Do you have a “mommy tummy” and want to know how to get rid of it?
You are in the right place!
In this post, you will learn the top 5 things you need to do to get rid of your hanging apron belly and get a flatter stomach.
And I have good news.
The answer is not abdominal exercises!
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.
Ok, moving on.
What Is The Mommy Tummy Overhang?
The mommy tummy overhang refers to the subcutaneous fat located in your abdomen that drapes over your waistline.
Mommy tummy is commonly seen after periods of weight loss or weight gain, which can happen in the postpartum period.
Because of the way it looks, mommy tummy has a few other names, such as:
- Apron belly
- The mother’s apron
- Pannus stomach
- Hanging belly after pregnancy
- Mommy overhang
What Is The Difference Between The Stomach Overhang And The Mommy Pooch?
The first thing you need to do is to differentiate whether you have a mommy tummy overhang or a mommy “pooch.”
- The overhang refers to excess fat in your abdomen that drapes over your waistline like an apron.
- The mommy pooch refers to a bulge that appears in the middle of your abdomen, which may or may not be related to excess abdominal fat.
Instead, the mom pooch is due to a separation of your rectus abdominal muscles, a condition known as diastasis recti.
While diastasis recti is beyond the scope of this article, we need to talk about it briefly.
But we’ll get to that in just a moment.
How Do I Get Rid Of My Mommy Overhang?
So the next question is, can you get rid of the overhang belly without surgery?
The answer is yes… but it’s not easy.
You cannot expect to tighten your mommy tummy by doing hundreds of sit-ups. 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 using 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 body fat and weight gain, and it just so happens that these fat cells concentrate in your belly.
So how do you lose the apron belly fat?
- Eat fewer calories than your body burns and/or
- Burn more calories than you are currently burning
But Aren’t There Special Stomach Overhang Exercises?
Unfortunately, there are no special stomach exercises you can do to get rid of your mommy tummy / apron belly.
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 get rid of mommy tummy 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.
This is not a quick nor easy fix.
Now that we have that out of the way let’s go over specific strategies to get rid of mommy belly.
5 Tips To Get Rid of The Apron Belly
Okay, now let’s go over five strategies to reduce the belly overhang.
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 further weaken the connective tissue in the abdomen and worsen your abdominal separation.
If you want to learn more, check out: How To Tell If You Have Diastasis Recti.
It goes over a straightforward test you can do to see if you have a gap in your rectus abdominis. It also goes over why you need to take care of it from a medical standpoint.
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: Maximize NEAT
Remember when I mentioned that losing belly fat requires you to burn more calories than you currently burn?
Well, you may think that 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 absolute best way to burn extra calories is by decreasing your sedentary time while increasing your daily activity.
Let me explain why this is better than traditional exercise:
If you think about it, most of us can only exercise for one hour a day (at best). Even if you exercised for 1 hour a day, that would still leave 23 hours without exercise.
You can only burn so many calories in that one hour of exercise.
If you sit around doing nothing for the remaining 23 hours, you miss a great opportunity. (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.
Here are 5 simple ways to move more and increase daily activity:
- 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 at least 3 to 4 times per day
- Stand up every 15 minutes and do five squats if you are sitting for longer than an hour
- Instead of driving everywhere, try biking to nearby destinations
- Fidget around throughout the day
Don’t 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, there are two nutrients that can help improve your nutrition, control your hunger, and decrease the number of 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 serve to build almost 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 just to digest the calories you are eating? Of all the nutrients you could consume, protein has the highest energy demand.
#2 Protein helps keep you full
- Studies have also found that protein consumption can help reduce hunger and curb your 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 plays an essential role in 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 major 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 all of your hard-earned efforts from steps 1-3.
It is important to identify where you might be consuming any extra unnecessary calories on a daily basis.
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.
If you could cut all of these in half, you would be well on your way to dropping body fat!
Here’s a pro tip:
- If there is something sweet or sugary that you enjoy eating, you don’t have to cut it out completely. Instead, save your calories for that indulgence. Eliminate any juice/soda, snacks, or sauces so that you have “calories leftover” to enjoy your favorite sweet from time to time. I have created an entire article on 17 healthy snacks you should consume postpartum if you want to learn more.
Step #5: Strength Train
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 will be.
- The higher your metabolism, the more calories you will 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 really need to focus on.
NOT on sit-ups, crunches etc.
The only abdominal exercises you should do are the movements described in my diastasis recti article.
It will guide you with a week-to-week program you could follow.
Why Getting Rid Of Belly Fat Is Of High Importance
I want to finish this section by discussing why you need to take mommy tummy seriously.
First of all, there are two types of belly fat.
- Subcutaneous fat: This type of fat is located directly underneath your skin. It’s the fat most of us can see.
- Visceral fat: Visceral fat is deeper. Visceral fat is when additional fat deposits are located inside of your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs. Often, the fat accumulates on the omentum, an apron-like flap that sits in front of your intestines.
If you have a lot of lower belly fat, you may also have a lot of visceral belly 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.
This is why getting a panniculectomy (aka an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck surgery) or liposuction won’t help you decrease your risk.
So getting a flat stomach is not just aesthetic, it will improve your overall 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.
This isn’t only for aesthetic reasons. Excess abdominal fat (especially visceral fat) has been linked to major illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
With that said, it may never go away completely if you have a lot of weight to lose.
Does the mommy pooch ever go away?
The mommy pooch is different from the tummy overhang. The pooch is caused by 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 will need 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 start to 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 get rid of your apron belly.
How can I improve discomfort from my apron belly?
Often, an apron belly 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 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.
What about loose skin?
It’s not uncommon to develop loose skin, along with stretch marks when dealing with significant weight loss.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of great conservative / non-surgical options for extra skin.
If you ultimately decide to pursue any surgical procedures, remember that this isn’t a substitute for healthy eating!
I have an entire post on Excess Skin After Pregnancy & What To Do About It here.
Final Words On The Mommy Tummy Overhang & Apron Belly
So those are my best tips on how to get a flat stomach after pregnancy.
It takes a combination of a healthy diet, a decrease in your calorie intake, and regular physical activity.
If you work hard and are patient, you can see improvements in your postpartum belly.
Now I want to hear from you.
What have you tried to get rid of your sagging lower belly? Have you seen any success?
Comment below and let me know!
Related Posts On Belly Fat 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
Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!
Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness, expert. She holds a Masters 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.
Sharing is Caring – Send This To A Mom In Need!
- Vispute SS, Smith JD, LeCheminant JD, Hurley KS. The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Sep;25(9):2559-64. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fb4a46. PMID: 21804427.
- Sperstad JB, Tennfjord MK, Hilde G, Ellström-Engh M, Bø K. Diastasis recti abdominis during pregnancy and 12 months after childbirth: prevalence, risk factors and report of lumbopelvic pain. Br J Sports Med. 2016;50(17):1092-1096. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096065
- Levine JA. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Dec;16(4):679-702. doi: 10.1053/beem.2002.0227. PMID: 12468415.
- Douglas Paddon-Jones, Eric Westman, Richard D Mattes, Robert R Wolfe, Arne Astrup, Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga, Protein, weight management, and satiety, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 87, Issue 5, May 2008, Pages 1558S–1561S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558S
- Zurlo F, Larson K, Bogardus C, Ravussin E. Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure. J Clin Invest. 1990;86(5):1423-1427. doi:10.1172/JCI114857
- Shuster A, Patlas M, Pinthus JH, Mourtzakis M. The clinical importance of visceral adiposity: a critical review of methods for visceral adipose tissue analysis. Br J Radiol. 2012;85(1009):1-10. doi:10.1259/bjr/38447238