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Trainer Megan at 40 weeks pregnant and 10 days postpartum.
The miracle of childbearing is quite remarkable. There is nothing like feeling your tiny one move inside of you, holding and kissing them for the very first time, feeling them crave for you and only you, and watching them grow and develop into little people (for better or worse!). The whole process is quite awesome. However, the toll pregnancy takes on a mother is sometimes not so awesome.
Even though it's hard, I think it is important to see your post-baby body as somewhat of a trophy. You've been through a lot, and those scars are there to prove your love and selflessness toward your tiny one. Nevertheless, you are not doomed to an embarassing figure and a new shape that you'd rather not display on a shelf. How horrible to have a two year old and be asked that dreadful question, "so when are you due?". I know what you're thinking....this baby pooch has got to go.
When you are pregnant, the weight of your growing belly pulls on your pelvis and causes it to tilt forward instead of sitting neutral. Remember all the back pain and hip pain? Yep, that was likely from an anterior tilt in your pelvic bones. When your pelvis is tipped forward, your hip flexors become shorter, your abdominals weaken and your low back arches excessively creating pain. It also gives the illusion that your stomach is sticking out further than it needs to be. Most likely, this pelvic tilt was never corrected after you gave birth and you still are suffering from bad anatomical structure and function. Let's fix it...
First, check to make sure this anterior pelvic tilt is actually happening. It is highly likely that it is, but occasionally I train women that actually have a flat back and don't need to fix this particular problem. Look at yourself sideways in a mirror, and just stand normal. The diagram to the right shows what I'm talking about (see how her belly sticks out more?)...
If it looks like your tailbone is sticking out and your back is arched, you would benefit from the following exercises. The posterior pelvic tilt with various leg movements develops your deep core muscles that hold your pelvis neutral, or where it should be. You can work on this throughout the day, too, by tucking your tailbone under whenever you think of it. Over time, your hips will sit more level, your tummy won't stick out as much and I bet you'll get rid of some lingering back pain, too!
I also recommend performing a good hip flexor stretch on a regular basis to help loosen those tight hip flexor muscles that are pulling your pelvis down in front.
Most pregnant women perform little or no exercise while pregnant, especially strength training. They may have been afraid of harming themselves or the baby, felt completely exhausted and worn out all the time, or lacked the knowledge of what to do. (It is true that some pregnancies are higher risk and your doctor may advise you to avoid most activities, but for most women it is completely safe to exercise, especially strength train, throughout pregnancy.)
When you are sedentary, all of those unused muscles dwindle and shrink. This presents a two-fold problem for the post-baby body. First, your abdominal muscles are so weak that there is no tension, or tone, in your midsection anymore. Second, with less muscle mass over your entire body, your metabolism goes down the drain and you have a much harder time staying lean. With a slow metabolism, you are fighting an up-hill battle to getting rid of the baby pooch.
So, not only should you work on your abdominal, or core, muscles, but it is just as important to build muscles all over. Unfortunately, many websites and magazines have routines that just give you 8-10 various ab exercises, touting they'll whittle your tummy. Sorry sister...I don't care how many V-ups, oblique crunches, bicycle crunches, sit-ups, planks, side planks and roll-outs you do, if you don't work on building your overall muscle mass those abs will stay hidden.
So here's your workout recommendation:
1. Make a point to moving more everyday. Fight the urge to sit and relax. Instead find excuses to stay active and mobile. More movement helps in the long run.
2. Build your muscle mass by performing a thorough strength training routine 2-4 times per week. You can start conservative, just twice, but you will see the most changes in your body if you're working out three or four times each week.
3. Begin the main portion of your workout with some core/ab exercises. Never do crunches, v-ups or sit-ups. Instead work on planks, side planks and their variations. All of the core exercises I provide are safe to do. Begin with "indirect" abdominal work (where you're training around the area), and then gradually build up to "direct" abdominal work (where you might actually feel a lot of contraction and even a 'burn' in your ab muscles).
4. After working on your core, perform several exercises that work all the other areas of your body. This will provide you with a balanced strength training routine that will build muscle mass over your entire body.
5. Finish your workout by cooling down with some foam rolling and stretching.
This will get you started in the right direction. If you need more direction for what to do safely, check out my Postpartum Renew program.
Extra Body Fat.
When you reach down and squeeze that part of your tummy that you think of as your baby pooch, it's squishy, right? Yep, the majority of what you're feeling could be body fat. The extra deposits of fat that you probably aquired during pregnancy are one of the main reasons you have the baby tummy. So let me be real with you...the number one thing that affects the existence of this baby pooch is what you eat. Hands down. You could get your hips in better alignment and workout religiously, but if you don't reset your nutrition that extra body fat is probably going to stay right where it is.
Getting control of what you put in your mouth is one of the hardest things to do. If it was easier, we probably wouldn't have diets, weight problems, saddlebags and baby bellies. The fact is most women eat haphazardly and eat the wrong things. Let's breakdown what you need to do nutritionally to see a change in your excess body fat, especially the baby pooch.
1. Eat mindfully. In order to lose fat weight, it is necessary to be in a negative energy balance, or consuming less than you're expending. Many women will hear this and immediately start counting the number of calories they burn and the number of calores they consume. The truth is, it's not so black and white. Counting is tedious and unpredictable. ("What is a medium apple or a large apple?" See my point?) Focus on eating slowly and only until you're about 80% full, not stuffed. In general, just start to be far more mindful about what's actually going in your mouth and how it makes you feel.
2. Eat vegetables. Veggies are dense with nutrients, have a lot of bulk to help you feel full, but are not calorie dense. Every time you eat, make sure you're eating veggies. Fruits are fine, but you should be eating more vegetables than fruit every day.
3. Eat protein. Protein is necessary for maintaining and building muscles. Remember, this is primary goal right now! Protein also takes a lot of work to breakdown and process, so by eating more protein your metabolism will increase. At every meal, eat either eggs, chicken, turkey, lean beef, lean pork, fish, tofu, legumes or other good sources of protein.
4. Eat healthy fats. When healthy fats are regularly available in your body, it encourages fat cells to oxidize, or release, from storage. Magical, right? So, it is completely counterproductive to have a low fat diet. However, make sure you're eating the healthy fats like fish, fish oils, olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, algae oil and sometimes limited amounts of other fats like butter, coconut oil, palm oil and vegetable oil.
5. Stop eating junk. This is a no brainer, but moms still seem to have a hard time with this one. Get rid of chips, crackers, cookies, candy, sweet breads, chocolates, juice, sugary coffee drinks, alcoholic beverages, etc. If you do need to splurge on these every once in a while (you're probably still a stressed out mom!), limit it to only 4 or 5 indulgences per week. This isn't very much so plan wisely.
6. Be consistent. These tips are great, but sticking with it for only a week won't do much for that baby pooch. You need to commit to eating like this day in and day out for several months, and preferably for the rest of your life. When you eat healthy and clean like this, it's much more sustainable than a crash diet, but it will take longer to see the results. Break it down into smaller chunks if you'd like, to make it more achievable. Tell yourself that you'll perfectly adhere to it for just two weeks, then reevaluate and recommit. This keeps you from becoming overwhelmed.
Remember, what you eat is the the most significant factor that affects whether or not your baby pooch will disappear. Get control over what you eat and you'll see the difference. My Total Nutrition Reset program is the absolute best way for you to begin getting a handle on your eating habits without dieting.
Oh, how we all dream to be in our twenty year old bodies again. No stretch marks, no saggy boobs, and no baby pooch. I get it, it's hard when you look down and don't recognize your body anymore.
But with some strategic action steps, you can begin feeling much better in your body. If you're sick of that baby belly once and for all, remember you have three things to do...First, check your hip alignment and work on keeping a neutral pelvis; Second, move more and build some muscle - not just in your abs, but all over your body; Third and most importantly, eat better day in and day out. Give it a few months and I guarantee I'll be hearing from you that those shirts and pants are fitting better than ever.
See ya baby pooch!
The Mommy Tummy Guide is the best resource for helping you address the REAL reason for your baby pooch. Perhaps you actually have separated abdominals, or Diastasis Recti? If you're not sure, and you're afraid that you could be making it worse, then download this FREE Mommy Tummy Guide here.