Holding the Gut In (Bad Idea)

Want an easy way to look overweight? How about a way to become constipated? How would you like to create a beer-gut without drinking? Or a path to pull your chest downward? Or a way to develop lower back and neck pain? Of course, you don’t.

But if you did, it’s easy. Try holding your gut in to hide a few extra pounds.

It starts with an attempt to look thinner and appear in good shape. Maybe your goal is a “6-pack abs” physique. Initially, it seems to work. But later, it backfires. More sit-ups are soon needed to stop the gut from spilling over the belt. A downward spiral develops. The harder you try, the more your gut hangs out.

At first, this might seem counter-intuitive. But it makes perfect sense. If you try to hold the gut in, you must hold it in with something. That “something” means muscles in the back half of the body, and those muscles are (directly or indirectly) connected to the lower spine.

Muscles always pull in every direction they possibly can. They simply contract. That means that the muscles that hold the gut in also pull the lower spine forward. That’s where things go wrong. The lower spine should indeed maintain a modest forward curve. But it shouldn’t be an extreme forward curve. The more forward the lower spine moves, the less capability it has for holding the gut in.

Then, the scenario gets even worse. Excessive sit-ups – using the “6-pack” muscle group - might be viewed as a remedy. This shortens the distance (viewed from the front) between the ribs and pelvis, and it compresses the abdominal contents. For a while, it seems to work. But not for long. Those compressed gut contents must go somewhere.

The correct solution to hiding those extra pounds is to release tension in the lower back, and let the pelvis drop downward in back. Then the gut contents rest gently within a balanced pelvic cavity. You don’t have to hold anything in because the guts are where they are designed to be. You’ll look thinner with no effort. The guts move fluidly with your walk. Elimination becomes easier. Back pain is less probable.

This understanding has been around for centuries. It has been called the “dangling pelvis”, the “balanced pelvis”, the “pelvic bowl”, etc.  Descriptions vary, but the central theme remains. Use the body the way it was designed. Balance the pelvis to support the gut.

Resist holding the gut in. Creating a second problem to mask a first problem is not a good strategy.


Jack Menear