An influencer is shedding light on a rarely discussed disorder called “hourglass syndrome.”
Body-positive TikToker Nikki Garza opened up in a video about what it’s like to live with the condition, also called “stomach-gripping.”
“It just shows how insidious diet culture is, and how it’s really just passed down through family,” she told The Post.
It was her own mother and grandmother who reinforced the habit. “My grandma told me to suck in when I was 8 and I never breathed comfortably again,” she captioned her viral clip.
Her clip was stitched with another user who asked if there was a fact “so ridiculous you didn’t believe until you looked up,” before she explained her condition.
In the video, Garza pulled up her shirt to show off her stomach and the area below her breasts. She explained that her upper stomach region’s appearance is the result of the stomach-gripping condition, spurred by squeezing in her stomach so much as a child.
“We sucked it in so much, we literally scarred our muscles,” she said.
Garza claimed the folds under her breasts are actually scar tissue, adding that one may “tinkle a little bit when you cough or sneeze.”
“If it isn’t the consequences of my mother and grandmother’s actions,” she quipped at the end of her clip.
While she doesn’t remember where exactly she first read about hourglass syndrome, she remembers thinking, “Wait a minute, that looks really familiar,” when seeing the online discussion about excess stomach rolls due to sucking in her stomach.
“Of course I did a deep Google dive where I found out it’s called ‘hourglass syndrome’ or ‘stomach gripping,’ ” she told The Post. “That really sucks that something that was so minor in my brain as a child — you know, having my mother and my grandmother consistently tell me to ‘suck in, suck in’ all my life — has led to having this on my body now .”
Looking back, she said, she didn’t think twice about sucking in her stomach until she was much older. Diet culture, she continued, has “real life consequences” — whether it be eating disorders, body dysmorphia or even “hourglass syndrome.”
She even recalled a fourth-grade formal when her family put her in a girdle — indoctrinating her before she even hit double digits.
“It’s already telling my young, developing brain, ‘Your body as is is not acceptable,'” she said.
dr Alexis Shoope, a physical therapist based in Houston, confirmed the existence of the disorder, telling BuzzFeed it’s a result of overusing the muscles.
“Typically, this occurs when someone is using their upper abs and external obliques a lot,” Shoope said. “It can be caused because someone is trying to ‘suck in’ and make their stomach look flatter, or it can occur because their upper abs are much stronger than their lower abdominals (the transversus abdominus).”
Shoope said the disorder is common among women trying to appear thinner.
“It can be relatively common in women who may have been told to ‘suck in,’ or for those who purposefully did it to make their abs seem flatter,” she said. “It also can be common with people who breathe more shallow breaths, and are not letting their diaphragm expand fully to get a full, deep breath.”
While not deadly, the condition can lead to discomforts such as lower back pain or neck pain, Shoope said, and is “treated through physical therapy.”
“It essentially creates a canister of pressure, and if the pressure is not evenly dispersed, it can place more on one area than another,” she told BuzzFeed. “This has the potential to lead to pelvic floor issues such as leaking, prolapse, diastasis recti, etc.”
For her part, Garza advised young girls who fall into the diet culture trap that they should “question the reasoning behind everything.” While she still struggles with body image, even as a body-positive content creator, posting informational videos like her trending clip creates a community of women who struggle similarly, and can share that with each other.
Garza told The Post there were “so many” comments from women who experienced similar issues. Some even opted for surgery to remove the skin, or went to physical therapy to fix their strained abdominal muscles.
“I was like, ‘Wow, we are really not told a lot about our own bodies,'” she said.