Are you struggling with a stubborn mommy tummy overhang?
As both an OBGYN and fitness specialist, I have seen hundreds of moms frustrated with their postpartum bellies.
In this article, I will teach you:
- What a mommy tummy overhang is,
- How is it different from the mommy pooch,
- And 5 lifestyle-based tips for losing belly fat and getting your pre-baby body back.
- Getting rid of a mommy tummy overhang requires that you lower your body fat percentage. There are no special ab exercises that will help you get rid of the apron-like flap.
- To lower your body fat percentage, you must burn more calories than you consume. NEAT (or daily movement) helps burn calories, while resistance training increases metabolism.
- By increasing protein and fiber, you can reduce cravings and excess calorie consumption.
- A mommy pooch and an overhang are different. A pooch results from abdominal muscle separation and requires specialized strengthening exercises.
What Is The Mommy Tummy Overhang?
The mommy tummy overhang refers to the subcutaneous fat in your abdomen that drapes over your waistline.
The mommy tummy overhang also goes by other names like:
- Apron belly
- Pannus stomach
- Hanging belly after pregnancy
- Mommy overhang
How Do I Get Rid Of My Mommy Overhang?
Getting rid of the overhang belly without surgery is possible, but it takes work.
Doing hundreds of sit-ups won’t help tighten your mommy tummy. You have to take a multi-channel approach to be successful.
The only guaranteed way to lose extra fat anywhere in your body is to decrease your overall body fat percentage.
The most effective way to lose fat is through a calorie deficit.
You can create a calorie deficit by burning extra calories (i.e., increasing your physical activity) or consuming fewer calories in your diet.
At the end of the day, the belly overhang is due to excess fat and weight gain, and it just so happens that these fat cells concentrate in your belly.
5 Tips To Get Rid of The Mommy Tummy
Okay, let’s review five strategies to reduce the belly overhang.
- Determine if you have diastasis recti (this is a separate issue)
- Maximize non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)
- Improve nutrition by consuming more protein and fiber
- Reduce unnecessary calories
- Increase lean muscle mass with strength training
Let’s go over these in more detail.
Step #1: You Need To Determine If You Have Diastasis Recti
The first thing you need to do is determine if you have diastasis recti (DR).
Research shows that up to 60% of women will have abdominal muscle separation postpartum. You could also get diastasis recti after a c-section.
Finding out if you have DR is critical because certain abdominal exercises can make it worse.
Exercises like sit-ups can weaken the connective tissue in the abdomen and widen the abdominal separation.
To learn more, check out How To Tell If You Have Diastasis Recti.
If you determine that you have DR, you should focus on closing your abdominal gap and strengthening your core muscles as soon as possible.
But in the meantime, you can also work on Steps 2 and 3 below.
Step #2: You Need To Maximize NEAT
Remember when I mentioned that reducing belly fat requires you to burn more calories than you currently burn?
You may think exercise is the only way to burn additional calories. But what if I told you that there is an easier way?
And it doesn’t involve cardio.
The best way to burn extra calories is by decreasing your sedentary time while increasing your daily activity.
If you think about it, most of us can only exercise for one hour a day (at best). Even if you exercise for 1 hour daily, you still have 23 sedentary hours.
You can only burn so many calories in that one hour of exercise.
You miss a great opportunity if you sit around doing nothing for the remaining 23 hours. (Not counting the 6-8 hours of sleep you should be getting, of course.)
That’s why you should focus on increasing your daily moving first if you live a sedentary lifestyle.
Five simple ways to maximize NEAT
- Walk to as many places as you can
- park farther away from your destination
- take one additional flight of stairs every day
- take a 10-minute walk every day after lunch
- Drink a lot of water throughout the day to force you to go to the bathroom more often.
- Set a timer and do five squats every hour that you are sitting.
- Instead of driving everywhere, try biking to nearby destinations.
- Try sitting on the floor for part of the day. It causes you to fidget.
Do not underestimate the power of everyday movement.
This type of movement is known as NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. NEAT is a fancy way of saying that your body burns calories doing everyday activities.
So, even if you don’t exercise regularly, the best thing for you to do is to take advantage of NEAT!
Step #3: Eat More Of These Two Important Nutrients
The third thing you need to do to lose body fat is to address your nutrition. While movement and exercise are important, that’s only the icing on the cake.
The number of calories you eat will always be the prime target.
The good news is that two nutrients can help improve your nutrition, control your hunger, and decrease the calories you consume.
The first nutrient is
Protein is one of the three major macronutrients you get from your diet. It is composed of amino acids that build all of the tissues in your body.
But that’s not all. Protein has a host of benefits that are beneficial to helping you lose weight.
#1 Protein has the highest thermogenic activity
- Did you know that your body has to burn calories to digest the calories you are eating? Protein has the highest energy demand for all the nutrients you can consume.
#2 Protein helps keep you full
- Studies have also found that protein consumption can help reduce hunger and curb appetite. It is the second most satiating nutrient. We will get to the first nutrient in just a bit.
#3 Protein helps build lean muscle tissue
- Lastly, protein is the critical nutrient involved in muscle protein synthesis. If you didn’t already know, lean muscle tissue is essential to fat loss. More on that later.
So, which foods are high in protein?
Here are some healthy foods containing the best protein sources you can find.
- Meat (poultry, beef, etc.)
- Fish (salmon, tuna, sardines)
- Dairy & Eggs
- Soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame)
- Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, black beans)
And if you want to learn about Protein powder supplements, check out my post on Protein in Pregnancy.
Okay, now let’s move on to the next nutrient you should focus on, which is
Fiber needs no introduction. It is well known as a significant nutrient for health and fat loss.
Fiber is an insoluble carbohydrate. In other words, your body cannot digest fiber, so it passes through your digestive system and helps regulate your bowel movements.
Even though you don’t absorb it, fiber can:
- slow down the rate of food absorption,
- keep your blood sugar levels normalized,
- help decrease hunger,
- and regulate your bowel movements
As such, consuming fiber-rich foods can play a significant role in helping you eat fewer calories and lose fat.
So, which foods are highest in fiber?
- Most Fruits
- Most Vegetables
- Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, black beans)
With that, let’s move on to step #4.
Step #4: Decrease Unnecessary Calories
Excess calorie consumption can and will erase your hard-earned efforts from steps 1-3.
It is crucial to identify where you might be consuming any extra unnecessary calories.
Once you identify them, then you can work on minimizing them.
Here are a few common examples of where you might be adding unnecessary calories.
- Snacking throughout the day
- Drinking juice with any meal
- Drinking soda with any meal
- Adding milk and creamer to coffee
- Adding extra sauce to your meals
- Adding extra dressing to a salad
All of these little caloric additions will add up throughout the day.
Step #5: Build Lean Muscle
The last step in the battle against a sagging lower belly is resistance training exercises.
Not just any type of exercise – I am referring to exercising to build strength and lean muscle.
To do that, you need to perform exercises that challenge you physically and mentally.
Resistance training is the only way to build lean muscle tissue, which is SUPER IMPORTANT for health, fat loss, and overall postpartum recovery!
- The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism.
- The higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn at rest and during exercise.
Lean muscle tissue is your body’s secret weapon to fat loss!
The best part?
It’s easy to get started!
All you have to do is learn the basic compound exercises. Compound exercises are movements that train multiple muscle groups at the same time. That way, you will develop more muscle and strength while burning more calories.
These exercises include:
- shoulder pressing
These are the only exercises you need to focus on.
It will guide you with a week-to-week exercise routine you could follow.
But Aren’t There Special Stomach Overhang Exercises?
Unfortunately, there are no special stomach exercises to help get rid of your mommy tummy.
Studies have confirmed that you cannot spot reduce fat in the abdominal area. In other words, doing hundreds of sit-ups, crunches, or other abdominal exercises won’t help you get a flat belly.
The only way to eliminate the tummy fat is to lose fat from your entire body overall.
Also, you may or may not lose fat from your belly first. For most people, the lower belly tends to be one of the last places to lose fat.
I’m telling you this because I want to set your expectations.
Losing the postpartum tummy is not a quick or easy fix.
What Is The Difference Between The Stomach Overhang And The Mommy Pooch?
The mommy pooch refers to a bulge in the middle of your abdomen.
Unlike the overhang, the mom pooch is due to a separation of your rectus abdominal muscles, aka diastasis recti.
Diastasis recti may or may not be related to excess subcutaneous fat.
Why Getting Rid Of Belly Fat Is Of High Importance
I want to finish this section by discussing why you must take the mommy tummy seriously.
First of all, there are two types of belly fat.
- Subcutaneous fat: This type of fat is right underneath your skin. It’s the fat most of us can see.
- Visceral fat: Visceral belly fat is deeper. This type of fat deposits itself inside your abdomen and surrounds internal organs. The fat often accumulates on the omentum, an apron-like flap in front of your intestines.
If you have a lot of lower belly fat, you may also have a lot of visceral fat.
Why is this an issue?
Visceral fat is associated with a host of serious medical co-morbidities, including:
- hormonal imbalances that can lead to metabolic abnormalities like diabetes,
- cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the USA
- and cancer.
Surgeries like liposuction or a panniculectomy (aka abdominoplasty or tummy tuck) won’t lower these health risks.
So, getting a flat stomach is not only aesthetic; it will improve your health dramatically!
Will my mummy tummy ever go away?
Mommy tummy does not go away on its own. You must actively work to get rid of any excess weight gain through a combination of diet and exercise.
There are also benefits beyond aesthetics. Excess abdominal fat is linked to major illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
With that said, the mommy tummy may never go away entirely, even if you lose significant weight.
What about the mommy pooch?
The mommy pooch is different from the tummy overhang. The pooch is due to an abdominal wall separation, known as diastasis recti.
But similar to the mommy tummy, the mommy pooch may not go away on its own.
You may have to follow a dedicated diastasis recti training program to strengthen your stomach muscles.
How long does it take to get rid of mommy pooch?
It depends on how severe your separation is, but you may see noticeable improvements in your mommy pooch in as little as 6 weeks.
Others might take 12+ weeks to see noticeable changes.
Do belly bands work?
Unfortunately, belly bands will not help you eliminate your stomach fat.
How can I improve discomfort from my mommy tummy?
Often, hanging belly fat can chafe and irritate the underside of your abdomen.
To help with the discomfort, you can try:
- anti-chafing creams,
- wearing soft and comfortable clothing, and
- keeping the area clean and dry to prevent moisture build-up in the area.
Any tips on how to get rid of a hanging belly after c-section?
Whether you had a vaginal delivery or a c-section, there is nothing different in the approach you need to take to lose belly fat.
It is still important for you to eat fewer calories than your body burns, and for you to burn more calories than usual on a daily basis.
I cover getting rid of a hanging belly after a c-section in more detail here.
What about loose skin?
Unfortunately, there aren’t many great conservative / non-surgical options for extra skin.
If you decide to pursue any surgical procedures, remember that this isn’t a substitute for healthy eating!
Final Words On The Mommy Tummy Overhang
Having guided countless moms struggling with the same mommy tummy woes, I’ve seen firsthand the dramatic impact targeted lifestyle changes can make.
Getting rid of tummy fat takes a combination of a
- healthy diet,
- lower calorie intake,
- lean muscle tissue
- and regular movement.
If you work hard and are patient, your postpartum belly can improve over time.
Now I want to hear from you.
What have you tried to get rid of your sagging lower belly? Have you seen any success?
Related Posts On Losing Weight Postpartum
- How To Get Rid Of Baby Weight Postpartum
- What Is the Mommy Pooch and How Do I Get Rid of It
- A Step-By-Step Guide On Getting Fit After Pregnancy
- Healthy Postpartum Snacks (To Increase Fullness and Promote Weight Loss)
Written by Dr. Brittany Robles, OBGYN, certified personal trainer, and prenatal / postnatal fitness specialist.
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Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. 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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