Before we jump into this article, always consult with your Dr before beginning a new exercise or nutrition routine and make sure you are cleared for exercise after birth :)
You’re probably here because you just had a baby and are feeling a little uncomfortable in your post baby body. You might be eager to tone up and get rid of your mom pooch.
While I may not be a mom myself, I have coached many new moms and helped them get back to a place of confidence & feeling good in their bodies again post birth. Before we dive into how to achieve this and get rid of your mom pooch I want you to remember this 1 thing:
You just did an amazing thing and had a baby! It is NORMAL that your midsection might look a little different than it did pre-pregnancy or for your abs to feel a little weaker than they did before.
This is extremely common. You’re not the only one going through it and this feeling will not last forever.
In this article I’m going to cover what mom pooch is and how to get rid of your mom pooch in a very manageable way.
So…what is mom pooch really?
While mom pooch can be excess fat(which we’ll talk about how to lose later) it also could be what is commonly known as diastasis recti. This is the natural separation of the abdominal wall that occurs during pregnancy.
As your baby is growing while you’re pregnant the linea alba(a line of connective tissue from under your sternum to the pubic bone and connects to the rectus abdominis) stretches to give your baby more room to grow.
This can cause a separation between the abdominal muscles which causes what many people call “mom pooch”. The lack of tension in your abdominal can cause you to feel bloated all of the time or think you have stubborn belly fat. It’s important to heal this not only for aesthetic reasons but also to regain full use of your core and strength.
Again, know that this is normal and research has shown up to 100% of pregnant women have diastasis recti in their third trimester.
For some women it resolves on its own over time post birth. For others, additional help is needed.
The first step is to check your Diastasis Recti. If it’s wider than 2 finger widths, reach out to your physical therapist to help you continue with the healing process. If you’re unsure how to check your Diastasis Recti this video is a great resource.
If the separation is less than 2 finger widths there are a few exercises you can do to start healing your Diastatis Recti on your own and getting rid of your mom pooch. These exercises will focus on closing the gap & strengthening your core.
These are just a few of MANY. Remember, If you have a wider gap or lack of tension, consult with your PT before continuing.
I recommend 2 sets of each exercise to start for about 8-10 reps.
Over time you want to progressively load your abdominal muscles which is a fancy way of saying making these exercises more difficult over time. Always go at your own pace but you can add weight, reps and/or sets over time to continue to strengthen your abdominals.
Now that we’ve covered how to heal Diastits recti let’s talk about the other part of how to get rid of mom pooch, which is just some excess belly fat.
Cold hard(and very annoying) truth: You can’t spot target fat which means you can’t choose where your body will lose fat first. Instead, you need to focus on losing fat overall. And that comes mostly from your nutrition.
What should your nutrition look like to get rid of mom pooch?
As a new mom you have a lot on your plate and the last thing you want to do is add a crazy restrictive or complicated diet to the mix. Instead, focus on eating mostly nutrient dense foods and building a balanced plate.
At MOST meals try to build a plate that looks like this:
A palm sized serving of protein, a first sized serving of carbs, a thumb sized serving of fat, and half a plate of veggies.
This will ensure you’re getting lots of macro & micronutrients in while also being able to incorporate more “fun” foods you just enjoy. For example sometimes the carbs on your plate could be brown rice, other times they may be french fries. Both are important and both fit, but it’s important to have a balance of both so you’re getting all the nutrients you need while also enjoying yourself along the way.
Reminder: not every single plate has to look like this and your goal is not to be perfect while you’re trying to get rid of your mom pooch. There definitely will(and should!) be some pizza nights along the way with no veggies or protein in sight. But prioritizing a balanced plate like this at most meals will help you get rid of your mom pooch, maintain good energy levels, and make sure you’re getting the macro and micronutrients you need.
What kind of exercise do you need to get rid of mom pooch?
Now I know we covered exercises to help heal your diastasis recti already but should those be the only exercises you’re doing to get rid of mom pooch? Is more exercise needed to lose overall fat?
Let’s get 1 thing straight: If a few exercises a few times a week are what you have time for right now then that is absolutely fantastic and you can just stick to those exercises outlined above. Rest assured that losing fat overall and getting rid of your mom pooch largely comes from your nutrition.
But, strength training is very beneficial to your overall health and will also make activities like lifting up your baby, carrying around a car seat, and bending over to pick up toys feel a lot easier over time.
If you are ready(and have been cleared by your Dr after your 6 week postpartum appointment) I recommend following a strength training program to help you continue to build strength back postpartum.
Don’t be frustrated if you are not able to do the same types of programs you were before getting pregnant. Your body has been through a lot and it’s important to go slow and build strength back over time.
A well rounded return to exercise post birth program should be focused on:
Regaining pelvic floor function
Finding an optimal breathing pattern - aka allow your rib cage to expand and contract with each breath
Increasing core strength
Returning to simple, functional movements and building back strength
It’s also important to find a program that works for YOU and your new busy schedule. Be realistic. You may not want to pick a program that’s 6 days/week and instead focus on something 2-3 days. If you don’t have time to get to the gym can you find a program you can do at home with the equipment you have available?
In these first 6 weeks your program should be about 5 exercises long, with 2-3 sets and 8-12 reps of each exercise.
Take advantage of the time you have. You may not be able to sneak away for a full 30 minute session. That’s ok! Can you find time for 2, 15 min sessions to get your full workout in throughout the day? If not, can you do 1, 15min session? Take advantage of whatever time you have right now and know that something is always better than nothing.
Should you do cardio in addition to strength training to get rid of mom pooch?
For fat loss? No. For overall health? Yes. Most new mom’s 7-12 weeks postpartum can walk up to 45mins/day at an easy pace. Remember, that’s can not need to! If you have time for a 10 minute walk and nothing else, that is absolutely fantastic and all you need to strive for.
Like with progressively loading your strength training try to add more time to your walks as the weeks go on.
Last thing to remember when getting rid of mom pooch:
Cut yourself some slack. You have a lot of priorities right now and fat loss may not be top of the list. That is OK! Remember, it’s ok to have goals and want to work on yourself but it’s also ok to love your body and be grateful for all it’s gotten you through. The 2 can exist at the same time :)
So go slow, be patient, and give yourself some grace if your workouts & nutrition take a backseat once in a while. You got this momma!
If you want a personalized program for returning to exercise and getting rid of your mom pooch, I’d love to work with you! You can apply for 1:1 coaching here.