Our bellies… Probably the one area of our bodies that us moms obsess over the MOST. Okay, well… let me rephrase that. Us WOMEN. Honestly speaking most females, at some point in their life, have obsessed over the appearance of their mid-section. Always comparing it to others or models in magazines, yearning for that perfect flat tummy. Once we become moms the topic becomes more of an issue. After the great-stretch-of-life we are left with this saggy, wrinkly aftermath and we wonder what we are going to do about it. “Will I ever have a flat tummy again?” is the question on most of our minds. Now yes, of course there are those who are genetically blessed and once they have a child their bellies bounce back to look like that on an 18 year old (who are you?!) but… for the rest of us: The Struggle is REAL.
The Pooch, or as I like to call it, the “Mommy Belly”. The unsightly saggy skin that clings onto our mid-sections for dear life that looks more like an unsightly deflated balloon rather than a smooth, feminine tummy. BLAH! I would think that at this point most of us moms would assume that there is no hope. We are ‘ruined’ for life. First: You are not ruined. Your body worked hard to create those precious little screaming, pooping tornado’s that you love so much, even though they are prematurely turning your hair grey. Second: You CAN get your body back! It just depends on how badly you want it and how hard you are willing to WORK for it.
When I began my fitness journey my “Mommy Belly” wasn’t really a concern of mine. I never noticed all the saggy, loose skin I had developed since being pregnant. I was so overweight and out of shape that all that excess fat filled out my newly developed Mommy Accessory so I had no idea it was there. As I began to lose the weight the dreaded reality of the Pooch was becoming quite clear. Soon the shapeless skin was tugging at my stomach every time I would jump or run. Great, this is a new battle I need to learn how to fight on top of losing the weight.
The discomfort I felt from the growing Mommy Belly was distracting, I needed to do something so that I could continue to push through my workouts and runs. High wasted compression shorts, capris and pants to the rescue! These bad boys did the job of taming the flub and keeping it safely secured and in place. This Mama was now back in action! But… Even though I managed to solve the discomfort, the saggy skin remained. Time to dive into some research.
Most of the information I found repeated three solutions to the Pooch Problem. Solution #1: Surgery. Well, this was not an option that appealed to me and I was more determined to do it the healthy way and not resort to surgery. Solution #2: Exercise. This was an area of my life that was NOT a problem. Okay, what’s next? Solution #3: Nutrition. Hmm… This is an area that I could definitely benefit from spending some time on. It was at this point that I discovered the world of Clean Eating.
It amazed me how quickly I saw changes simply from changing the way I fed my body. I was gaining energy, I felt happier, my workouts were easier because I was well nourished, my skin cleared up and my Belly was becoming tighter and was starting to lift. Believe me when I say that nutrition plays a LARGE role in the health of our skin. Yes there are lotions and exfoliates that may help to restore elasticity, but nothing can replace good nutrition.
As far as exercise is concerned, there honestly is nothing that can target that Mommy Belly. This area is simply loose skin that has been stretched during pregnancy. It is not fat so doing an extra set up sit ups or running that extra mile will not “target” improvements to the skin. In order to restore our slightly beaten mid-sections (okay, maybe more than slightly), nutrition needs to take center stage. A healthy diet helps to feed your body with nutrients that aid in the repair of skin and tissue. This is why good nutrition is SO important. (see my ‘Nutrition’ tab to read all about Clean Eating!)
At this point you are probably wondering how my tummy and Mommy Belly responded to all of this new found research? After a few months of daily, regular exercise and a healthy, Clean diet I had a flat tummy. Yes, even after carrying twins all 40 weeks, my stomach had flattened out. Now don’t freak out, the Mommy Belly remains, it is just much more cooperative than it used to be. Even today, two years after the start of my fitness journey and all this intense training for my Bikini Competition, I still have a Mommy Belly. Does my stomach look flat? Sure, but the loose skin is very apparent when I sit or bend over. Even though I have managed to tighten and lift my “problem area” my skin will never regain full elasticity. I was the size of a HOUSE when I delivered, how could I expect “perfection” (I hate that word by the way…)?
So, don’t believe everything you see and read. Yes, there are those moms that are blessed and bounce back to appear as though they have never had a child, but for the rest of us, there will be some work and true dedication involved. Just because you see a flat stomach on another mom does not mean she doesn’t still have the loose skin. It is just a fact of life and honestly speaking…. Will we EVER be happy with the appearance of our bodies?!
I am sure that many of you are wondering how I am taming the Belly Beast as I train for my Show. Showing off my tummy is a major part of competing, so how am I working to hide that loose skin? Short answer: A LOT of work. My nutrition and training is very strict and we are being sure to focus on my core to help bring out the definition. Like I said earlier, there is no magical exercise that will shape up my mid-section, but new practices within the last few weeks have helped to make a DRAMATIC difference.
I have been asked about “those crazy Wrap things” (a body wrap product by It Works!) a lot by others. If I have ever tried them to help target and tighten my stomach. My answer, no. I have never tried them, but my Coach suggested a similar solution. Bare with me, I know what you will think when you read this…. Preparation H and Saran Wrap. I know, I know. WHAT?! When you take time to actually think about it, it makes total sense. Preparation H was created to dehydrate and shrink skin. Isn’t that what we are aiming to do with our Mommy Bellies? Each time I did cardio, and only cardio, I would apply Preparation H to my loose skin area, wrap my stomach with Saran Wrap, apply a waist trainer (sweat band) belt and have at it. This helped to hyper-dehydrate my core which has resulted in some impressive results. My skin has tightened and lifted so much since I began this practice. Over this past weekend I was at the Arnold Expo in Columbus Ohio and was introduced to a Fitness Product called Sweet Sweat. It is a product that you apply to “stubborn” areas that help increase circulation to the area (increased blood flow HEALS) and increases sweating, encourages thermogenic and muscle activity during exercise, accelerates warm up and recovery time, helps fight muscle fatigue and injuries such as pulls and strains and can even be used during swimming. I’m in LOVE with this stuff. I apply it just as I was with the Preparation H and still wear the Saran Wrap and Waist trainer during cardio. I am loving how much this has helped improve the appearance of my stomach.
NOW… With this being said, this is NOT a solution or permanent way to resolve our tummy issues. Why? This simply targets dehydration to help tighten the area. This will not restore elasticity to the damaged skin, which is what we need for lasting results. Utilizing this method is something that I will NOT be practicing during my off season from contest training. This is something I am currently doing to help pull out the muscle definition of my core for my upcoming show. Once I discontinue this practice my skin will loosen again. I have created a flat tummy with dedication to my nutrition and exercise. I am not ashamed of the “damage” that remains because my body brought my two beautiful little girls into this world, how could I be upset about that. For the size that I was I am quite proud of what I have been able to accomplish. So that skin that remains can continue to “hang out” during my off season. (and on a side note: I still prefer high wasted compression fitness clothing. Why? Because I still have skin sag, even with a flat stomach. It does not always bother me during workouts, but it can still tug when I run or jump. I have just learned to find added comfort and security with my compression wear, so why fix what isn’t broken?)
So in closing – Yes. A flat tummy IS possible after children. The Battle of the Belly is one that you may likely fight for quite some time. Your body didn’t stretch over night, it will not repair itself over time either. This is a marathon not a sprint, be patient, stay focused and trust the process. Yes it can (and will) be frustrating, but giving up will only slow or stop your progress. The only way to see change is to press forward.
-Be sure to check out my YouTube Channel for a video on this topic!
**Please note that I am NOT a fitness or medical professional and everything discussed within this site/blog are simply suggestions and personal opinions. This information is not intended as a solution to health concerns. Please consult a Professional before beginning any type of exercise or self provided “treatment”.