Written by Avantika Jain, Goa Medical College

How many times have you sucked in your stomach to look thinner ? Maybe while trying on outfits? Or posing for a picture?

From young girls to middle-aged men, the stereotype of ‘flat stomach’ conquers the minds of most progressive and positive minded individuals. 

As every cover of Vogue rolls out and promotes the hourglass figure as the greatest quality a woman could ever possess, in every city there’s someone feeling inadequate about their body. 

From liposuction to WhatsApp forwards, every article tries to give you the best route to that flat tummy. 

So, following in the footsteps of the age-old corsets, the modern advice is to just ‘suck it in’.

But research (thankfully) tells us that gripping your stomach too often and for too long can have serious health implications.

According to chiropractor Adam Browning, “Stomach gripping is the process of repeatedly and extensively contracting the muscles of your upper abdomen in order to pull your stomach up and in, which can alter the movement patterns of your abdominal muscles, and lead to imbalances[1].”

“In this ‘Hourglass syndrome’, (so named because of the burning desire to achieve the same) the muscles of the upper abdomen become hypertonic, or tight, and the muscles of the lower abdomen become weak and underused. This increases intra abdominal pressure and pushes your lungs and stomach higher into your
rib cage,” explains Dr. Browning.

While a sucked-in, flatter stomach does hold great aesthetic value, the health ramifications after an extended period of time could lead to breathing issues, neck and back pain, as well as pelvic floor problems. Research dictates that it could limit your oxygen intake by almost 30%. A weak pelvic floor has its own umbrella of problems, the most significant being urine leakage.

Do you already have a similar complaint, that you couldn’t attribute to anything else? A slightly upturned belly button, horizontal creases around it, and marked difference in definition of your upper and lower abs could indicate an imbalance in your abdominal muscles.

If you are a chronic stomach gripper with experience, Dr. Browning suggests breaking the bad habit of sucking in, letting it hang loose, breathing exercises and physiotherapy to get your muscles back on track.

But on another note, maybe the problem of stomach gripping is more deep- seated in the mind than physically in your body.

Ask yourself, do you obsess over having a flat stomach often?

Maybe it’s time to self-reflect on our own behaviors and practices. However woke and inclusive you may think yourself to be, body positivity and neutrality starts from your own body.

While being healthy and exercising is great, anything that stems from discontent or
discomfort from your own skin needs to be addressed.

Beauty isn’t skin deep, but your poor muscles are probably crying of a sustained contraction.

So stop sucking in your stomach. Your body is beautiful, pooch and all.

And to quote Disney’s Elsa, Let it Go!

Let’s embrace our natural healthy bodies and inspire each other.


  1. Hourglass Syndrome: Why You Should Stop Sucking In Your Stomach [Internet]. September 2, 2022. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/hourglass-syndrome-why-you-should-stop-sucking-in-your-stomach/

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