After we’ve had children or as we age, we can expect changes in our skin and body parts. And while we know we are beautiful in whatever skin we’re in, we tend to want our bellies to be slim. Eating well and exercising regularly is a huge part of getting and staying slim. But for many women, no matter how much we work out or how many diets we try (read Erin’s strategy here), our stomachs never return to our pre-pregnancy slimness. But it may be something more than what we’re eating. Read on to learn eight reasons you could have a belly pooch and how to get rid of your “mummy tummy” for good.
#1 | Diastasis Recti
Diastasis Recti is the separation of the abdominal muscles at the center of your abs. In women, it happens during pregnancy to allow room for your baby. It’s normal. Yes, there are some women who never have DR during their pregnancies, and there are some people who have seen unicorns too. This happened to me. I got DR with my fourth son (he was almost two pounds heavier than the others!). It started as a 4-finger gap, and I’ve been able to get it down to a 1-finger gap. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to repair it even more.
You’re more at risk of DR if…
1) You’ve had multiple children who are relatively close in age
2) If you’re over 35 years old when you have your babies
3) Your baby is heavy
4) You’re having multiples
Diastasis Recti should heal on its own several weeks after the baby is born from the normal hormone and body changes that occur. But sometimes, it doesn’t heal. And you’re left with a separation between the sides of your abs. According to WebMd.com, “When the ab muscles move aside like this, the uterus, bowels, and other organs have only a thin band of connective tissue in front to hold them in place.” Think about those organs only being held in by that thin connective tissue. It’s no surprise that women who suffer from DR have a mummy tummy!
To be clear, suffering from DR is not just aesthetics. You can also suffer from back pain, constipation, urine leaking, and even difficulty breathing. In some instances the organs push so far forward, a hernia develops. The good news is you can test for, heal, or at least improve, DR even years after having your last baby. The bad news is most traditional ab exercises make it worse. If you think you may have DR, here’s the test to perform.
#2 | Use Probiotics
The bacteria in our gut do amazing things. As long as we have the right kind living there. For a variety of reasons, like a poor diet or antibiotic use, our gut bacteria can become unbalanced between the good and bad bacteria. One of the signs of needing to boost your good gut flora is digestive issues like heartburn, constipation, bloating, IBS, and diarrhea, according to Piedmont Healthcare.
Using probiotics to help your food digest properly can help you slim your tummy. When choosing a probiotic to take, you want to make sure you’re buying from a reputable source. And, according to the Cleveland Clinic, you want to be sure you’re getting at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per dose. Also make sure it contains a variety of bacteria strains, like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, or Saccharomyces boulardii. According to Dr. Gail Cresci from the Clinic, you need to make sure the total number of CFUs comes from strains that will survive your stomach acid and aren’t just “filler.”
What To Avoid
“I’d probably stay away from store brands and pay a little extra for the name brand that’s been studied,” Dr. Cresci adds. “Ideally, look for a product that’s been tested for whatever you’re looking to address. It might say it helps with IBS, but you wouldn’t take that same product if you were taking antibiotics. You would want a product that helps with immunity. That’s where a lot of people get confused.”
Keep in mind, you can also get a lot of probiotics from food too, which is much more bioavailable. According to Cresci, the foods that also help your gut can assist with immunity, inflammation, and cholesterol. Here are some probiotic foods to try: yogurt, kefir, kombucha, refrigerated sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh.
#3 | Keep Things Moving
It’s possible that to get rid of your mummy tummy, you’ll need to get rid of more waste. When we’re even a little constipated, that extra waste can distend our stomachs. Over time, we get used to the feeling and think it’s normal. It’s not.
There are some safe and easy things you can do to make sure you poop regularly and reduce the pooch of your stomach. To make sure your bowel movements are complete, consider taking a digestive enzyme or powdered greens supplement. (Yes, the greens do taste healthy, but in my opinion, it’s not awful. I put mine into a post-workout smoothie). Digestive enzymes don’t work for everyone, but if your diet is difficult for your body to digest, the enzymes can help boost the process.
So we’re clear, these are designed to help you go more easily, but are not a laxative. Personally, I find that the powdered greens are gentler on my stomach, but many have caffeine from green tea. They also have an earthy taste. That said, most mix fairly well into a smoothie. And, if you’re tired of adding in yet one more supplement, you can try ginger, peppermint, or anise. All of these plants help break down food and support digestion. If you think you’re simply “backed-up”, you can always try fiber support, like Benefiber.
#4 | Build Total Core Strength
Here’s a quick refresher on your core anatomy. It’s made up of your rectus abdominis (the muscles in the front of your abs that run from your ribs to your pelvic bone), external obliques (the long muscles on the sides of your core), internal obliques (deep muscles below the external obliques), and the transverse abdominis (the deep muscles that wrap around your torso).
So, to tighten your core and get rid of the mummy tummy, you need to work more than just your rectus abdominis. That means you need to do more than just crunches. By working to target all of your abs, you can tighten up your middle. For a comprehensive list of ab exercises, check out Verywellfit.com.
#5 | Mix It Up
Only sticking with one type of exercise allows your body to get really good at that exercise. Our bodies are designed to become efficient at the things we do often. But that efficiency comes at a price. We don’t burn as many calories exercising as we used to.
Keeping your routine fresh forces your muscles to keep working with the same level of exertion. According to OneMedical.com, changing up your workout will help you break through your plateau. And that breakthrough could be just what you need to slim your mummy tummy.
#6 | Posture
Yes, not standing correctly could make your mummy tummy more pronounced. Women are prone to bad posture from carrying their pregnant bellies out front, and then babies on their hips. This type of bad posture is called anterior pelvic tilt. When you work to fix this tilt, you pull your butt down and under your pelvis and your lower belly zips upward and inward. Think about when you were in ballet class – you want posture like that.
According to Medical News Today, there are simple exercises you can do to correct anterior pelvic tilt. But even just paying close attention to how you’re standing will help the appearance of your stomach while you work on the corrections.
#7 | Eating Habits
There are several things about your diet that could be contributing to bloating, which looks like a mummy tummy.
Slow Down Eating
Having a “food baby” after you eat may be common – but it’s actually not supposed to happen. If you’re eating so much food at one sitting that your belly pooches out, it’s too much for one sitting. Try to eat more slowly and mindfully. Channel your inner French woman and take the time to savor the smells, textures, and flavors of your food. It’s not about eating less so you don’t have the calories, it’s about eating less, so you don’t distend your belly.
Consider Your Intake
It’s also possible that you are eating foods that simply cause bloating and gas. Many people get bloated after eating vegetables. The high-fiber makes it more difficult for your body to digest, and the digestion is sometimes loud. To combat this type of bloat, try eating fewer raw veggies. By sautéing them before you eat them, you actually start the break-down process and make it easier on your digestive tract.
#8 | Check Your Diet
If you decide to try these tips, take it slowly. Changing too many things at once can make it difficult to determine what is actually causing your pooch, and what you don’t have to change.
This one can be hard because it’s so sneaky. Sugar is in so many prepared foods we buy. But, if you can reduce or eliminate much of the added sugar in your diet, you’ll be on your way to a flatter stomach. And it really doesn’t take much. For me, when I cut out my afternoon chocolate, I lost five pounds and noticeable belly fluff seemingly overnight.
Slash Refined Carbs
Refined carbs have a much lower nutritional value than their whole-grain counter-parts. And they are also high on the glycemic index, which means you digest them quickly – and feel hungry quickly. And by the end of the day, you’ve eaten far more calories than you need. Those empty, extra calories have a tendency to build-up around your stomach and liver, giving you that mummy tummy.
Most processed foods are loaded with added salt. According to a report by the Today Show, all that salt can cause bloating and pooch.
Stop Drinking Calories
I know you know this, but I’m going to say it anyway. When you drink juices, regular sodas, and alcohol, you can pack-on the calories without much thought.
Even carbonation can cause bloating. The bubbles sit in your digestive tract and well, bubble. Eliminating or reducing the carbonation you consume can help slim your midsection.
Getting a slim, toned stomach can be done, but it will take time. Make sure you are consistent and deliberate in your choices. As someone who’s working her way back after four kids, I’m right there with you. What other things worked for you to lose your mummy tummy? Please share in the comments. For tips on looking slimmer without diet or exercise, check out this post.
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