You can restore abdominal strength and tone postnatally, without an invasive tummy tuck.
A full tummy tuck surgically corrects the two main causes of post-pregnancy pooch: it sews the separated abdominal wall back together (invasively reversing a common post-pregnancy condition known as diastasis recti), and it removes belly fat through liposuction.
Both of these aims are achievable without surgery, and they are entirely within reach for every mother! Keep reading to learn how you can dramatically improve core health without surgery.
The fact is, most pregnancies result in some degree of diastasis recti, a separation of the rectus abdominis, the “6-pack” muscles. This muscle separation can lead to a post-pregnancy pooch that does not go away on its own, even after losing the baby weight. In the vast majority of cases, this condition is entirely reversible through with our Reclaim program, profiled by npr, which is proven in published medical research to resolve the condition in less than 12 weeks! Diastasis recti is not a tear that requires surgical intervention, but an over-stretching of living, resilient tissue that responds remarkably well to therapeutic exercise. This leads me to the first and most important step to improve core health and restore post-pregnancy abs: deep engagement of your transverse abdominis muscle, your natural corset, through an exercise I call core compressions.
1.Core Compressions™ to close the gap, improve back health, and restore core strength and function.
This is a deep, subtle movement – yet powerfully effective. For best results, ensure your abdominal wall is drawing the muscles up and in on exertion (never bulging, bracing or flexing forward), and coordinate your breath and pelvic floor so that you are both exhaling and performing a Kegel with each core compression. Start with 5 minutes a day. After one week, work up to 10 minutes a day (either 10 minutes all at once or 5 minutes twice a day). For in-depth coaching on how to correctly perform this exercise, watch Intro to Core Compressions and Intro to 2-tier Core Compressions in our Foundations library. Then explore various body positions that we present in our Core Compressions library to discover what positions work best for you to get the deepest, most effective activation. Within days, you will feel a significant improvement in core strength and function.
2. Stop straining the connective tissue that lies front and center along your midline.
Avoid any exercise or exertion that forcefully bulges your abdominal wall forward – this includes crunches, sit-ups, double leg lifts, boat pose, and many other core exercises. Even jack-knifing out of bed every day can be a significant stressor. Repetitive bulging forward of the abdominal wall mimics the stress of a pregnancy on the very tissue you are working to heal – this will further separate the rectus abdominis muscles and make a post-pregnancy pooch worse. Also avoid rib-thrusting. Watch yourself for postural tendencies (over lengthening the front body and tilting the pelvis forward, increasing tension in the low back), and be mindful while stretching, practicing chest openers in yoga, or performing load-bearing exercises. Repetitive thrusting forward of the lower ribs splays them apart – and it also separates the upper abdominal muscles. Over time, this repetitive strain will worsen or even induce diastasis recti in the upper abs.
3. Consider a corset to speed up the healing process
Wearing a corset can speed up the healing process when combined with daily core compressions. This is because a well-designed corset decreases the strain on the linea alba, the connective tissue that runs along your midline. It also physically approximates the two halves of the recti muscles, meaning it shoves your separated 6-pack muscles a little closer together. However, if you feel downward pressure on the pelvic floor (this could manifest as a bulging or dropping feeling in your internal organs or pelvic floor, bladder pressure, urgency to pee, or inflammation of hemorrhoids) while wearing a corset or compression garment, it is causing more harm than good. Remove it immediately and do not wear one again until you’ve spent a few weeks strengthening your deep core and pelvic floor with core compressions that incorporate Kegels. To learn more about how to benefit from a corset while trouble-shooting common pitfalls, read this article.
4. Eat real food, and decrease sugars and starches to balance hormones and improve body composition
During pregnancy, you entered a unique hormonal context that caused an exaggerated insulin response to carbohydrates. This served a very important purpose: the extra insulin caused your body to accumulate extra fat to nourish the growing fetus in case of a sudden famine. But sometimes that exaggerated insulin response lingers beyond pregnancy into the postnatal period (and beyond). If you’re struggling to achieve and maintain healthy body composition, the single biggest factor is hormonal: extra insulin = extra fat storage. Thankfully, the primary driver of insulin is dietary carbohydrate (sugars and starches), and that is entirely within our control. Just remember that carbs drive insulin, which drives fat into your fat cells and keeps it there. To naturally reduce belly fat, or any body fat for that matter, it’s crucial to lower carbohydrate intake. Does that mean you need to go to an extreme and eat only bacon and eggs from now on? No. But do yourself a favor and ditch unnecessary carbs whenever you can. For example: opt for a salad instead of a sandwich; choose green vegetables over potatoes; eggs or yogurt for breakfast instead of cereal. Avoid sugary beverages at all costs as they’re the worst offenders. If you must have a sandwich, make it open-faced and toss the extra piece of bread. To learn more about our nutritional recommendations, read our guide to Embody Healthy Eating.
5. Eat protein and fat at breakfast to balance blood sugar and curb hunger
Breakfast is the critical meal to establish your metabolic cycle for the day. If you begin with a carb-heavy breakfast (cereal – even oatmeal, a bagel, toast, or a big, sweet latte…), you’re throwing your metabolism into a carb-craving roller coaster of blood sugar spikes and drops. This can lead to feelings of extreme hunger even a couple hours after breakfast. To avoid that roller coaster and quiet both blood sugar levels and insulin response [the fat-driver], focus on protein with natural fat at breakfast. For example, smoked salmon and cream cheese on cucumber slices, a veggie omelet, Greek yogurt topped with mixed berries and a handful of nuts. Yes, you can still enjoy your coffee or tea! Just skip the added sugar.
6. Follow the ‘Plate Rule’ at lunch and dinner
Implement the ‘plate rule’ at lunch and dinner. This is a simple tip to increase nutrient density. Each meal can be envisioned as a plate divided into thirds:
1/3 protein (4-6 oz. of meat, e.g. chicken breast, fish or hamburger patty)
2/3 non-starchy vegetables (e.g. a side salad + steamed asparagus)
Drizzle a little olive oil on the salad or melt a pat of grass-fed butter over the steamed vegetables. Natural fat helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, makes you feel full sooner, and replenishes the skin and hair post-pregnancy. A little goes a long way, so keep it to 1 tablespoon or less.
Skip the invasive and expensive tummy tuck procedure. With these simple and accessible tools, you can achieve dramatic improvement in form and function, without the downsides, side effects and recovery time that accompany surgery. Not only will you see visible results, but you will feel better within days of embracing these new habits.