Ich bin ein Berliner.
June 20, 2011 8:20 PM   Subscribe

I am built… like an accordion. Standard feature? Lack of fitness? Body image issue?

When I sit bent over my laptop, or on a bike, or with a book, the flesh around my midsection gathers in shelves, folded like the bellows of a harmonica. They roll. I can grab ahold of them and pull them out an inch or two. I could hide small objects in the folds. Sweat gathers in them. My stomach seems to be developing fine wrinkles where they form.

When I stand, I don't have a paunch or much of a jiggle. I am male, of medium height and average weight — about 5'8" and 165 lbs. This is as much as I've ever weighed and as tall as I've ever been. I don't think my weight ever outran my stature in adolescence. I've never been pudgy. I don't overeat and get regular exercise.

Without me providing tantalizing pics, what would you guess from my description? Is this how the human body is supposed to fold up under optimal conditions? Do I have loose skin around my midsection? Is this a consequence of poor posture and bad workplace habits? Could I stand to lose 10-15 lbs, or — alternatively — put on some muscle? This isn't a pressing body image issue for me. I'm not freaking about being unsightly or out of shape. I am not asking you to fix me, I'm just curious.
posted by Nomyte to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is normal.
posted by dfriedman at 8:21 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

seriously, where else is the skin gonna go?
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:23 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is a feature, not a flaw. Otherwise, your skin and muscles would be so tight you couldn't stand up straight.
posted by yarly at 8:28 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Depends on number and size of folds. May seem counterintuitive, but the bigger and fewer the folds, the more body fat you have. The smaller and thinner the folds, the less body fat you have--the folds are just skin.

When you slump over and there is just one big round fold from under your chest all the way to your legs . . . that's when you're really in trouble.
posted by schroedinger at 8:34 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is how people look, the only way you can avoid it is if you sit up completely straight and squeeze your abs tightly, this tends to inhibit breathing, good for seated pictures though if you can do it without a screwed face.
posted by boobjob at 8:36 PM on June 20, 2011

If you lose weight, it will roll less, but this is a normal body function.

The skin and sub-dermal fat are all kind of tied together and after them it isn't as firmly tied to anything below so they kind move independently over the muscle etc, so the thicker the subdermal fat, the bigger and more pronouced the rolls as it bends to accommodate movement, at least until you get to the kind of depth of fat which is so thick and stiff that it doesn't really want to roll.

I get fold lines on my stomach from common positions I sit it. Well, actually I guess I used too, I've lost a little weight in the last year, and it's just enough of a difference that my belly doesn't need to roll as much as it used to.
posted by Elysum at 8:38 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

P.S. A huge part of the common 'poses' that models, and pinup models of yesteryear would use, it that they avoided the common rolls the human body gets in slightly bent or twisted poses.

These days, try searching before and after photo-touchup images of celebrities. There's lots and lots of airbrushing rolls and folds and lines away, even in relatively skinny people.

Yet another reason airbrushing sucks - it can make people think, or wonder if, their body is defective when it's doing quite normal body-things, if they're regarded as unattractive.
(See - Explaining to children that body-hair on a woman, ie my legs and arms hair, doesn't mean I have something wrong with me, it actually normal/common and grows there by itself, it's just that lots of women choose to have it removed, so that's why they don't usually see it. They don't think I should be shaving, they just didn't realise it could *exist* on a woman. I can see the dubiousness... ha!)
posted by Elysum at 8:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

"It's skin, honey. You need it to bend." --My mother
posted by DarlingBri at 8:58 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have this, too. (as does everybody, see above)

It bothers me, too. The answer is, improve your posture. It won't go away, you just won't ever have to look at it.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 9:31 PM on June 20, 2011

Totally normal. And actually, the skinnier you are (that is, the less body fat you have), the more rolls you're going to have. They'll be really small, but there will be many of them. Bigger people, with more fat, will have fewer but larger rolls. The extra skin has to go somewhere, no matter what your level of chubs.

Compare pictures here: skinny, middling, fat.
posted by phunniemee at 1:34 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always get depressed reading on MeFi that "the skinnier you are, the more rolls you should have" because... I'm at the low end of my BMI and I've only ever noticed getting one or two myself. So I'm not sure that's always true

However, yes, it's normal
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:12 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am 5'6 and 120 pounds, and I have these rolls when I bend over. I actually do a lot of strength training, and when I stand perfectly straight with shoulders back, you can see some ab definition. But as soon as I bend over, there are the rolls. I think the people you see who don't appear to have rolls are: 1) photoshopped or 2) standing perfectly straight or 3) due to diet and exercise have *extremely* low body fat and do a lot of ab exercises. (And getting your body fat that low isn't attainable or desirable for everyone.)
posted by LaurenIpsum at 5:31 AM on June 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the reality check, everyone!
posted by Nomyte at 5:43 AM on June 21, 2011

Even when I was 20 lbs. underweight my midsection did this. The only time it didn't fold up like that was when I was pregnant.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2011

It's a posture thing. I'm 5'6" 120lbs and my tummy folds up when I sit, more so when I slouch.
posted by TheCoug at 12:47 PM on June 21, 2011

I'm at the low end of my BMI and I've only ever noticed getting one or two myself. So I'm not sure that's always true

Not BMI. Bodyfat %.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:02 PM on June 21, 2011

Just chiming in to say that I have no folds/rolls, I'm 5' 10" 135.
posted by trogdole at 1:34 PM on June 21, 2011

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