I awoke to the sounds of birds and crickets as the morning sunbeams creeped through the canvas fibers of my sleeping tent. I unzipped the semicircle opening and stepped out to embrace the rarified air. I yawned and stretched out to my full height, taking in the endless sea of conifers and mountain ridges spread out in every direction from our 8500 foot perch overlooking Lake Tahoe. The radiance of the moment only interrupted by the rumbling in my belly caused by last night’s canned dinner. But do not despair, for these grumblings portended a new opportunity! A chance to conquer a necessary right of passage into adulthood, to help squander my ceaseless adolescence that dogged me well into my mid-twenties. To engage in a ritual that connected a primal part of my being to all other life on the planet.
It was time to take a shit in the woods.
Once upon a time this was the only way to relieve yourself, before the modern invention of the outhouse, and eventually the home toilet. We now hide ourselves alone in a room, sit down and empty our bowels in total seclusion. We flush away the remnants, never to be seen again. This is the dignified way to do it right? Not like a pathetic animal, leaving our turds in the cold, hard ground. Alas friends, never underestimate the insularity of mind that goes by the pretense of being ‘civilized’.
Yet as I walked away from the tent in search of a pristine spot to lay my droppings, I began to grow a bit trepidatious. My callowness in the art of shitting au natural began to froth in the form of apprehensive thoughts. I just squat all the way down right? Will my legs get tired? What if someone sees me? I mean, I walked deep into the woods to make sure no one would come near, but someone could walk past. How awkward would that be? Here I am squatting down, taking a dump and someone could just walk right past me out here in the open wilderness!
Fuck it. I’m going for it. I squatted all the way down. My fear that this might be a long bowel movement was quickly alleviated. With the angle of my body in a full squat, it came out quick, fast and clean. I had never had such a pristine expulsion of feces.
I looked around the mountain top where I squat, the beautiful sunshine lit my face, the songs of the birds danced on the waves of crisp air. I felt free. Then it hit me. A thought so profound I had to tell someone at once! I rushed back to the campsite (well..after digging a small hole and burying my toilet paper of course) where my friends were. They were packing for the day’s hike. I interrupted them.
“It’s all a scam!” I yelled.
“What? What are you talking about? What’s a scam?”
Toilets, ladies and gentleman, are bad for you.
Here in the western world we think of the elevated toilet, where we sit with our legs at a 90 degree angle as the only way to take a dump. It may shock you to know that the majority of the world uses the squat toilet instead. A squat toilet is basically a hole in the ground, that in developed countries that use it will also flush in the same manner as our toilets. It is not only more natural, but a quicker and healthier way to take a shit. Scientific studies have shown this.
In a paper published in the Journal of Medical Hypothesis hilariously titled “Cardio-vascular events at defecation: are they unavoidable?” The angle of the sitting position is said to be obstructive which causes the defecating human to try and force out the crap with multiple excessive pushes that tax the cardiovascular system. While it may seem ridiculous, dying of a heart attack on the toilet is a common cause of death amongst the elderly. Dr. Berko Sikirov, the leading researcher in this field also says the sitting position is three times more strenuous than the squatting position and can lead to hemorrhoids and colonic diverticulosis.
For those of us in relatively good health, there are other benefits of the squatting position. Mostly that is is faster and smoother. Dr. Sikirov did another study where he timed how long people shitted for in both the squatting and sitting position. By his calculations the average time spent shitting for squatters was 51 seconds, the fastest being a 21 year old female who over a six shit sample averaged only five seconds per dump. While for those sitting at the average toilet height it was 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Anecdotally I can confirm these results and add that the most time gained is in the act of cleaning up. When squatting the feces comes out so smoothly that you hardly have to wipe!
If you have grown up in the western world and don’t feel like renovating your entire bathroom to put in a squat toilet it’s ok. There are other options. There are awkward contraptions that you can place around your toilet which you can stand on and squat, but the most practical option is to get a stool that you put your feet up on. A popular brand out there is called Squatty Potty .While you won’t be able to get into the full squat position, it is still way better than your normal sitting posture. From personal experience the simple tool will make the process of emptying your bowels more enjoyable, is healthier and will save you lots of time.