The other day I looked down and realized that I’ve developed “a mommy tummy”. I’ve always been physically fit but after having Miss O things looked a little different but I adjusted quickly to my new body post baby. While I “bounced back” fairly quickly during the first year after giving birth, I credit breastfeeding since my activity level took a serious nose dive and the process of constantly working to produce milk helps your body burn calories, this “new me” is different. I’ve recently found myself snacking late in the evenings and exercising less and less. There are so many ways to stay fit as a mom on the go but I find making it a priority has been a challenge recently. As a result I’ve put on a few pounds. Who can relate? Don’t get me wrong, I think I still look healthy (and I feel great) but I need to adjust my eating habits and make time for exercise before I start feeling the effects. I did a little research and found a few healthy foods that will help reestablish healthy eating habits AND help burn belly fat.
Fats are needed in order to maintain a healthy diet. However, rather than running to grab some fast food (remember how we got here in the first place?) consider eating foods that help your body function more efficiently. Foods high in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are perfect for this because rather than forcing the body to store fat, they help it break down nutrients that keep you feeling full longer. In addition to avocados, foods like nuts and salmon are great examples of this.
You can’t go wrong with kale. It’s full of fiber and along with other leafy greens such as spinach, romaine and broccoli, can be added to a variety of recipes to increase the nutritional value.
Berries and grapes
Fruits such as grapes and various berries (ex. blueberries and strawberries) and cherries contain Anthocyanins which have been shown to help belly fat melt away. These fruits are also full of fiber! Pack a few small plastic baggies full of a variety of berries and store overnight so that they’re easily ready for when you’re on the go.
You’ve probably all heard about the wonders of almonds. Well believe it, it’s true. Eating a small handful a day will help you feel full for longer and help prevent giving into cravings for foods that are high in sugar.
Yogurts that are enriched with probiotics are great for gut health and help with weight loss. Eating a cup of yogurt is great but try incorporating it into meals by substituting it for sour cream or even mayo.
When I was pregnant I couldn’t get enough bread, far from being considered a weird craving, I just couldn’t stop eating it. Turns out it’s not all bad as long as folks choose whole grains that are full of fiber so that you feel full longer. Be sure to choose bread varieties that actually say whole grain so that you’re sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. Some packaging can get a little crafty and say wheat which isn’t exactly the same thing, whole grains aren’t processed the same way wheat it.
Another great source for fiber and also protein. While lean meats such as salmon, tuna or turkey are great for getting rid of fat, substituting meats with beans (or even legumes such as lentils) are a great alternative to your weekly diet. Once or twice a week is a great start.
Who hasn’t heard that this is a great way to start your day? Your mother probably made you eat this in the mornings before heading out the door, right? Growing up, this was a popular breakfast item at my house on the weekend. It’s fantastic not only because of all the fiber it contains but because it keeps you feeling full longer. If you’re a mom constantly on the move, avoid the instant oatmeal packets since they’re full of sugar and have far less fiber than the original stuff. Make your oatmeal the night before and store in the fridge overnight for a quick breakfast the next morning.
If achieving a flat tummy through exercise is your goal, it’s key to remember that a weak core can be attributed to diastasis recti which happens when the abdominal muscles that separated during pregnancy don’t come back together after giving birth. The good news is it doesn’t matter how long ago you gave birth, these muscles can still be trained and strengthened. Simply doing crunches doesn’t address the issue since they don’t optimize the muscles you need to strengthen. That’s why it’s key to start by retraining the transverse abdominis (it’s like an internal girdle that pulls everything together and closes the abdominal gap caused by diastasis recti) since strengthening these muscles will help you achieve a stronger core the right way.
There are a few easy exercises that you can do to help. You can do them while watching TV, while at your desk at the office or even when you have some quiet time early in the morning or later in the evening after your kids are asleep. How great is that?
Practice good posture
This is easy one that can be practiced anywhere. If sitting, sit up with your back straight so that your spin is in alignment from your head to your hips. Draw your shoulders down and relax. It feels a little awkward at first but you’re actually training your core muscles and over time the posture will become natural and more comfortable. When standing or walking do the same thing, as well as try to bring your hips into alignment by pushing them forward slightly. Years ago I went to a chiropractor for some back trouble and he showed me that I was standing with my belly out and my behind sticking out slightly (writing that down makes me sound like a duck or something). Anyway, most people stand this way but it’s easy to correct by bringing your hips forward and allowing a slight bend in your knees, this slight modification gently engages your core muscles.
In addition to improved posture, walking (or even running) is another easy and gentle way to tone your stomach. It’s also a full body workout if you walk at a quick steady pace. If you’re in an office all day, consider taking the steps to change things up a bit or go for a walk outside of the building at lunch time and incorporate hills if possible.
Use the plank position
This is a fantastic exercise to strengthen your core and there are numerous modifications to try to gradually build up your stamina or to intensify your workout. If there’s no time to run to the gym for a workout, try doing this during commercial breaks of your favourite shows. Get the kids involved, they’ll love a chance to try and beat mommy while they’re also learning healthy habits. You simply start by lying on the floor on your stomach. Contract your stomach muscles and squeeze the muscles in your rear end while you push up with your arms (you can also choose to rest on your forearms vs. your hands). You should look like you’re about to do a push up. Keep your core engaged and to ensure you’re in alignment make sure your behind isn’t too high or sinking too low. Pick a spot a few inches away from you on the floor to look at so that your neck is also in alignment and not strained. Hold for 30 seconds (about half the time of some commercials) and then release.
Try the knee ball squeeze
This is an exercise I started doing again after a recent yoga class. In the class we used blocks but you can just as easily use one of your child’s balls, like a basketball or soccer ball. Lie on your back with your knees raised and your feet flat on the ground. Place the ball between your knees, gently squeeze and lift your hips off the ground. To get the most out of this workout, engage your core (this exercise works your transverse abdominal muscles) and remember to breathe! Having the ball in place is great because it prevents you from collapsing your knees into each other and forces you to keep your core engaged so that you don’t drop the ball. Try 10 reps before taking a break.
Add squats for a great workout
When done correctly, squats are another fantastic way to help your retrain your core. You basically imagine you’re lowering yourself on a chair while engaging your core muscles. Keep your behind as low as you can and your knees over your ankles (you should be able to see your toes if you look down). Keep your hands in front of you for balance and hold for 30 seconds before releasing and repeating again. Try 10 reps to begin and slowly work your way up as your strength increases. An alternative is to incorporate a stability ball. Stand with your feet hip width apart and the ball between your back and the wall. Move up onto your tippy toes to start and then slowly lower down into a seated position while engaging your core.
Putting on a few extra pounds is always the fun part but losing it can be fun as well, it just takes a little work. I’ll be implementing the exercises above and adding in more nutritious foods to my diet to get rid of my mummy tummy, hopefully you’ll join me with your own journey