You're supposed to squat when you poop. Did you hear me? Squatting. While pooping. Is the way to do it. Not this hunching-over thing you're doing now which takes forever and is not nature's way. Everyone else has figured it out and you are the last person still retro-pooping, so let's get you on the right path.
When you think about squatting to poop you probably think about camping or cavemen or god forbid, what animals do. Here is some news: You are an animal, except worse, because you're the kind who ditched a more effective form of bowel-elimination for something you think is more civilized, when in fact you have effectively regressed to a state that never existed, because it was so ineffective.
Here is a credentialed smart person saying just that. In a piece at Medium called "You're Sitting On Your Toilet Wrong," Kevin Roose writes:
Cornell professor Alexander Kira called the modern, sit-down toilet "the most ill-suited fixture ever designed."
Kira believed—and subsequent studies have confirmed—that toilets work against our bodies by forcing us into unnatural angles when we sit down to defecate.
The solution to hunched-over posture, Kira wrote, is squatting—a more natural position that opens the anal sphincter, moves the body's plumbing into proper alignment, and allows us to evacuate more freely.
According to a study Roose cites in Digestive Diseases and Sciences from 2003, sitters spend 79 seconds longer getting the deed done than squatters, who shit so efficiently on account of being aligned correctly that they have, you know, 79 more seconds than you on their hands (instead of poop lololololololololol). What if that 79 extra seconds is cumulatively the difference between full-on contentedness and mediocre satisfaction in life? How would you ever find out?
Go old-school. Luckily that does not mean popping a squat in your neighbor's jacuzzi. There are companies that make stepping stools designed to mimic this posture.
One is the Squatty Potty, which Roose tries out for $25:
There are two ways to use the Squatty Potty, Edwards said. The easy (and recommended) way is to put your feet up on it while sitting down on the toilet, which raises your legs and simulates a shallow squat. The even more effective, harder way is to stand on the Squatty Potty and lower yourself into a deep squat, either hovering over or barely touching the seat while you do your business.
I experimented with both methods for several days, and I found the hard-core one more satisfying.
There is also a similar product called the Step and Go. Roose's piece is written in the spirit of overall bathroom improvement, but other folks have pursued the squat for weight loss and overall better bowel health.
At NPR, Eliza Barclay writes that this "squatting counterculture" claims modern toilets are responsible for hemorrhoids and constipation:
As neuroscientist Daniel Lametti wrote in Slate in 2010, squatting allows the, er, anorectal angle to straighten, so that less effort is required for evacuation. And today there are lots of squatting evangelists on the Internet who marshal scientific evidence, limited as it may be, and ample cultural evidence of the practice enduring in many parts of the world to make their case that squatting is superior.
Barclay also spoke with a colorectal surgeon in Virginia, Dr. Rebekah Kim, who said she does tell her own patients with difficulty going to rest their feet on stools or stacks of phone books (which is basically a Squatty Potty or Step and Go), however:
"Squatting on a stool can reduce the amount of straining on the toilet, which may mean less hemorrhoids, but there are no clinical studies proving that," she says.
"For most people, the modern toilet doesn't cause any problems," she says. But if you're to believe Slate's Lametti, squatting on top of the toilet could be a time-saver — he managed to drop his 10-minute routine down to a minute.
So, like most older-is-better stuff, like running barefoot or going paleo, don't feel that you must change horses mid-shit here simply because it was what everyone has done for most of human history. (And yes, fitness types love it).
Here is an illustration of how it supposedly works:
But obviously if your shit works, don't mess with your shit. That was more or less the conclusion reached by Men's Health's Eric Spitznagel, who tested the Squatty Potty, which claims users can see weight loss of up to 20 pounds of pure unadulterated poop after regular use. The result?
Changing your defecation physics isn't as easy as the brochure illustrations would makes it appear. It's like trying to drop a load while sitting criss-cross applesauce. It feels unnatural and wrong. During my first attempt, peeing on my shoes didn't just seem plausible but extremely likely. I tried leaning forward, like the relaxed-looking fellow in the illustration, and almost took a nose-dive onto cold linoleum.
After almost a week of trying and failing to have a successful bowel movement by squatting—I always eventually returned to the shame of sitting—I went to my first yoga class. By day 10, thanks to the Garland Pose, I was successfully maneuvering a "dry run." By day 14, I launched a full-scale number two. I was so shocked that I almost ran out into the living room, my pants still around my ankles, to share the good news with my wife. I thankfully resisted this urge.
He spoke with a gastroenterologist, Dr. Darren Brenner, who told him there may not be that much poop hanging around in his body to being with, and that if he's already experiencing normal bowel movements, what does he really need to improve?
"We do not usually carry 20 pounds in our colon," Dr. Brenner assured me. "Stool is continuously cleared."
Spitznagel insists he's gotten used to using the stool now though, and he "swears" it has improved things. I've experienced the same thing using the Step and Go for a few weeks now (one was gifted to me) — it took something I had no real complaints about and made it seem faster, and more streamlined, and seemingly better, but I can't for sure prove that or say why. It just feels like a cleaner poop? And definitely faster.
(I will, however, probably never feel like the girl on the Step and Go literature because I just don't have her bathroom disposition):
But because this stool stays in the bathroom at all times, both my husband and I use it and it now doubles as my preschooler's stepping stool. My husband said he thought it was great though, and gave it three thumbs up. I can only assume the third thumb is the extra poop, a.k.a., 79 more seconds of freedom.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.