Do you have an apron belly and want to know how to get rid of it?
While an apron belly can be aesthetically displeasing, it is essential to know when you can get rid of it and when you cannot.
Keep reading to learn more.
Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.
What Is An Apron Belly?
The apron belly refers to the excess skin and fat in the abdomen that hangs down over your waistline like an apron. It is sometimes referred to as a hanging belly, muffin top, or pannus stomach.
What Causes Hanging Belly?
There are three main causes of a hanging belly: pregnancy, obesity, and genetics.
A hanging belly can also be due to loose skin in the abdominal area following significant weight loss.
Let’s go over them one by one.
During pregnancy, the uterus and abdomen must stretch significantly to accommodate the growing baby.
This stretching can cause the skin to loosen and sag, especially if you also gain excessive weight during pregnancy.
After having the baby, your uterus shrinks back down to its standard size, and the skin around your abdomen will usually start to tighten up again on its own.
However, if you have stretched the skin too much or gained a lot of weight during pregnancy, it might not snap back into place.
Since this condition often occurs with pregnancy, it is often called the mother’s apron.
*Note: C-sections do not worsen a hanging belly*
Another common cause of an apron belly is obesity. When you are obese, you have an excess amount of fat outside and inside your abdomen (aka visceral fat).
This extra weight can cause the skin on your abdomen to stretch and sag.
Additionally, carrying around all that extra weight can strain your abdominal muscles, causing them to separate (this is known as diastasis recti).
Obesity is why men can have an apron belly as well.
Some people are more prone to having a hanging belly due to genetics.
Unfortunately, everyone stores fat differently; some people are more likely to have additional fat deposits in their midsection.
Genetics is out of your control, but there are still things you can do about it.
Rapid Weight Loss
Lastly, sudden or rapid weight loss can also cause a hanging belly. When you lose weight quickly, your skin doesn’t have time to adjust and can end up saggy.
This is why people who lose hundreds of pounds in a short time may have loose skin in their stomach that appears saggy or “deflated.”.
In this situation, your skin has lost its elasticity and cannot snap back into place.
Will Losing Weight Get Rid Of Apron Belly?
Losing weight can be a great way to lose an apron belly, but it depends on the cause of your apron belly.
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help eliminate your apron belly, but you might have to lose a significant amount of weight to see results.
However, if your apron belly is due to loose skin from rapid weight loss, then losing weight will not help.
How Do You Get Rid Of An Apron Belly?
If you want to get rid of your apron belly, it is essential to identify the cause.
If your apron belly is due to being overweight, a simple lifestyle and diet change can be all you need.
How To Lose A Pregnancy-Related Apron Belly
If your apron belly is due to weight gain from pregnancy, you may be able to get rid of it by lowering your body fat percentage postpartum.
The key to losing weight is to create a calorie deficit, i.e., burning more calories than you consume.
You can do this by eating a healthy diet and increasing your overall physical activity.
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot “spot reduce” fat from your lower belly, i.e., doing a lot of sit-ups or crunches will not make your stomach flatter.
The only way to lose fat in your stomach area (or anywhere, for that matter) is to focus on overall weight loss!
What About An Obesity-Related Apron Belly?
Similarly, if you are obese and have an apron belly, weight loss is the best way to try and get rid of it.
You will want to focus on losing overall body fat, which will help reduce the size of your stomach and possibly the overhang.
5 Tips To Lose Your Apron Belly Fat Due To Excess Fat
1. Determine if you have diastasis recti first
Having excess fat around your belly can overlap with having diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is when you have an abnormal separation of your abdominal muscles, which usually occurs after pregnancy.
Here is how to tell if you have abdominal wall separation.
If you have this condition, you must avoid certain abdominal exercises, which could worsen the abdominal separation and the appearance of the belly.
Here is a list of safe core exercises you can do to try and restore your abdominal musculature.
2. Increase your protein intake
Eating a high-protein diet is one of the best dietary changes you can make to lose weight. Protein has three main benefits:
- Protein is highly satiating. In other words, eating more protein can help you feel fuller for longer and reduce cravings which are helpful when trying to lose weight.
- Protein helps preserve muscle mass, often lost when people are in a calorie deficit. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so trying to preserve as much muscle as possible when trying to lose weight is essential.
- Protein has a high thermic effect, meaning that your body burns more calories digesting and protein than other macronutrients (fat and carbs).
The best protein sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes (beans, lentils), and soy (tofu and tempeh).
3. Build lean muscle
Building muscle is one of the best things you can do to help boost your metabolism.
As mentioned above, muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be.
The only way to build muscle is to do weight-bearing exercises that stress your muscles and cause them to grow.
Some of the best exercises for building muscle include squats, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, and presses.
You can check out my postpartum strength training post here, or my complete A-Z workout program here!
4. Avoid liquid calories
Another great way to kick off your healthy eating journey is to avoid drinking calories, especially sugary drinks like soda, juice, sports drinks, and alcoholic beverages.
These drinks are high in calories but low in satiety, meaning they won’t make you feel full.
While it may not seem like a lot, these calories can add up quickly.
Try and find ways to reduce your liquid calorie intake or avoid them altogether.
5. Optimize your hormones
Lastly, it is crucial to optimize your hormones if you want to lose body fat.
Several hormones play a role in fat storage, hunger, and metabolism.
For example, chronic stress can lead to high cortisol levels, which can promote fat storage, particularly in the belly area.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to hormonal imbalances such as increased insulin resistance, elevated cortisol, and increased ghrelin (the hunger hormone).
Optimizing your hormones is a complex topic, but there the best ways to do so include:
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
- Exercise regularly.
- Use relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
- Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
What About An Apron Belly Due To Rapid Weight Loss?
Unfortunately, if your apron belly is due to loose skin from rapid weight loss, you will likely need surgery.
Exercise will not help you get rid of excess skin.
If you are considering surgery, make sure to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon to see if you are a good candidate.
There may also be other non-surgical options that they can tell you about.
Other Related Questions
What Are The Health Consequences of an Apron Belly?
Several health consequences are associated with an apron belly, particularly if you have excess visceral fat.
Visceral fat is the type of fat that surrounds your internal organs, usually in front of your intestines.
It differs from subcutaneous fat, the layer of fat just under your skin.
Visceral fat is linked to an increased risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
What’s The Difference Between Tummy Tuck And Panniculectomy?
A tummy tuck (aka abdominoplasty) is a cosmetic surgery that tightens the stomach muscles and removes extra skin from the abdomen.
A panniculectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the pannus, which is a large collection of fat that hangs over the pelvis and thighs.
A panniculectomy is usually done for medical reasons, such as to relieve back pain and discomfort or improve hygiene, while a tummy tuck is generally for cosmetic reasons.
What Causes FUPA Fat?
There are several causes of FUPA fat (fat deposits on top of the pubic area), including pregnancy, weight gain, and genetics.
Unfortunately, many women collect fat in the pubic area, especially after childbirth.
Genetics also play a role, as some women are predisposed to carrying more fat cells in this area.
Learn more about FUPA fat in this post!
Final Words On Apron Bellies
If you want to get rid of your apron belly, it is essential to identify the cause to have a realistic plan for getting rid of it.
If you are overweight, achieving a healthy weight will drastically improve your overall health and well-being, in addition to improving your appearance.
Now I want to hear from you!
What have you tried to get rid of the apron-like flap?
Let me know in the comments below!
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Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified personal trainer, and a health & fitness expert. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
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