Flat abs after pregnancy and pre-baby bodies are just for celebrities right?
Is it even realistic to THINK about wanting to feel good in your own skin again?
You can have your cake and eat it too…a healthy body you feel comfortable in, AND freedom to “worry” about other things (like pumping, and stocking your purse with baby wipes and chew toys, and finding an awesome babysitter).
Pregnancy was rough…but motherhood? You wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Despite sleepless nights, sticky countertops, a purse—filled with action figures and Animal Crackers, and to-do lists now involving more than just your own ‘to-dos’ (but everyone else’s)…you finally understand what your mom meant when she used to say:
“You’ll understand one day when you have kids of your own.”
However, when you look in the mirror or try to fit back into your pre-baby jeans…hmph…a lingering thought in the back of your head continues to dominate:
Will I ever get my pre-baby body back?
You don’t say it aloud, out of fear of sounding vain or like motherhood is not the total joy that it is—(because it is!).
But you can’t but help wonder if it’s even possible to feel like yourself—the old you in your old skin that you did before your body went through the transformation it did over the course of 9-months (or 18-months, or 27, or 36+ months—depending on the number of kids you have).
And you’re not alone!
It’s a question I get asked on a regular basis from moms who sit down with me to share their heart—and desire to be healthy, raise healthy kids, and feel good—in their own skin, again.
“How can I get a flatter stomach?” many ask.
In fact, for most women, by and large—their abs or stomach—is the primary focus ‘trouble spot’ according to this one survey—wherein 74% of women said they wanted to change their abdomen, followed by 54% citing their thighs.
So…is it possible?
First things first, let’s understand what is happening to your stomach muscles during pregnancy:
Today, many women post-pregnancy, continue to deal with distended ab muscles—months and years after having babies.
The good news?
This is not necessary—it does not have to be the case.
When you go through pregnancy, your ab muscles do distend—they go through a lengthening process as the fetus grows, and an increased stretch is placed upon your abdomen wall from the inside. Additionally, this stretch causes your body to support its abdomen with additional muscle growth—known as sarcomeres—to the existing abdominal muscles, making them longer as the baby grows.
However, after giving birth, the stretch on your abs is decreased dramatically—and these sarcomeres begin decreasing in number as well.
Under normal circumstances, your ab muscles should then return to normal lenth.
BUT if …
- you become pregnant again soon thereafter (before your body has restored itself to a normal healthy weight and normal muscle length: abdomen tension;
- gain (or retain) additional weight post-pregnancy;
- or you have a C-section…
These all place additional stress on your abdomen to support such change or stress…and the ‘natural’ way of your body ‘going back to your old self’ is compromised more so. Think about it:
- Pregnancy is a natural stressor to your body; and stress ultimately weakens the body. With the additional stressor of kid 1, kid 2 and kid 3—all within 10-12 months of each other—your body is stressed (and therefore, the last thing it thinks about is going back to ‘pre-baby’ shape: it is thinking about surviving and thriving for the babies!)
- In addition, during pregnancy, many women view it as an excuse to ‘eat more’ or ‘eat whatever’—often times to the point where new food and eating habits are developed (and potentially not quite as healthy…pickles and ice cream anyone?). When healthful (read: not diet) eating choices are not made, your body still works the same as it did if it didn’t have a baby (i.e. an excess of sugar, will store as energy—or fat—for later);
- As for C-Sections: when your doc cuts into your abdomen wall, your muscles are injured—leaving long-term adhesions, scar tissue and dysfunction in your abdomen wall, as it strives to heal months—even years—after the baby is born, it ultimately is weaker than it was before, and many women learn to stop contracting or engaging those muscles (as pain is sometimes present, or loss of function—engagement—has become a new norm);
Soooo…..is flattening your abdominal muscles really realistic or possible post-baby?!
The main thing is to keep the main thing, and the “secret sauce” lies in these three factors:
- Eating a Thrive-Based Template Real Food (quality meats and fish, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, little starch, no sugar, LOTS of water)
- Eating according to your body’s needs (not conventional diet wisdom, or how others tell you your body should eat…but what do you best tolerate, when, and how do these foods make you feel the best?)
- A focus on improving your core function and performing a regular routine of exercises that help address and correct any imbalances or weaknesses (see below)
Easier said than done?
If you are a mom wanting to get your abs “back”; or just feel good in your own skin again, let’s connect.
I love nothing more than partnering with girls and women to navigate a nutrition template and self-care approach that is customized to your body, as well as a fitness routine, balanced schedule AND connection to your purpose and passions—all of which sets you up for thriving success in your life (as both a mom and the unique individual you are).
Let’s connect today for a free 30-minute chat to discuss what you WANT in your life, what’s holding you back and a plan of attack for moving forward.
Essential Core Post-Baby Rehab Exercises
4-Point Connection: Core Engagement
- Assume a kneeling position with your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your hands. Maintain your spine in neutral.
- Take a deep breath in and let your belly drop to the floor
- Exhale and bring your belly button towards your spine, while keeping your back in neutral
- Continue with your breathing—drawing your belly button in and down throughout the motions. This engagement exercise will begin to attune your mind to your body.
- Perform 20-30 repetitions
Knee Raises: Core Engagement
- Lie flat on your back
- With knees bent, raise your legs off the ground until your thighs are perpendicular to the floor, and your calf muscles parallel to the floor
- Exhale, drawing your belly button towards your spine and slowly lower one leg to the ground, while keeping the other leg fixed in the bent-knee position
- Raise your leg back to the starting position and perform 12-20 reps with that leg; lowering with each exhale
- Repeat on the other leg
- Perform for 2-3 sets
Lower Abdominals: Hollow Body Hold
- Lie flat on your back
- Raise your arms over your head so they are touching the floor; keeping your spine and lower back completely on the floor, relaxed, in neutral.
- Draw your arms up, glued by your ears, straight, lower back still on the ground
- Raise your head and shoulders, with arms still glued by head
- Point your toes and straighten your legs by activating your leg muscles and knees
- Raise your legs to a 35-45-degree angle, toes pointed towards the wall in front of you
- You should look like you are in a boat position: Shoulders and arms raised over ground; elbows locked out, hands straight; legs locked out, toes pointed; lower back on the ground
- Breathe in and out normally
- Maintain this position for 20-60 seconds (build up your tolerance)
- Perform 2-3 sets
Ultimately, the BEST exercise of all?
The exercise of GRACE.
(Grace with yourself).
As for those of you looking for some workout ideas to add to your routine this week, try one of these:
Seated Strict Press
5 Hang Clean & Jerks
10 Box Jumps
50 double under after every round (or 100 single unders)
60 calorie row
5 Wall Walks
10 Dumbbell Snatches (5/5 each arm)
15 Toes to bar/knees to chest
5 Rounds for Time:
25 Air Squats
3 minute rounds x 3 sets
3 Power Cleans
6 No-push-up Burpee
9 Kettlebell Swings