Do you have a “mommy tummy” and you want to know how to get rid of it?
You are in the right place!
In this post, you are going to 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, which happens in the postpartum period.
Because of the way it looks, mommy tummy has a few other names such as:
- Apron belly
- Hanging belly after pregnancy
- Mommy overhang
Know The Difference Between The Stomach Overhang And The Mommy Pooch
The next 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 often caused by a separation of your rectus abdominal muscle, leading to 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.
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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.
At the end of the day, the belly overhang is due to excess body fat. It just so happens that this type of fat is concentrated in your belly.
So how do you get rid of it?
The only guaranteed way to lose extra fat anywhere in your body is to burn extra calories. It’s as simple as that.
Similarly, you can choose to consume fewer calories – which is known as a calorie deficit.
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. This means that doing hundreds of sit-ups, crunches, or other abdominal exercises won’t help you get a flat belly.
As I said before, 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 the majority of 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 on how to get rid of mommy belly.
Step #1: You Need To Determine If You Have Diastasis Recti
Finding out if you have DR is important because if you do certain types of abdominal exercises, you can actually weaken the connective tissue there and worsen your abdominal separation.
If you would like to learn more, check out: How To Tell If You Have Diastasis Recti.
It goes over one simple 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 are currently burning?
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.
What if you could burn calories throughout the day without having to “exercise” at all? In fact, you could reduce your saggy belly with little to no exercise.
The absolute best way to burn extra calories is by decreasing sedentary time while increasing 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, 7 days a week, that would still leave 23 hours a day 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 are missing a great opportunity. (Not counting the 6-8 hours of sleep you should be getting of course.)
That’s why you should focus on just increasing your daily moving first.
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 3-4 times per day
- Stand up every 15 minutes and do 5 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. This is just a fancy way of saying that your body burns calories doing normal everyday activities.
So even if you don’t exercise regularly, 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 you can consume regularly to help improve your nutrition and burn fat.
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 key nutrient involved in muscle protein synthesis. If you didn’t already know, lean muscle tissue is going to play an important role in fat loss. More on that later.
So, which foods are high in protein?
Here is a short list of some of 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 major nutrient for health and fat loss.
Fiber is an insoluble carbohydrate. This means that your body cannot digest it, so it actually passes through you and comes out the other end.
Even though you don’t absorb it, fiber has been shown to:
- 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” for you to enjoy your favorite sweet from time to time. In fact, I have created an entire article on 17 healthy snacks you should consume in the postpartum, if you’d like to learn more.
Step #5: Strength Train
The last thing step in the battle against a sagging lower belly is resistance training exercise.
Not just any type of exercise – I am referring to exercising with the purpose of building strength and lean muscle.
In order to do that, you need to perform exercises that challenge you physically and mentally.
That 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.
If you would like to get started on resistance training, check out my article on strength training postpartum.
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 talking about why you need to take mommy tummy seriously.
First of all, there are two types of belly fat.
- Subcutaneous fat which is located directly underneath your skin. This is the type of fat most of us can see,
- and Visceral fat, which is deeper. This type of fat is located inside of your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs.
If you have a lot of lower belly fat, you may also have a lot of visceral belly fat as well.
Why is this an issue?
Visceral fat is associated with a host of serious medical co-morbidities. These include:
- metabolic abnormalities such as 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 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 cardiovascular disease.
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 does not go away on its own.
You will need to follow a dedicated diastasis recti training program.
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.
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 your postpartum belly.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of great conservative treatment options for sagging skin.
I have an entire post on Loose Skin After Pregnancy & What To Do About It here.
Final Words On The Mommy Tummy Overhang
So those are my best tips on how to get a flat stomach after pregnancy.
If you work hard and are patient, you will see improvement in your postpartum belly.
Keep at it beautiful momma!
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.
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