Experts have warned of the myriad health hazards that can be caused by subconsciously sucking in your stomach.

Tensing your tummy and gripping your abs can cause inefficient breathing and a weakened pelvic floor, leading to incontinence and sexual dysfunction, according to Dr Robert Glatter.

“While the temptation to suck in your stomach to appear leaner is enticing, one of the major medical implications of engaging in this behaviour is the restricted ability to breathe efficiently as a result of adverse effects on the diaphragm,” Dr Glatter, an assistant professor of emergency medicine, told the New York Post.

“It results in your diaphragm moving upward, instead of down, impairing its normal function. Over time, this can result in irregular breathing patterns, leading to light-headedness and fatigue.”

The practice also “creates a downward force on the muscles of the pelvis floor”, ultimately weakening them and potentially causing the prolapse of pelvic organs.

Meanwhile, Erika Weiss, a wellness expert at ISSA Yoga, said constantly sucking in your stomach causes problems with posture, as well as serious back and neck pain.

“Your abdomen plays a key role in how you stay balanced when you move during the day, but gripping your stomach muscles means all your energy is going to one area, causing an inequality,” Ms Weiss added, saying the muscular imbalance creates creases in your core.

“[Additionally], you’re putting additional stress on your clavicle and the lower neck, leading to neck, shoulder and back pain.

“In the long term, this can even change the curvature of your spine as your abdominal muscles shorten due to the increased tension. This is the same way that humped necks form, as a result of chronic bad posture.”

And, according to Ms Weiss, many self-conscious Americans aren’t merely sucking in their stomachs while posing for a picture or stripping off at the beach.

“Many people will do it without thinking, as it’s almost a reflex at this point,” she said, describing the problem as pervasive.

This could be why New York ranks number one out of 50 states when it comes to “worst posture”, according to JournoResearch data gathered from Google searches of “bad posture”, “upper back pain” and “stiff neck”.

It’s hardly surprising, given that 36 per cent of adult Americans are unhappy with their weight, according to a YouGov body image tracker. Meanwhile, half of all Americans said physical appearance matters a “great deal” in today’s society, meaning the pressure is on to suck it in.

Constantly sucking in the stomach results in what is known medically as “hourglass syndrome”.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms include a “slightly upturned belly button”, “one or more noticeable creases around or above your belly button” and “good, firm definition in your upper abs, but a significantly softer lower ab region”, known as a “pooch”.

Nikki Garza, a body positivity TikToker with 1.2 million followers who suffers from the syndrome, told The Post last year her condition was a consequence of extreme body image pressures put on her from a young age.

“It just shows how insidious diet culture is, and how it’s really just passed down through family,” the 29-year-old said.

Ms Garza noticed she had several of the symptoms of hourglass syndrome after learning about the phenomenon online.

“I did a deep Google dive,” she said. “That really sucks that something that was so minor in my brain as a child – you know, having my mother and my grandmother consistently tell me to ‘suck in, suck in’ all my life – has led to having this on my body now.”

She said the practice should be avoided at all costs.

“It is not something that people should be engaging in, period. It’s simply not the way to achieve a healthy core and can result in serious health issues if it becomes a habit.”

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission


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