Last Updated on February 27, 2024
Hourglass syndrome (HS) hit the spotlight recently when body-positive influencer and Tik Toker Nikki Garza admitted she suffers from the condition. Garza suggested that her mother first sparked the habit of holding her belly tight at age eight by suggesting she “suck her stomach in”.
But what is hourglass syndrome? And, more importantly, what causes it, what are the side effects and what is hourglass syndrome treatment?
Let’s look and see.
- Hourglass Syndrome (HS), often termed as “stomach gripping syndrome,” is caused by habitually sucking in the stomach to appear slimmer.
- It leads to various side effects like shallow breathing, lower back pain, headaches, acid reflux, and pelvic floor dysfunction. While not deadly, it can lead to more serious health issues if left untreated.
- The syndrome is reversible with lifestyle changes, including regular exercise and a healthy diet.
What is hourglass syndrome?
Hourglass Syndrome, or stomach gripping syndrome, occurs when individuals frequently ‘suck in’ their stomach to make it appear flatter, often due to body image concerns.
This condition, which can develop over years, is most prevalent among adolescents seeking a slimmer appearance without adopting healthy eating patterns like intermittent fasting.
What are the symptoms of hourglass syndrome?
Classic symptoms of hourglass syndrome include:
- tight and defined upper abdominal muscles,
- a softer lower abdomen
- possible creases at the rib base, and
- overall discomfort.
These signs are often noticeable in the mirror but don’t worry they are reversible.
Causes of hourglass syndrome
The primary cause is the persistent contraction of stomach muscles to create a slimmer silhouette. This behavior can stem from comments about body image in childhood, as seen in influencer Nikki Garza’s case. Poor posture and abdominal pain can also contribute to this condition.
Is hourglass syndrome dangerous?
Hourglass syndrome may first appear harmless – after all, holding your belly tight doesn’t hurt and makes your stomach appear flatter. However, although the condition is not deadly, sucking in the stomach can become habitual and result in side effects or even eating disorders if left untreated. Common side effects of stomach gripping include:
- Shallow breathing, as your diaphragm cannot expand fully to catch a deep, healthy breath.
- Lower back pain, because the diaphragm stabilizes your back, and the muscles in this area must work harder to compensate for the breathing dysfunction.
- Headaches may result as traditionally normal breaths are taken and expand your lower abdomen, but if you suffer from hourglasss syndrom, this doesn’t occur. This puts your neck and upper body under more stress, which can cause headaches.
- Acid reflux or GERD is common in those with hourglass syndrome because the decrease in the diaphragm action caused by holding your belly in means there is less to stop stomach contents from rising in the esophagus.
- Pelvic floor dysfunction, because tightening your stomach constantly puts pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and can overwhelm them. A tight pelvic floor can lead to urinary incontinence and even painful intercourse.
What is the hourglass syndrome treatment?
The good news is that hourglass syndrome is reversible with lifestyle interventions:
- Healthy diet: Typically, people develop the syndrome to appear slimmer. They choose to contract their stomach muscles over long periods to create the illusion of a slimmer silhouette, rather than adopting healthy weight loss and diet regimes like intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a structured diet regime that medical professionals
- Adopting healthy eating habits and having balanced meals play a crucial role in overall health and can aid in reducing the reliance on stomach gripping for a slimmer appearance.
and Hollywood celebrities endorse. To discover the benefits of intermittent fasting for yourself, get Fasting Kompanion.
- Mindfulness and body awareness: Becoming more aware of your posture, body habits, tendency to ‘suck in’ the stomach, and actively working to relax the abdominal muscles, is vital in overcoming the syndrome.
- Professional guidance: For persistent or severe cases, seeking advice from healthcare professionals, including dietitians and physical therapists, can provide tailored treatment plans.
- Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity, especially exercises focusing on core strength and posture correction, can significantly alleviate the syndrome’s effects.
Hourglass syndrome exercises
Hourglass Syndrome exercises focus on strengthening the core, improving posture, and promoting overall abdominal muscle health.
These exercises are designed to counteract the negative effects of constantly sucking in the stomach and help in restoring natural muscle function and balance.
Here are some effective exercises to treat hourglass syndrome:
To sum up
Hourglass Syndrome is a manageable condition that arises from a habit of contracting the stomach muscles for a slimmer appearance. Recognizing the signs and adopting a healthier lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet can effectively reverse the symptoms and prevent long-term health issues.