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stop sucking in your stomach
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When writing this latest article in the Washington Post about the ill effects of sucking in your stomach all the time, Allyson Chiu reached out to me for some insights. Here is a brief synopsis of the article, along with a link to the full article below.

Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

Sucking in your stomach all the time could be bad for your health

Sucking in your stomach and keeping your abdominal muscles too tense as you go about your day may seem innocuous, but experts say it’s a pervasive habit that can have physical and mental consequences over time.

Heather Jeffcoat is a keen observer of people.

I notice people,” said Jeffcoat, who ascribes her perceptive eye to her nearly two-decade career as a physical therapist. “I notice how people walk. I notice how people stand. I’ll just be like, ‘Oh, that person’s gripping their gluteal muscles, or that person looks like they’re gripping their abs.’ ”

The latter observation — a behavior some experts call “stomach gripping,” or what’s more widely known as sucking in your stomach — is one that Jeffcoat said she often sees among the patrons at her usual Starbucks, which is next to a spin studio in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles.

They’ll be dressed in their spin clothes, basically a crop top or a sports bra and capris, and I’ve noticed it,” she said. Then, her physical therapist’s brain starts whirling: “I wonder if they have back pain. I wonder if they have pelvic floor dysfunction.”

A key initial step is recognizing that you are gripping your abdominal muscles when you don’t need to, Wiebe said. While you should engage those muscles if you’re lifting a barbell, you shouldn’t be tensing them at full strength when you’re standing in line at the grocery store. “Awareness is half the battle,” she said.

Jeffcoat agreed.

Many people, she said, go around life holding it in because they think they’re supposed to” for postural or aesthetic reasons. “The problem is you shouldn’t have to be consciously gripping it,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that you’re constantly going 80 to 100 [percent of your maximal tension]. It should be closer to 20 to 30 percent.”

Pay attention to any symptoms related to the pelvic floor, such as abnormal bladder and bowel function or painful sex, experts said. Other signs of gripping may be more visual. For example, Wiebe said, consistently sucking in your stomach could alter the appearance of your abdomen, including a protrusion of the lower abdomen and a flaring of the rib cage.

To begin retraining your muscles, experts recommend consciously trying to relax and let your stomach out. For people who are having a hard time relaxing in a seated or standing position, getting on all fours and “letting your belly relax down to the floor” may help, Hwang said. “Sometimes having the help from gravity can make a difference.”

Jeffcoat said other strategies include a combination of flexibility and breath work, such as “belly breathing,” as well as abdominal massage. When you’re practicing breathing, Wiebe suggests doing inhalations with an emphasis on easing the stomach and pairing that with meaningful movements, such as descending into a squat. Combining inhalation with movement can teach the body to use the trunk muscles in a different way, Wiebe said, so you’re no longer relying only on your abdominals. For additional help, or if you have any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, it’s important to seek care from a professional.

For the full expose on the dangers of sucking in your stomach all the time, continue to the full article at the Washington Post here.

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I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

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Months after giving birth, it was difficult for me to go from a sitting or lying position up to a full standing position without feeling that I had to remain hunched over until a bit of time had passed to get fully upright. However, after taking Heather’s course, I learned exercises to get my body back to normal. She also showed me correct ways to lift and carry my son as well as put him in/take him out of the carseat and stroller. This class was really beneficial and Heather is a wonderful teacher who made me feel very comfortable.

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Heather has affected my life in the MOST POSITIVE way and I am forever grateful. My husband refers to her as the "sex doctor" so you can only imagine how happy he is with my therapy outcome.

After the birth of my son I suffered from "Vaginismus", however, at the time I just thought I was broken. My "broken vagina" affected me physically but it was an emotional struggle as well. Many women in my life also suffered with pain from sex after their babies were born so I knew I wasn't alone. They told me they "just got used to it" but I couldn't see myself living that way.

Sex wasn't just painful, it was literally impossible - IT DIDNT FIT!

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A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

My husband and I were married for 5 years before we were able to have intercourse due to my vaginismus. There was nothing traumatic in my past but for some reason, even though I wanted sex, I mentally avoided "that area" of my body and didn't even admit to myself that there was a problem for a long time, even though I was never able to put tampons in. Once I finally opened my eyes up to the fact that I had a problem, I had a surgery that was supposed to fix the issue.

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