Saggy Tummy skin?
Abdominal separation that hasn’t healed?
Here are 3 reasons you may not be seeing results.
I can’t highlight this enough. Try this out. Place one hand on your tummy muscles. Stand up with poor posture, rounded shoulders, head jutting forward. Now what does it do to your tummy? Those muscles feel taut and strong, or saggy and loose? What changes when you lengthen up through the spine, bring the shoulder blades round and down in your back and straighten your neck? You should feel your tummy muscles are tighter and in a better position to heal up when you have good posture.
If you are not giving your body good nutrition then you aren’t giving it the best chance to heal. Protein, zinc, iron and vitamin C are all important in wound healing and muscle repair. I know as a mum you need quick meals and often have to eat on the hoof, but you can eat still eat healthily. It is all in the preparation and mind set. Step away from the cake and focus on nutritious snacks that give you energy and fill you. Nuts, seeds, homemade granola bars, hummus, egg muffins are good examples. A bowl of fruit, Greek yoghurt (higher in protein) and a small handful of nuts is a fabulous snack. Make overnight oats with fruit and seeds the night before, ready for an instant breakfast. Bake a pile of sweet potato’s ready for lunches, then you can heat them in the microwave for lunch, top with tuna, pile some salad on the plate and it should keep you going. The diagram below is both relative for pelvic floor healing and diastasis recti.
3. Breathing and Stress.
How much attention do you give to your breathing? Probably very little. Yet thoracic breathing can be a deal breaker. When you breath into the ribcage and not the belly you activate the intercostal muscles instead of forcing the tummy muscles out. As you breath out your pelvic floor lifts and you core activates. So breathing alone can work to strengthen your pelvic floor and lower abdominals. Stress leads to shallow breathing higher in the chest. It also affects hormones, posture in a lot of people and eating. A triple whammy. So taking time to relax, bring your cortisol levels down and calm down can be a factor. A bath, reading for 10 mins, a pilates class, it all helps.
I know how hard it can be. I’ve been there. But I also know this stuff works! I’ve closed 2 diastasis in my own body. Don’t delay, start with the tips above today.
If you want a 1-1 session for posture assessment and exercises you can use at home then get in touch I can even work over Skype.
If you have abdominal separation, or are pregnant, here are 3 moves to stay clear of…
1. Sitting up from Lying
It’s such a simple everyday move but sitting up in bed is something to modify. Why? It puts pressure on your rectus abdominus or “six-pack” muscles. These muscles you want to look after. They have to stretch and make room for your growing bump and can separate. This can be a normal part of pregnancy but also something you can help lessen the risk of. Avoid any exercises like sit ups or curl ups or sitting up from lying on your back will help with this.
2. Lifting heavy weights which puts strain on your back, core and can affect your posture.
This can be hard to avoid if you have another young child. Try training them to walk or use a scooter more. Bring in the idea of sitting down for a cuddle rather than walking around holding them. I still have to carry my toddler but he now goes in a sling on my back which helps my posture and distributes the weight more evenly.
Lifting also puts extra pressure on your pelvic floor which is already working harder than normal.
3. Sitting in a bucket seat in the later stages of pregnancy.
Sitting on a sofa or almost any comfy chair can lead to your pelvis being tilted so you are not seated in the best position for either your lower back or to allow your baby to descend into your pelvis. Sitting on an exercise ball or a high backed chair will help you sit up tall so that baby can get into position easier.
A sensitive topic. Mummy tummies and post baby bellies are something that I deal with on a regular basis. I know how much pressure mums can feel to lose the baby weight and get back into their skinny jeans. I felt it myself after my second baby especially. Social media and the media shows us how some celebs look like they’ve never had a baby just a few weeks after giving birth. There are posts of mums doing all kinds of crazy in order to lose weight and tone up. Whereas actually if your body has just had a baby doesn’t it need to rest and isn’t it perfectly natural and normal for your body to not ping back to normal after 9 months of stretching and carrying an extra person around inside it?
I’ve had 2 babies. I’m a Pilates teacher and a dietitian. So I eat well, I exercise and I didn’t put on too much weight with either pregnancy. Yet I still took 6 months to lose the baby weight. Here I am 4 weeks after baby with a definite bump still there.
Pilates with Priya: Post Natal Tummy Week 4
Reasons to embrace the mummy tummy:
1. If you are breastfeeding then your body needs to have some reserves to make milk. Breastfeeding can help you lose weight but your body may not let you lose it all too soon. It’s a pretty sensible system really isn’t it. There is some built in protection for baby in those early months.
2. It’s taken 9 months or so to create a baby, you’ve done a stunning job of carrying baby around and feeding baby. All of that takes a toll on your body, it uses your nutritional stores. Now your body needs to recover. 9 months on, 9 months off is the commonly said phrase and I agree with it. It may feel like a long time but it really isn’t in the grand scheme of life.
3. Obviously you don’t want your weight to stay higher than normal for ever, but initially it’s a rite of passage and a sign of mummyhood. Try to savour those early days. Spending time with your baby and looking after yourself is the most important thing.
4. Getting back into high intensity exercise too soon can be damaging. Your pelvic floor needs to be strong enough and any abdominal separation fixed before you start running, jumping or high impact workouts. Stick to swimming, postnatal classes or specialist pilates.
Look out for my next post for top tips on how to lose that mummy tummy.
Sit-ups are one of those exercises that I’m really not keen on. Many people perform them incorrectly, they are not safe in pregnancy or post-birth… and yet they are often one of the main exercises people will be doing.
A sit up or any variation of this movement where you go into forward flexion , bringing your upper body towards your knees, is not a good thing for postnatal women. In fact it can cause more harm than good as it works the tummy muscles in the wrong way. So, if you’ve recently had a baby and you’re doing sit ups, STOP them immediately.
Sit ups work the tummy muscles that run vetically down the tummy, called the Rectus Abdominis but commonly known as the six-pack muscle. These lengthen in pregnancy and as your baby grows and your bump gets bigger, this muscle my start to separate around your belly button. The abdominals can take time to come back to normal after your baby has been born, so for several weeks and indeed months after birth, these muscle remains in a lengthened, separated state.
The danger of doing sit ups in this state is that you can widen any separation you may have of the abdominals and you can actually strengthen the muscles to stay in this separated state. The long term problems with separation include the risk of a hernia (the intestines poke out as there are no tummy muscles covering them), pelvic floor weakness and it also means you won’t get a flat tummy back again.
Instead of doing sit ups, you need to focus on strengthening the pelvic floor and the Transversus Abdominis, which runs like a corset around your lower tummy. By strenghtening these muscle that are deep inside you will strengthen the body from the outside in. These muscles are your foundation, once they are working then they will help realign any abdominal separation you may have and will knit you together again.
Our specialist Postnatal Pilates class and our DVD focuses on strengthening these muscles in the correct order. So we find the lower tummy (transversus abdominus) muscle first, along with the pelvic floor. We then shorten the rectus abdominus muscles running down the tummy. When this is strong enough and any abdominal separation has been realigned, then the other tummy muscles can be worked.
Having a new born baby is hard work. Amongst the nappy changes, feeds, lack of sleep and recovering from the birth itself, there can be little time to think about exercise! The demands of pregnancy and then the energies of labour put a great stress on your body and it needs time to recover and heal. So you may not feel like rushing straight back into exercise and that is understandable. However your body also needs the strength to carry, feed and lift without causing aches, pains and issues later down the line.
Pilates is the perfect compromise with this. It is exercise that can be started soon after birth but won’t feel too strenuous. Being able to do just 10 minutes a day will make such a difference to your body. Getting to a class can be stressful with a baby. Help is at hand. We run postnatal classes with a creche provided. Or our “Beyond Your Bump” DVD means you get the experience and benefit of a postnatal class devised by a Pilates specialist, ready to do in your home around your baby.
This is an hour long DVD in several sections that will:
- Strengthen your abdominals.
- Targets your bum, legs and tum.
- Help with any pelvis pain.
- Work your pelvic floor in a functional manner.
- Correct upper body posture.
ESSENTIAL FOR ALL NEW MUMS.
My little ones have always loved sitting in a bouncy chair watching me do exercise – why not see if yours does too!