A tight belt or waistband is like a tourniquet around your gut, disrupting the flow of your digestive system.
“Tight-fitting pants increase abdominal pressure, making it difficult for gas and food to move downward,” says Russell Yang, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of gastrointestinal and liver diseases at the Keck School of Medicine at USC.
Stomach acid goes back up, and you’re more likely to suffer heartburn and acid reflux. A tight belt or waist also magnifies bowel discomfort and stomachaches. There was even a theory that tight belts contributed to rising esophageal cancer rates–suspicious Europeans were blaming a societal shift to belts from suspenders–but a new Swedish study debunks that idea.
You should be able to comfortably slide two stacked fingers between your waistband and skin. When buying pants, remember, “a size 36 isn’t the same at every store,” says Davide Cotugno, of the Custom Tailors and Designers Association of America.
“Manufacturers use different cuts, so pants [labeled the same size] can fit 2 inches bigger or smaller.” Try everything on.