upper leg. For some people, the appearance of indentations is just more prominent than in others.
When Emma June would wear tighter clothes as a teen, “the distinct unsmooth, unrounded fat on my hips stood out to me,” she said.
“I wasn’t hourglass shaped and that seemed like what everyone ― myself included ― wanted to be,” Emma June, a writer in West Virginia who asked to use her first name only, told HuffPost.
To disguise her hip dips, she’d even layer compression shorts and leggings under all of her jeans and pants.
“I’d also wear my belts so tight that they hurt because I figured even if my hips weren’t hourglass shaped, maybe people wouldn’t notice if my waist was small,” she said.
Back then, women were calling them “saddlebags” or “violin hips.” Today on social media, they’re “hip dips.” Fitness circles on TikTok and Instagram are full of diet-centric content, much of it centered on how to spot reduce “problematic” areas ― hip dips included. (Spot reduction is a type of targeted exercise intended to burn fat in or change the look of a specific area. Experts stress you can’t really spot treat any areas on your body.)
“There is no part of the body that can be spot reduced, but trying to change hip dips is an especially fruitless endeavor.”
– Kristie Larson, a women’s strength coach in New York City
But both fitness experts and plastic surgeons stress that hip dips are completely natural and not something you need to get rid of through exercise or surgery.
“Hip dip visibility depends on multiple, mostly unchangeable factors like the width of your pelvis, the size of your acetabulum (hip socket), the size of your femur (thigh bone), the length of the femoral neck (the connector of your thigh bone and femoral head or ‘ball’),” explained Helen Phelan, a certified pilates instructor and founder of digital pilates platform Helen Phelan Studio.
“No amount of exercise will change your skeleton’s shape,” she said.
Distribution of muscle and fat in the area also affects the look of hip dips, said Arthur W. Perry, a board-certified plastic surgeon with offices in Manhattan and Somerset County, New Jersey, and an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University.
“This issue is really a collection of fat on both the hip area and the outer thighs in women ― men just don’t seem to collect fat over their outer thighs,” Perry said.
Of course, hips dips are normal, he added ― just another variant of body shape.
K. Roxanne Grawe, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Powell, Ohio, thinks the interest in losing hip dips is directly tied to the rise Brazilian butt lifts, a procedure where excess fat is removed from one area of the body and injected into the buttocks.
As women began looking into BBLs, they also started zeroing in on their hips.
“Instagram influencers really started taking off around 2017 and 2018 and the whole world changed when it came to plastic surgery,” Grawe told HuffPost. “Everyone wanted a BBL, and we started having requests for them daily, from all kinds of clients: the church choir member, a mom with three kids, a 20-year-old model, everyone.”
Fitness Instagram influencers started talking more and about exercises to get rid of hip dips while they secretly filled them in with fat grafting or Sculptra in the plastic surgeon’s office, Grawe said.
“Outside of filler, people worried about hip dips have fat grafting, where the unwanted fat which is collected with liposuction, and treated and re-injected into the hip dips or areas of the buttock to improve the shape,” she said.
The surgery can range from $3,000 to $12,000.
Or there’s another route you can take: Learn to accept the dip.
It’s normal and human to have insecurities ― it’s impossible not to in our culture ― but dwelling or putting yourself in fitness situations that fixate on body size and aesthetics isn’t healthy, Phelan said.
“I try to remind concerned people that hip dips are genetic and exercise becomes soul sucking and toxic when we focus on what we perceive as wrong with our bodies,” she said. “It’s a lot more fun and productive to focus on function and mental wellness in your movement and exercise practice than controlling your appearance, especially when it’s not controllable in the first place.”
Want to tap more into that mindset? Below, Pheland and body image experts share how to stop fixating on hip dips or any other so-called “problem” area of your body.
Fitness instructors agree: No exercise will change your hip dips.
Again, hip dips are completely dependent on anatomy and are totally normal. It’s all about how your bones are shaped, how your leg bones fit into your pelvis, and how your body stores and distributes fat, said Kristie Larson, a women’s strength coach in New York City.
“There is no part of the body that can be spot reduced, but trying to change hip dips is an especially fruitless endeavor,” she said. “It’s possible to increase muscle mass and fat stores to alter the silhouette of the hips ― although you can’t control where fat goes ― but it’s unlikely to significantly change the appearance of hip dips.”
Instead of trying to “spot” reduce areas in the gym, try to focus on getting stronger and healthier.
As a gym owner and trainer in Denver, Colorado, Zabrina Motwani works from a “body-neutral” lens.
“My focus is on simply helping people get comfortable in the gym, getting strong and finding ways of movement that feel good for them and their bodies, without focusing on aesthetics,” she said, noting that if your ultimate goal is to be more comfortable and confident in your own body, it’s entirely possible to get there without focusing on the way your hips or any other part of your body looks.
“Focus on things that make you feel good, whether that is working on your strength, flexibility, setting performance goals or finding new forms of movement that make working out exciting,” she said.
Larson added that building strength can boost confidence, increase body appreciation and improve bone density ― one way you actually can change your bones.
“Focus on improving your hip mobility and increasing your functional strength through moderate-heavy weight training.”
Remember that body trends are cyclical and that a lot of people want hip dips.
Hip dips are just the latest in a long line of unrealistic beauty standards popularized in women’s magazines and on social media ― love handles, FUPA, and cankles. Like any fad, this, too, will fade, Larson said. Plus, a lot of people at the gym want hip dips.
“It’s funny because women come to me asking two different questions about hip dips — it’s either ‘how do I get rid of hip dips?’ or ‘how do I get hip dips?’” she said.
Emma June, the writer who hated her hip dips growing up, said she’s heard the same thing when she posts about hip dips on her body-neutral Instagram account.
“One of my followers DMed me and told me that she thought they were so cute and she wished she had them,” she said. “I was floored. These hip dips that I grew up resenting and wishing so much to be round and smooth, she thought they were cute; sometimes we are blinded by our own frame of reference of our insecurities that we can’t see ourselves from another person’s perspective.”
Diversify your social media feeds so you’re not just getting diet-centric or solutions-centric exercise content.
Go on a following ― and an unfollowing ― spree so your social media feeds aren’t just full of slim-thick Instagram models and fitness influencers.
“Unfollow any content that makes you feel uneasy about yourself,” said Jess Sprengle, a licensed professional therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders.
“Report ads that seem to be targeting your insecurities,” she said. (Think: Content that claims to have “solutions” or states that it can help you “get rid” of certain body parts.)
“Instead, try to fill your feed with body neutral content and content that’s more centered on body kindness and acceptance,” Sprengle said. (For more on how to curate a body-neutral feed, check out this article.)
Embrace your body as it is, here and now.
Emma June admits that she still has good days and bad days when it comes to her body.
“I won’t say I overcame all of my insecurities about my hips and am now preaching self acceptance and body love for everyone who still struggles, because that’s just not accurate,” she said.
But these days, she said she knows there’s nothing “wrong” with her body or hips that aren’t perfectly rounded.
“My advice would be to remember that your body is your home,” she said. “You only get one in this life, so stressing about how it’s ‘too’ one thing and ‘not enough’ another thing isn’t something that will feed you. Your body carries you every day, and it deserves your kindness and respect.”