I've always prided myself on being a healthy person. Not a
health nut, but healthy. Early in my teens I figured out the perfect balance of
activity and indulgence to maintain my figure, and while I never sported a six-pack,
I certainly never had anyone tell me I was fat.
That all changed six months after I had my baby. The first
few months postpartum I did carry some weight, but that was to be expected. I
had sported a giant baby belly and was practicing compassion with my amazing
new body. I was chubby, but the weight was slowly melting away and I was
starting to look like my old self again… until I started exercising.
Within weeks of starting Pilates classes I noticed my boss
nervously glancing at my bulging midsection. A pregnancy test confirmed I wasn't
expecting, but a delighted "Wow! You're pregnant again! How wonderful!" from an
out-of-town visitor confirmed that something was definitely wrong. A quick
check with my doctor confirmed: My ardent exercise had exacerbated a formerly
tiny diastasis recti—commonly known as a split tummy muscle—and my muscles
could no longer support the weight of my guts, which were happily spilling over
As I looked into the condition, I found out that all of my
efforts to regain my figure, from diet and exercise to lifestyle, had
contributed to my bulging midline, but also found out that it's perfectly
possible to regain your figure without corrective surgeries or tummy tucks.
My exercise routine, consisting of running, pilates and
yoga, had all contributed to a split in my abdominal muscles, while my lack of
sleep, walking and time spent with my husband were keeping my stress levels
high, and telling my body to hang on to excess fat as an insurance policy.
The key to repairing my midsection was a two-fold approach:
rebuilding my abdominal muscles and healing my diastasis recti, while also
eliminating the stress hormones that were keeping a protective layer of fat on
Here are the do's and don'ts of getting rid of your mommy
tummy once and for all!
Don't Do Crunches
Crunches, sit-ups and other traditional tummy exercises put
tremendous strain on your muscles, which are already compromised, and end up
further pulling apart your tummy and strengthening the wrong muscles.
All American moms run on adrenaline for the first few weeks
postpartum, which eventually leads to high levels of cortisol, one of the
biggest causes of tummy fat. Taking time for yourself, enjoying simple
pleasures and just letting go help reduce your levels of adrenaline and
cortisol, and tell your body it's okay to drop some of its emergency storages of
Don't Do Yoga
Up until I developed diastasis recti I loved winding down after a long
day with yoga. While winding down is a critical part of losing abdominal fat,
many of the positions in yoga—such as the plank, child and camel—apply
pressure to the abdominal muscles or stretch them apart, thus worsening the diastasis recti.
Do Take a Walk
Walking is not only a safe exercise, but can help lower
cortisol levels in the blood, which will help slim down your waistline. Be sure
to actively contract your stomach during the walk so that you're strengthening
the right muscles and not reinforcing bad posture. You can also go on a slow
jog if your stomach muscles are strong enough or you use a splint or wrap. But
beware! If your stomach is not supported during a jog, the weight of your legs
and stomach pushing against the muscles can tear them wide open.
Do Use a Splint or
Many traditional societies in Asia and South America
practice postpartum binding, in which the mom's abdomen is wrapped up tight in
order to allow it to heal properly. While most of us have missed the boat on
this, using a splint or wrap physically pushes together the split abdominal
muscles and supports your stomach as the muscles around the diastasis recti are
Do Focus On Your
Maintaining a strong posture with your tummy tucked in
retrains the muscles in your abdomen and back that lost tone while you were
carrying your baby, which are also the same muscles you need to hold in your guts
and reshape your mommy tummy.
Many nursing moms puff out their tummy unknowingly to
support their baby's weight while nursing. This stretches and weakens the
muscles around the Diastasis Recti and also trains the other muscles that they
should be sticking straight out.
Cuddling with your baby, husband and dog releases oxytocin
(aka "the cuddle hormone") which combats cortisol and helps slim down your