Reasons for that Stubborn Belly FAT and what you can do about it

pot belly
Most women if not all, get horrified to find a floppy belly instead of the previously flat tummy they thought would be back after pregnancy. Perhaps you leave behind a trail of, 'Is she pregnant again?' whispers every time you walk past a group of people or you just can't seem to get your jeans to button up. Here are answers on what to do with that stubborn 'pot' fat.

That is the reality that dawns on a mother after delivery. The tummy is still big and distended, this time with a squishy quality that is so not cute, stretchmarks streaking the belly and the big dark line (linea nigra) still present.

“The abdominal wall muscles get lax after carrying a pregnancy due to stretch, and that’s the reason your tummy appears the way it does. It carried a human being for nine months, and that required space,” says gynecologist Wanjiru Nduhiu.

And is it really possible to get your pre-baby body back?

“Yes, it is, although it is important to note that even with careful exercise and diet regimens, there may be changes that are beyond our control.

For example, some women will notice a widening in their hips, while others may discover that they require surgery for severe abdominal separation.

It is important for women to embrace their post-baby bodies, even as they work towards getting back into shape,” says Nina Odongo, a fitness trainer.

Other experts agree that your belly, over time, will go back to its original state. It takes at least six to eight weeks for your uterus to go back to its original size and with proper diet and exercise, you will regain your form. Patience is, however, key.

So why is your belly still the same, years later? You may ask.

Below are the reasons for your belly and what you can do about them.

1. Your diet is terrible

“After pregnancy, many women tend to overeat to provide sufficient milk to the baby. This, coupled with the sedentary lifestyle during the three-month maternity leave leads to an increase in weight. So the combination of lax muscles, lack of exercise and increased fat deposition lead to a big belly that doesn’t go away,” says Dr. Wanjiru.

Also, once the fat is deposited heavily on your belly, especially with a weak core in place, it is so difficult to lose it. Reason?

The burning of fat to release energy (lipolysis) is triggered by chemicals called catecholamines. Those are found in our blood. They attach to receptors on fat cells and begin the lipolysis. There are two types of receptors — the alpha and the beta.

The beta-receptors accelerate lipolysis and the alpha-receptors hinder it. The ratio between the two types of receptors is what determines how much fat you lose.

Unfortunately, the belly is one of the areas where the alpha receptors are more than the beta. What can you do? Yes, breastfeeding does need more calories than usual. And it can actually aid loss of weight because you need much more energy.

What you can do: 

Keep hydrated. Drink lots of water and healthy soups and eat healthy foods. Load up on fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugary drinks and junk foods.

2. You don’t exercise

Immediately after having a baby, you will be overwhelmed with caring for a new baby and recovery to spare a thought for exercise.

Dr. Wanjiru recommends two to four weeks rest period after a vaginal delivery and over six weeks after delivery by Caesarean Section.

“Again, we don’t want them coming back with wound dehiscence, sepsis or bleeding. Get an OK from your personal doctor first,” she says.

What you can do: 

Nina Odongo says: “Allocate time for yourself. New mothers are often overwhelmed by the demands of a new baby but it is important not to forget yourself in all this.

“Allocating 20-30 minutes of your day to do an exercise or take a walk (with or without baby) will do wonders for your physical and mental well-being. When your baby is much older, amp it up.”

3. You have abdominal separation

Diastasis recti refer to abdominal separation. Your abdominal muscles, the rectus abdominals may separate due to the pressure of the growing baby in your womb. That creates a space between your right and your left muscles and so your belly sticks out as it isn’t ‘belted’ in by the muscles.

This happens to 2/3 of pregnant women, and the condition, coupled with bad diet leads to a big belly. And if the woman has another baby with the condition still prevailing, it gets worse. Your doctor can easily check if that’s your situation during your post-natal clinic visits.

What you can do: 

Medical experts don’t really have a structured therapy for the condition, but many women swear by ‘corset training’ or tummy binding. This is where you either use a corset or you tightly tie a cotton cloth around your belly after childbirth.

“The lesso tied around the waist or the corset serve the simple purpose of supporting the lax abdominal muscles post-pregnancy,” says Dr. Wanjiru.

There are some bands that CS moms can safely use. In Kenya, you can get some from House of Decker or ship one from Amazon. You tie your fabric or corset from below your breasts to just above your crotch. Keep it on as much as you can for at least six weeks after giving birth.

Some exercises such as sit-ups, crunches, pushups, press ups, and planks can make the separation worse and should be avoided.

Depending on the degree of muscle separation, a physical therapist can suggest exercises that can be done with a belly splint.

Exercises such as squats against the wall (with an exercise ball between you and the wall), squats with a squeeze (with a football or a pillow between your knees and your back against the wall) and upright push-ups have been known to help remedy the condition.

Some moms can also opt for a tummy tuck, though that is best if you are done having babies.

4. You slack off when pregnant

“Studies show that women who are fit and active before, during and after their pregnancy have an easier time returning to their pre-baby body,” says Nina. “But many women use pregnancy as an opportunity to put their feet up and over-indulge.”

Besides getting your flat tummy back quickly due to your stronger core, you will also prevent back pains that develop due to the shifting of your center of gravity by maintaining some modicum of fitness throughout your pregnancy.

What you can do: 

If your pregnancy is uncomplicated and healthy, and you used to work out pre-pregnancy, you can keep working out. Keep hydrated and don’t allow your body to overheat. Take frequent breaks.

You can also embrace walking as an exercise, not only will it make you feel relaxed, but you will be fit. Wear appropriate shoes and ‘breathable’ clothing.

Also, don’t overindulge in junk food — not only will you gain unwanted weight but also it’s not good for your health or the baby.
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