Why Sucking in Your Belly is Bad for Your Health and Happiness

July 26, 2016

Sucking In Our Bellies – Why Do We Do It?

Why Sucking in Your Belly is Bad for Your Health and Happiness

In my experience, we typically suck in our belly to enhance our appearance: to hide bloating or excess belly fat, or to simply look slimmer; and it doesn’t matter what size we are, we can still get caught in the urge to appear smaller around the waistline than we really are.

I used to do it ALL the time. In fact, it was such an engrained part of my standing posture that I still have to make a conscious effort some days to remind myself to just let my belly be natural.

But why would I want to do that? Why would I want to let it all hang out (so to speak) at the risk of looking bigger around the waistline?

Well first of all, I came to realize that sucking in my belly was just a cover up – it wasn’t actually accomplishing anything other than making me more self-conscious of it (contrary to popular belief, simply ‘sucking it all in’ is not an effective way to strengthen the abdomen).

Secondly, over time, I also became aware of other side effects of this habit, which I now realize had a much worse impact on my overall health, and my happiness.

Here are the reasons why sucking in your belly is bad for your health and happiness:

1) It restricts breathing:

It’s no fun to feel constantly oxygen deprived, and when we can’t take deep belly breaths (as is the case when we’re sucking in our bellies), we’re cutting our breaths short, which cuts our oxygen short.

It’s also been said that people with low self-esteem generally don’t breathe deeply because subconsciously they don’t feel they deserve the oxygen (I would say that this definitely applied to me in my teens and twenties when I was obsessed with sucking in my belly!)

I once took an acting class where we were taught to breathe for voice-projection. It involved laying on our back on the floor, putting our hands on our belly, and inhaling until that belly was puffed right up. It felt weird to allow my belly to puff out so much, but it also felt great to take in so much oxygen.

Unfortunately, back then, my body consciousness didn’t allow me to transfer this skill outside of the classroom, but I always remembered this exercise and it would come in handy for me years later when I needed to increase my self-confidence (and hence my oxygen intake) to make some very important – and scary – life changes.

What I’ve learned over the past several years is that deep belly breathing is absolutely crucial in our ability to release tension and relax, to keep our lymphatic system moving properly (which is essential for eliminating toxins from the body), to clear and quiet our busy minds, and generally to feel better about ourselves.

2) It constricts the digestive organs:

When our digestive organs are constricted, there is little room for movement. They become so rigid energetically, they can even get stuck. Problems like indigestion and constipation can arise from constricting our bellies too much.

I specifically remember that the years I was ultra self-conscious of my size and habitually sucking in belly, were also the years when I was chronically constipated (TMI perhaps, but definitely noteworthy). I know from personal experience that allowing free movement of the belly and gut can allow for a healthier and better functioning digestive system.

3) It affects our self-esteem:

In energy medicine, this part of the body (our belly) is the centre of our self-esteem (the third chakra), and so when we don’t allow the energy to flow through it by constricting the area, it can not only cause digestive distress, but it can also block our ability to increase our self-esteem.

4) It promotes poor posture (and decreased confidence):

When we suck in the abdomen so much, it’s impossible to hold our chest high and shoulders back – and to look or feel natural doing it!

We also can’t be focused on opening up and leading with our heart because we’re too focused on “hiding” or “fixing” our waist size. This distraction, motivated by insecurity (negative focus) rather than possibility (positive), can literally kill our confidence – especially if it becomes an unconscious daily habit.

What we can do instead:

1) Focus on strengthening your core muscles (not just the abdomen)

Through activities like yoga, HIIT workouts, stability ball exercises, and good ol’ plank, you can develop a strong core, and your belly can stay lean all day long without you having to intentionally restrict or constrict anything.

2) Learn how to belly breathe and practice it often until it feels natural

Start by laying on the floor with one hand on your belly to feel it rising. Inhale into the belly until it is completely round/inflated, and then exhale completely. Once you’ve mastered this on the floor, start practicing your breathing in 2-3 min increments throughout the day – take frequent breathing breaks while sitting at your desk, during TV commercials, and especially anytime you’re feeling tension, anxiety or stress.

3) Work to improve your digestion

You will FEEL lighter in the belly, and experience less bloating (this was a game-changer for me!). Some steps that can dramatically help are:

  • Supplementing with digestive enzymes and probiotics
  • consuming more fermented foods/drinks (such as sauerkraut and Kombucha tea)
  • eating more whole, live, natural foods and less processed/refined foods (forget counting calories – count nutrients instead!)
  • ensuring that you eat your meals in a mindful, relaxed state

4) Lead with your heart!

Stay focused on the positive stuff, like your internal gifts that you have to offer the world, so you can avoid getting distracted by external standards that dictate what you ‘should’ look like to feel worthy and accepted. Set your own internal standards, with your heart, and allow those to guide you everyday.

When we lead with our hearts, good posture comes naturally.

Why Sucking in Your Belly is Bad for Your Health and Happiness

I’d love to hear from you…

Have you been self-conscious about your belly and tried to hide it by sucking it in? If so, has this article been helpful to you? I would love to hear your comments below!

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Remember: When you shine your gifts, you define your beauty