It is entirely possible to flatten postnatal abs 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 repairs are achievable through non-invasive means, and they are entirely within reach for every mom! Read on for 5 steps you can take to achieve firm, flat abs and a beautiful waistline, no tummy tuck required.
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 if you lose all the baby weight. In the vast majority of cases, this condition is entirely reversible through very specific activation of your deep abdominal muscles, no tummy tuck required! Diastasis recti is not a tear that requires surgical intervention. This leads me to the first and most important step in flattening and firming post-pregnancy abs: deep engagement of your transverse abdominis muscle, your natural corset, through an exercise I call core compressions.
1. Core Compressions to restore firm, flat abdominal muscles
This is a deep, subtle movement – yet powerfully effective. For best results, place your hands on your abs throughout the set and perform 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). In as little as 6 weeks you will see visibly firmer, flatter abs and a smaller waistline. Watch 10 Minutes Flat for detailed coaching in this exercise. Avoid any exercise that forcefully bulges your abdominal wall forward – this includes crunches, sit-ups and many Pilates-based exercises. Repetitive bulging will further separate the rectus abdominis muscles and make a post-pregnancy pooch worse.
2. Wear a Corset to speed up the healing process
Wearing a corset can really help speed up the healing process when combined with daily core compressions! This is because a well-designed corset lessens 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. This drawing together of the recti muscles makes each core compression more effective. See the Heal Faster & Flatter video for more information.
There are several important qualities to look for when selecting a corset:
1. Firm support – it should be very tight.
2. Stay in place throughout the day.
3. Follow the natural curve of body.
4. Adjustable (tighten it to the inside hooks as your waist shrinks).
5. Flattering! If it’s not, or if it makes you look bulkier, you’ll never wear it. ☺
3. Cut the carbs to balance hormones and mobilize fat
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 shed stubborn baby weight, the single biggest factor is hormonal: extra insulin = extra fat storage. Thankfully, the primary driver of insulin is dietary carbohydrate, 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 shed 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. For a healthy nutritional protocol to jump start your weight loss and transition you to lifelong maintenance with the help of a supportive community, join our online program!
4. 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 minimize both blood sugar and insulin [the fat-driver], focus on protein with a little 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. Don’t worry sleep-deprived moms… yes, you can still enjoy your coffee or tea! Just skip the added sugar.
5. Follow the ‘Plate Rule’ to keep calories low & nutrients high
Implement the ‘plate rule’ at lunch and dinner. This is the easiest way to keep calories low and nutrients high. Each meal can be envisioned as a plate divided into thirds:
1/3 protein (4-6 oz. of meat, e.g. chicken breast 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 tummy tuck procedure. Most of my clients enjoy smaller waistlines and firmer, flatter abs than they had before their first pregnancy. With these 5 steps, you’ll be on your way to joining them.