One time, I took a dump in my backyard because the toilet had been broken for two weeks (blame our absentee slumlord). My best friend never let me live it down, but you know what? I didn't care, because on that crisp fall day in 2007, when the gas station whose toilets I had been relying on was unexpectedly closed, I learned something. Specifically, I learned that pooping outside is… kind of pleasant.
But it wasn't until the advent of the Squatty Potty that I really started to analyze why that was. Basically, if you use a Western toilet on the reg, you're fighting against your body's anatomy. But now, there's a way to poop optimally that doesn't involve squatting behind the shrubs and hoping a neighbor won't walk by (though I do recommend everyone try that at least once). Here it is.
You don't know squat
The Squatty Potty is a small footstool designed to fit a toilet's curves. The idea is to elevate your feet and knees so your body is closer to a squatting angle -- a natural pooping position -- than the upright position imposed on it by a porcelain throne.
This isn't just hippie BS, either. There's actual science as to why a squat is the way to go when moving your bowels.
"Defecating is actually really complicated, and involves a lot of nerves and muscles relaxing and moving," says Dr. Michelle Cohen, a gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai. "When you sit, the puborectalis muscle is pulled in around the colon to create an angle, so the stool can't drop out."
Think of a kinked hose and you might be able to picture what's happening in your colon as the puborectalis muscle stays tight around it. In some cases, particularly in people with constipation or dyssynergic defecation (when your muscles fail to relax, making pooping more difficult), sitting with your thighs perpendicular to the ground can make it much harder to poop.
Enter the Squatty Potty
The Squatty Potty was born in 2010 because of this exact scenario. "They say necessity is the mother of invention," says Bobby Edwards, CEO and co-creator of the defecation device. "My mother was constipated. It was definitely out of need."
Edwards says his mother's physical therapist explained that constipation is, in many cases, "an anatomical thing," and that if she elevated her feet while eliminating, it would change the angle of the colon and make the whole process work smoothly, the way nature intended. She propped her feet up on a stool and loved the results, but the process wasn't ideal. "She couldn't quite get comfortable with a regular stool, and it was in the way in the bathroom," Edwards says. "I was taking design classes, and she asked if I could design a stool for the toilet, with the height and width to simulate a natural squat."
Boy, could he. Edwards made five prototypes before hitting on the perfect model. Delighted, his mother gave proto-Squatty Potties to constipated friends for Christmas gifts. "She thought everybody needed to be squatting," Edwards says. Word of mouth spread, and in 2012, Edwards launched the website. A media blitz ensued, and the rest is history.
Putting the potty to the test
I was pretty intrigued by the "squatting is better" maxim, so much so that I tried literally squatting on my toilet. Surprisingly (or not?), a militant vegan has uploaded a YouTube video about how to do exactly that. It was a little weird, and there was some serious splashback when shit hit the water, but I could tell stuff was rearranging itself in my colon -- that's the medical terminology, right? It felt good and correct, and I understood why my cats wear such serene, noble expressions when they poop.
Not only is that method impractical, it's probably dangerous for older folks, people with physical challenges or injuries, and, well, everyone, honestly. I needed to try the real deal.
The Squatty Potty was delivered to my office in a freaking huge (but mercifully unmarked) brown cardboard box. I sneaked it out to my car, hoping to dodge co-workers and the inevitable, "Ooh, what's that?" The box contained the white plastic stool, a Burger King-like crown with the hashtag #pooplikeroyalty, and a button that read "I Pooped Today!" (Though Squatty Potty entreats its Twitter followers to "share your Poop Like Royalty pics! #pooplikeroyalty," only one brave soul had risen to the challenge as of press time.)
I pooped today
This morning, after downing my banana, blueberry, and flaxseed smoothie (I am queen of roughage), it was time. I de-pantsed, sat down, angled my feet on the Squatty Potty, and let my colon do its life-sustaining work.
The result was decidedly… underwhelming. It didn't feel that different from a regular old toilet BM, but maybe that's because I had gone extreme squat in the past. It might also be because I don't have pooping problems -- in fact, I crap multiple times a day because of my mostly plant-based diet, and that diet is also why I am familiar with what militant vegans are doing on YouTube.
Dr. Cohen says that for people who have problems defecating, like hemorrhoids, colon disease, pelvic floor issues, or urinary difficulty, the Squatty Potty can be a godsend. But so can anything that elevates the feet and brings the body back to a natural squat position. "I recommend stacking books or rolls of toilet paper -- that's what I personally use," she says. "What I like about the Squatty Potty is that you get more surface area to have your feet stable and help with the bear-down. Some people like the Squatty Potty because it's kind of cute and sits around the toilet. There's definitely data for it."
Edwards says the Squatty Potty is just one tool in an arsenal that includes proper diet and nutrition and leads to healthier poops -- and by extension, a healthier person.
"The whole thing with the Squatty Potty is just being brave and saying, 'Look, this is a truth. A good poop feels amazing,'" he says. "Why are you suffering or not making it the best it can be? We all poop. We should make it the healthiest and best we can."
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.