On letting your stomach pooch out as much as it needs to.
A few years ago I came across this video on How I Stick Out My Stomach.
When I saw it I was in grad school and thought, “hmm. I do that. I hold my stomach in a way to suck it in when I guess it could be resting. Why do I do that? Why don’t I let my stomach just take up as much space as it needs to take up?”
I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t do this. I remember specific instances growing up when I was taught being thin was good, so to suck in my stomach must’ve been a natural reaction to that gem of knowledge.
So I’m curious…
- Do you hold your belly area in funny ways?
- Or, have you even noticed if you have a tendency to engage your core when it doesn’t need to be engaged?
When I’m lifting something or walking I want to have an engaged core to protect my lower back and that can lead to holding my stomach a certain way. But when I’m resting on the sofa or sitting talking with friends / family, there is no reason my stomach should be engaged. After realizing this, I started to have a lot of awareness around when I was engaging my belly area muscles when I didn’t need to.
Whenever I realized (and still realize) that I’m holding my stomach funny, I choose to relax it. For instance, sometimes when I’m driving and the seatbelt is resting against my belly, I notice I’m tightening my belly in. So I’m intentional about relaxing it. The point wasn’t / isn’t to never hold my stomach funny. The point is to have awareness of why I’m doing that in X situation and choose if I’d like to give my belly a break and relax it. And then, occasionally, journaling later on why letting my stomach naturally pooch out was hard in X situation.
I still don’t totally feel like I know how to relax my stomach area. I can tighten the muscles in and pooch my stomach out. But the in between, just relaxing it, is still something I’m learning how to do. There are times where I’m like, “my belly area feels as relaxed as my bicep muscle right now.” But then other times, typically when I’m feeling anxious about something, that I alternate between tightening and pooching out my belly area because I can’t fully relax it. I imagine this has something to do with me being a person who feels my anxiety and stress in my belly area.
I’ve mentioned this a number of times before…something that was so healing for me in my eating disorder recovery was consciously choosing to lay on a yoga mat in our backyard with my hands on my belly, feeling me breathe deeply into my belly without tightening my belly area in. I just would lay there for 30 minutes feeling my belly expand to whatever size it needed to expand to and when a judgmental thought came in I’d just return the focus to my breath and inhale again. I choose for 3 months to have this yoga mat breathing exercise replace my compulsive running behavior, which my ED hated. Then I choose to stop running and haven’t run in 4ish years. That was the most life giving decision ever.
Having awareness of how I’m holding my stomach helped and helps me be more mindful, present and able to embody every part of my body. I’m not saying engaging your abs is a good or bad thing…I’m just saying, this is helpful to me. Having awareness of when I’m not letting my stomach naturally pooch out has been helpful in allowing me to embody the parts of my body we’re all taught to want to change.
So back to the question: Do you notice yourself sucking in / flexing your stomach to keep it from pooching out?
This is one of those posts where I’m like, “is any one else going to resonate with this? Or is this just me?!”
p.s. if you are in the beginning of anorexia recovery, this post isn’t necessarily for you right now. You don’t need more awareness of your belly area. You need to focus on following your meal plan and working through fear foods. Tolerating / accepting your belly area will come down the road in recovery.