By Valerie Watson

Here at Beachbody, we encourage self-beautification that starts on the inside and shines through to the outside, achieved through healthy diet and exercise. Throughout history, however, the human race has made a variety of attempts at self-beautification by performing physical modifications on the body itself. Try to match the form of body alteration with the geographic location and time period where and when it first began.
  1. Foot-binding – China, ca. 900 A.D. From the 10th century to as recently as the early 20th century, many Chinese girls’ feet were broken, then tightly wrapped with cloth in an effort to achieve a tiny, bowed shape. The practice was most common among the upper classes, but by the 17th century, foot-binding was widespread among many women from peasants to the upper classes. Chinese women who lived in provinces where local laws prohibited the practice often chose to wear high-heeled shoes that allowed them to simulate the precarious, swaying gait produced by bound feet—as do countless micro-miniskirt-clad girls at dance clubs the world over today.
  2. Neck-stretching rings – Myanmar (formerly Burma), ca. 1100 A.D. Kayan women of Myanmar have a cultural tradition that involves wearing a series of brass rings that effectively elongate their necks by pushing their shoulders down and away from their heads. This form of body modification was first described for Westerners by Marco Polo sometime around the year 1300 A.D., but is said to have been a Kayan tradition for more than a thousand years. What, you may wonder, might be one of the more annoying consequences of emulating this form of body modification today? Well, for one, your head would be so much higher than your arms and shoulders, you’d be able to see stuff on upper kitchen or supermarket shelves, but you wouldn’t be able to reach it.
  3. Tattooing – Italian Alps, ca. 3300 B.C. The earliest known instance of the insertion of indelible ink beneath a human’s skin occurred in a mummy known as Otzi the Iceman (or Similaun Man), found in the Italian Alps in 1991. His tattoos are just simple carbon dots, but since then, tattooing as a far more complex form of artistic body modification has expanded exponentially from Eurasia throughout the world. The history of regret-based tattoo alteration and removal is less well-documented, although often far more amusing (as with Johnny Depp’s choice of changing one of his more prominent tats from “Winona Forever” to “Wino Forever”—ah, failed romance).
  4. Lip plates – Kamchatka, ca. 8750 B.C. Lip plates, or labrets, are discs made of clay or wood that are inserted into a hole in the upper or lower lip (or both), causing it to stretch. Although the earliest fossilized evidence of the use of lip plates was found on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the practice has been most commonly associated with African peoples, including the Sara, Lobi, Surma, and Mursi, some of whom continue to wear lip plates today. The villages of tribes who wear lip plates, like those who wear neck rings, have proven to be popular destinations for tourists, many of whom have asked, “How can they do that?” while themselves being willing to appear in public in oversized Hawaiian shirts, too-tight capri pants, front-mounted fanny packs, mullet hairstyles, and eyeglass frames from the ‘70s without perceiving the slightest degree of irony.
  5. Breast augmentation – Austria, ca. 1890 A.D. The first records of foreign substances being either injected or inserted into the human breast to increase its size and fullness come from Austria, where Dr. Robert Gersuny injected paraffin into women’s breast tissue, a less-than-satisfactory process that resulted in the parrafin’s hardening and shifting. Since then, both man-made substances (including glass balls, sponge rubber, plastic, polyester, and both silicone and saline implants) and human and animal bodily substances (including benign human growths and other fatty tissues, ox cartilage, ivory, and wool) have been either injected or surgically placed in the breast to augment its size. The practice has become so de rigueur in modern-day Hollywood that thumbing through any current movie magazine’s red-carpet photos is a virtual Where’s Waldo? of odd cleavage spacing and chin-grazing mounds of waaaaay-too-spherical flesh.