There’s a harmful habit that a ton of women do every single day that is bad news bob for their core and pelvic floor.
It seems like such a simple and innocent thing, but it can really wreck havoc on your entire body.
In order to properly explain why this habit is bad for your health, I need you to imagine your core is a tube of toothpaste.
If you were holding it with the cap facing down toward the ground you could imagine the cap as your pelvic floor, the top end of the tube as your diaphragm, the front and sides of the tube as your abdominal muscles, and the side facing away from you as your back muscles. Something like this…
This is your core in a nutshell (or a toothpaste tube). All these components need to work together in a happy family if everything in your body – especially the core itself – is going to feel and look hunky dory good.
So what happens when you take an awesomely well distributed tube of toothpaste like this…
And you squeeze it in the middle like this…
All that toothpaste needs to go somewhere right? It needs to go up into the diaphragm, or it needs to go down into the pelvic floor, or both.
So with all that pressure and organs and such going up into the diaphragm and down into the pelvic floor, what happens to all your muscles, ligaments and tissues?
They need to compensate for that extra pressure and load, right?
This means that if you’re getting extra pressure up into the diaphragm, your breathing will get wonky and you won’t be able to take full, normal breaths.
And if you’re getting extra pressure down into your pelvic floor, it’ll get wonky too and you might start to have issues like incontinence, or back, hip and pelvic pain (or if you already have those issues, it might get worse).
This doesn’t sound good, right? In fact it sounds awful.
Now imagine that you squeezed the middle of that toothpaste constantly. For hours every single day. Squeezing. Squeezing. Squeezing.
You can imagine that all that not so awesomely distributed pressure is probably going to lead to some not so awesome issues.
This is what happens when you suck your belly in for hours. Every single day.
This is why – as hard as it may be to read – you need to just let your stomach go.
Sucking it in – especially all day, every day – can not only put a ton of pressure on your core systems, it can actually change your alignment which can mean you’re less stable and strong and more prone to injury.
Not only can it change your alignment, sucking in your belly can do other nasty things like:
Make you pee yourself (or make you pee yourself more if you’re already experiencing some leakage) because you’re putting a ton of pressure on your pelvic floor.
Give you breathing problems. If you feel like your breath is constantly stuck in your chest instead of dropping into your ribs (where it’s supposed to be able to go) your diaphragm isn’t able to do it’s job properly and it’s not gonna be happy about that.
Cause any pain you’re experiencing – like back, hip and pelvic pain – to become worse because your entire core system isn’t working optimally. Or make you more likely to have pain in the first place.
Hijack your digestive system and make the poop train sluggish. Nobody wants a sluggish poop train. Think about it – if you’re sucking it in, you’re literally squishing all your digestive organs and they don’t like to be squished. They can’t do an A+ job of digesting your food if they’re constantly squished.
Make all of that core work you’ve so diligently been doing not as effective because your core isn’t allowed to work how it’s supposed to.
This is why you need to just let your stomach go.
I know this is really hard to read for so many women – especially if you have diastasis or are working on getting a stronger core and you don’t love your belly.
Me telling you to just let your belly go sounds like an awful idea because according to the latest magazine you should have six pack abs by now.
The reality is that most of us (hand raised over here) turned 14 (or younger) and decided that we needed flatter bellies because that’s what the modern world apparently values. So we decided the easiest and fastest way to get a flatter belly was by sucking it in.
So we spent years, and years, and years sucking in our bellies. When our crush walked by. When we got our picture taken. When we wore that tight dress. When we sat in a job interview. When we went to the beach. When we ate too much at dinner…
We kept sucking it in because we were afraid of letting it all go.
But the unfortunate thing is that – not only did that damage us emotionally and psychologically – we were also making it so hard for our bodies to do their job properly.
Now that you know…
I have an idea I’d like you to experiment with. I know it’s scary and new and honestly hard for you to just break this bad sucking-it-in habit for good just like that.
So what I want you to do is, pick a cue. Maybe it’s every time you take a sip of water. Associate that cue with letting your belly go. You tell yourself that every time you go to take a sip of water you let your belly go.
It’ll probably feel weird, and awkward and you might feel slightly (or super) self conscious at first, but over time it’ll start to feel natural, and normal and when you do go to suck your belly in you’ll think, “Woah! That feels weird and awful.”
How do I know?
Because I was a stage 4 stomach sucker. All day. Every day.
I honestly still do it sometimes because it’s such a deeply ingrained habit. But when I catch myself, I let it go. I think about my poor back, pelvic floor and diaphragm and I let it go.
When I learned that sucking in my belly – or “engaging my core” as I told myself back when I didn’t fully appreciated what engaging my core actually meant – was causing all this trauma to my body I knew I had to work on dealing with my self conscious thoughts and just let it go.
It may seem scary and not something you’re totally on board with, but start small. Pick a cue. Something you do a few times a day – even just when you brush your teeth – and connect that cue to letting your stomach relax and chill like it’s supposed to.
Once you get more comfortable with the idea, pick another cue that you do more often, then another, and another. Soon it’ll just become the norm for you to not be holding it in, even if shirtless Ryan Gosling just walked in the room (if he’s not your cup of cocoa go ahead and imagine shirtless – insert name of your hallpass dude here – ).
It’s okay if you still have a bit or a lot of belly. It’s okay if you don’t look exactly how you wish you did. It’s okay to not be that mom who “bounced back“.
You had a baby. Even if that baby is 20 years old.
We – as in humanity as a whole – need to stop putting so much focus on what pregnancy did to a woman’s body and instead focus on how amazing our bodies are for what they did.
You are so much more than flat abs.
And your entire body will thank you for working on your self love and letting those abs go.
You don’t have to do it full-blast overnight.
Pick one cue that happens a couple times a day.
Run with it.
See how it feels.
And work on shifting the focus to living your life celebrating how awesome it is that your body grew a tiny human instead of letting the world diminish you down into a woman whose only worth is in how many packs of the 6 pack you can see.
P.S. Did you like this post? I would be super grateful if you shared it with your mom friends.
If you want even more inspiration and tools to help you get a stronger core and pelvic floor post-baby, sign up for your free 21 day workout program.
Because you deserve to feel ridiculously good. Not just so you can be a better mama. Not just so you can be a better wife. So you can feel incredible for you.