You can restore abdominal strength and tone postnatally, and resolve diastasis recti, without an invasive tummy tuck. So, skip diastasis recti surgery and give therapeutic exercise a try.
Over 60% of women suffer from some degree of diastasis recti, a separation of the rectus abdominis (the “6-pack” muscles), after pregnancy. 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 a vast majority of cases, diastasis recti is entirely reversible through our EMbody Reclaim program (profiled by NPR), which is medically proven to resolve the condition in less than 12 weeks! That’s because over-stretched abdominal muscles do not require surgical intervention, they are remarkably resilient and respond well to restorative exercise.
Conversely, a tummy tuck surgically corrects the two main causes of the post-pregnancy pooch. A surgeon sews the separated abdominal wall back together (invasively reversing and repairing diastasis recti), and removes belly fat through liposuction.
Both of these aims are achievable without surgery, and are entirely within reach! Keep reading to learn 6 practices that can dramatically improve core health and repair your diastasis recti without surgery.
1. Introduce 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 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 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, an 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 your 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 13 Superfoods for Fertility, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding guide.
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.
At the end of the day, we understand wanting to resolve your diastasis recti. And while surgery may seem alluring, and like a quick fix, therapeutic exercise is proven to achieve dramatic improvement in form and function, without the downsides, side effects and recovery time that accompany an invasive surgery. With these 6 simple and accessible practices, you will see visible results, feel better within days and be on your way to resolving diastasis recti.
By Leah Keller, Founder of the EMbody Program™. Learn more about Leah here.