Office Ass: myth or terrifying reality?
December 1, 2008 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Is "secretary spread" (aka "office ass") a real phenomenon or just an insult flung at middle-aged women with naturally flat butts?

I sit in a chair for 7 hours every day at work. If I keep this up am I in danger of my butt becoming weirdly flat? Or do external factors (such as sitting down for long periods of time 5 days a week) matter little when stacked against biological factors (having the genes for a not-flat butt)?
posted by RingerChopChop to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't imagine that this would be a real thing. I imagine it's from excess body fat and lack of butt muscle. The best way to prevent this is to do lots of deadlifts and squats and eat healthfully.
posted by schroedinger at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2008

I don't think "secretary spread" refers to flatness of the butt so much as it refers to weight gain caused by hours of sitting at a desk and eating fast-food lunches and baked goods that Sue from HR brought in. Office ass might as well be office gut in some cases.

Most people in the US have been sitting down for extended periods of time since childhood (school, TV watching, the dinner table) and our grown-up butts still come in all shapes and sizes, so I don't think you have to worry about yours flattening out. If you are worried, though, squats and the elliptical trainer will help build your glutes.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:34 PM on December 1, 2008

I think it's true but for a different reason. If you work out in the mornings and do lunges and squats, secretary spread will not happen. However, if you just go to work, sit on your ass for all of the 7 hours, eat more (birthday party cake, people who have candy in their office, girl scout cookies, candy bar charity boxes, etc), then yes, that ass will be your future.

Ugh.. what is it called when something is true but for a different reason? For example, when ice cream sales increase, so does crime, but it's because it's summer and everyone is outside.
posted by spec80 at 2:35 PM on December 1, 2008

That's the post hoc ergo prompter hoc fallacy.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:42 PM on December 1, 2008

A misleading correlation?

Agreed. Just remember: free food is not free.
posted by benzenedream at 2:42 PM on December 1, 2008

@spec80 -- coorelation without causation.
posted by iliketrafficlights at 2:43 PM on December 1, 2008

Thank you!
posted by spec80 at 2:45 PM on December 1, 2008

So for one week (four days, really) out of my always-too-thin life, back in high school, I worked for a grocery store that believed in sending new checkers to four-day training sessions.

For four days I got up, went to school, got in the car, ate dinner while driving, sat on my ass for several hours of class (during which I ate), then drove home just in time to sleep, wake up, and do it again.

The end result: for the first time in my life, I got a little gut. I was shocked at how quickly and easily it came. Two weeks after I got back to my normal routine, it was gone.

When you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it doesn't take long for parts of you to lose definition as the fat collects. So it's an unfortunate name, but not an unusual phenomenon for people entering any job that involves sitting around all day.

Also: people who are generally sedentary anyway will probably seek out jobs like this.
posted by davejay at 2:54 PM on December 1, 2008

Desk workers are usually pretty sedentary all day and some have a drawer full of snacks from which they partake. The combination leads to weight gain.
posted by fenriq at 2:57 PM on December 1, 2008

Good heavens, flat is not what my often-seated, overweight butt is at all. However, I do come from flat-butted stock. Astonishingly flat. Like Kansas back there. When I came of age, all my 4 aunts, mom and grandma gathered around my derriere and stared in awe and wonder, asking "where did that come from?" as I looked over my shoulder, dumbstruck. (the answer is the other side of the family, of course.) No amount of bookkeeping and academic pursuits have flattened it yet.

Butt shape and where you put on weight is genetic!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:06 PM on December 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

The major external factor in "secretary spread" is not getting any exercise. Classically, this was exacerbated by the fact that a woman working all day still comes home and makes dinner, cleans up, etc. rather than hitting the gym for a couple of hours or going out dancing.
posted by desuetude at 3:33 PM on December 1, 2008

I work with people who sit on their ass all day (myself included). There are all shapes and sizes.
posted by desjardins at 3:47 PM on December 1, 2008

Take the stairs. And, when you're walking, walk with your buttocks clenched. Yes it feels stupid and yes you will look like a fool.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:58 PM on December 1, 2008

Also: people who are generally sedentary anyway will probably seek out jobs like this.

Actually I have a desk job because it provides good insurance, a great 401K and 4 weeks vacation, not because I'm too lazy to get off my ass.

And my butt ain't flat. It's big and round and it is ALL THAT, baby.
posted by Evangeline at 4:13 PM on December 1, 2008 [9 favorites]

actually, I think it's the cum hoc fallacy - they happen at the same time, the working in the office and the spreading of the ass.
posted by bilabial at 6:38 PM on December 1, 2008

Sorry to continue the derail... it's a logical fallacy if one misidentifies a correlation as a cause, but I think a better answer to "what is it called when something is true but for a different reason?" would be mediation.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:01 PM on December 1, 2008

propter, mr_roboto. though I'd love to see an example of post hoc ergo prompter hoc
posted by jdfan at 7:31 PM on December 1, 2008

Evangeline - I LOL'ed.

Desk job? Check. Long hours? Check. 45 mins on the cross trainer each morning whilst watching the news? Check. Big, round booty? Check.

It's not the job, it's the build and the lifestyle.
posted by Grrlscout at 4:31 AM on December 2, 2008

Sorry to continue the derail...

Also, the ice cream/crime thing...summer is a lurking variable

posted by Pax at 8:08 AM on December 2, 2008

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