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How to Flatten Your Belly

Being a mom in a body we no longer recognize might be one of the hardest parts of having kids. Especially our belly that we carry around like a member of the family, accepting it as just another byproduct of pregnancy and childbirth. Or trying everything possible from dieting to crazy workouts, and sometimes even surgery, to get rid of it.

Yes our bodies stretch, and with pregnancy comes weight gain. There is zero shame in any of that. Both are beautiful parts of the process. Why else would we spend money on those gorgeous pregnancy photo shoots?

There is however, the shame that comes with having a distended belly once our kids are walking and talking. A belly that we may think is connected to having been pregnant, but in reality might have nothing to do with postpartum at all.

That belly is often the result of a combination of lifestyle factors that are more within your control then you may have been led to believe.

The problem is so much of our attention is often placed on trying to lose weight, so we can lose that belly fat, that we may be missing some very big cues. Cues that can be helpful in getting the flatter belly that we want.

Belly fat or bloat is our bodies' way of telling us that something is not working right.

That's right, we need to pay attention and see what's going on under the hood, as there are greater dangers to a distended belly than just not being able to fit in your jeans.

For starters,belly fat is a sign of inflammation – the #1 indicator of an increased risk for chronic illness such as heart disease and certain types of cancer, especially in women.

And bloating is your digestive system's response to something that is not working right. The thing is, troubled digestion leads to ALL kinds of problems down the road, not just discomfort in the moment

We are constantly told that if we eat less, and exercise more, we can get the body we want. But “mom belly” is different…and these generic, prescribed formulas can actually backfire.

Here's the good news:

Once we know what is going on internally, we can make the changes we need in order to get the flatter belly we want, while also taking real care of our health.

Why dieting doesn’t work to get rid of mom belly

Let me guess…when your kids aren’t driving you nuts, you’re driving yourself crazy trying to diet.

Deprivation is usually the name of the game. Seldom are we focused on nourishing our bodies. This sort of approach leads to calorie counting which goes hand in hand with eating low calorie, processed foods. Although marketed in a way that implies weight loss, the endless ingredient list can cause severe inflammation.

See, sometimes what we think is belly fat, is actually inflammation, caused by what we think are healthy food options.

You can’t exercise away the “pooch”

Exercising to exhaustion may actually be counterproductive to achieving that flat belly as well.

Fat burning is different from calorie burning, and requires a specific movement routine. So while you may be running your weight to a lower number on the scale, you may notice that your belly is still looking the same as it did before.

Your weight and your belly are not one. There are heavier women with flatter bellies, and thin women with bigger ones.

In addition, over exercising can put a stressor on the body that causes weight retention, bloating, and more of that nasty inflammation.

When it’s really “stress belly”

Another player in this game is stress. When our bodies are under stress, whether real or perceived, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. We need some amount of cortisol to keep us going, but excess cortisol actually tells our bodies to slow down our metabolism and store fat, especially around our organs. Hello, belly.

It's not your fault, it's just an evolutionary survival mechanism.

While we can not always remove all of the stressors in our lives, we can shorten the list, and mitigate the others. You might be surprised at how many stressors can trigger this cortisol response – it’s not just your stressful job or financial worries.

Some lesser-known culprits:

  • Processed foods

  • Scrolling on instagram

  • Constant high intensity workouts

  • Excessive caffeine

  • Low-calorie diet

  • Alcohol

  • Loneliness (Yes, you can have children all over you and still feel lonely.)

A flat belly requires sleep

There is no diet out there that prescribes good quality sleep, at least none that I have encountered. Yet sleep plays a major role in how our bellies look and feel.

You can be eating whole foods and exercising, but if you are not getting good quality sleep, just like with stress, your body is going to release too much cortisol – producing those unwanted side effects of fat storage and a metabolism slow down.

Poor quality sleep also leads to sugar and carb cravings. It's not willpower you are lacking, it's just good quality zzzs.

If there were ever a reason to call it “mommy belly” it would have to be this! Getting enough sleep is tough with little ones. Try creating boundaries around sleep time to protect your, and the whole family’s, sleep.

Are hormones to blame?

Yes, a beautiful part of being a woman are the endless lifelong hormonal changes that we get to experience (I’m being sarcastic). Hormonal changes are not fun! They weren’t fun when we were 12, and they’re certainly not fun in our 40’s and beyond.

Our hormones do change as we age, and those changes can impact our belly fat. Even still, that is not a reason to throw in the towel. It is just a reason to get to know your body, and its hormones, a little better.

Lifestyle factors that contribute to hormone regulation have a “two birds, one stone” kinda deal. Excessive sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, among others, can significantly impact your hormones causing weight gain, and belly fat. When we make the proper lifestyle changes in regard to these factors, we can expect our hormones and our bodies to work towards that flatter belly we want.

What the gut has to do with it

While we may be looking in the mirror, focused solely on what we see on the outside – what’s behind that belly is actually where the problem may lie.

There is a reason they say that the gut is our second brain. It's always communicating with us.

In our gut are a bunch of microbiota. Some good, some bad. And some that determine if we will have that belly fat or not. If we neglect to take care of our gut from the inside, it will significantly impact how we look on the outside.

A typical gut healing regimen follows the 4R’s:

Remove anything that is causing inflammation

Replace anything you are deficient in

Re-inoculate the gut with probiotics

Repair any damage to the intestinal lining

You’d want to work with a functional health practitioner to go through these steps and feel better.

Maybe you just need to stand straight….

Our abdominal muscles have a huge job. They support the entire body in standing up straight – and they include our back muscles as well!. When those muscles are not being used, they actually become weakened, leading to what looks like a flabby belly.

So many of us are walking around slouched, looking down at our phones, or sitting hunched over at our desks, which in turn lets our bellies hang out. While doing crunches day and night might seem like the answer to this problem, without supporting our backs, it’s like trying to swim upstream.

Steps to getting rid of that belly

There are no absolutes, and definitely no one size fits all, but there are things you can start doing today to get the flatter belly you want:

  1. Minimize processed foods (difficult when the kids will only eat chicken nuggets, but possible – I can show you how!)

  2. Prioritize good quality sleep

  3. Reduce (preferably remove) alcohol and sugar

  4. Implement fat burning strength training

  5. Stand up straight

All of these are free, do not require you to kill yourself at the gym, or starve yourself. So which of these are you going to start implementing right now?

Ready to get started? Grab my Free Guide: 5 Ways to De-Bloat Your Belly

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