The Mummy Tummy

Well, here I am. I haven’t actually posted on my blog for about a year. But for those of you loyal followers on my Instagram and Facebook accounts, you’ll know that I made a promise last week, and I am sticking to it. And I’m not just taking the easy route. I could have posted a quick little paragraph on Facebook about this but I owe my loyal followers a true step by step so here it goes. I have also talked about this topic before ( here and here) but I wanted to put it out there in more detail today. Especially the exercise part.

Recently, I went to Hawaii on a family vacay. I decided to post pics of myself in a different bathing suit every day, and the comments I got made my heart all warm and fuzzy. Because if you have twins, unless you are part of the 1% whose stomach still looks the way it did BEFORE you got pregnant, you know that wearing a bathing suit after having twins takes guts (and in many cases, never happens). And this is not just after twins. Experts say that every baby after the first will exponentially INCREASE your chances of developing a mummy tummy. So what am I exactly referring to when I say mummy tummy? You know. And if you don’t know, you should stop reading this post right now and go buy a midriff baring top for the spring.

I’ll get right down to it. The first thing I did when I found out I was having twins was I started researching how to prevent a diastasis. A WHAT? Well, the amount of googling and reading I did surpasses anything I can cover in a simple blog post so if you want to get into the nitty gritty anatomical details, you can google “diastasis rectii” and you will find there is an overwhelming amount of info out there on it. But if you trust my oversimplified version, I will break it down in simple terms. It is a separation of your abdominal muscles, right down the centre of your six pack. This can happen in men and women and is caused by many things but THE MOST COMMON is pregnancy. Your belly simply protrudes out so far that coupled with the muscle laxity that is caused by pregnancy hormones, the midline muscles on either side of your six pack split. Once your tummy goes back to its original size, that split remains, and causes a pooch. Picture a pea pod. Once you split it open to take the peas out, it loses it’s shape. You can easily bend it and create a “pooch”. Unless you tape that seam back together, you’ll never have a nice stable pea pod again.

If I could do it over, I would start YEARS before I ever got pregnant, and ensure that all my ab muscles were solid. A very strong core will resist the split EVEN if you are having twins. Although I consider myself fairly fit, my core certainly wasn’t rock solid.

I would also add Vitamin C supplements to my supplement regimen. I’ll talk more about that another day, but Vitamin C (in the right dose), helps your body build collagen. You know what that means? Strong skin. You know what that means? Less likelihood of developing twin skin. Ah yes, twin skin. The not so distant cousin of the mummy tummy. The skin that gets stretched out so far, that it can never really bounce back. It loses it’s elasticity and you’re left feeling like a deflated balloon. Anyways, I digress.

So. Now you know what causes the mummy tummy. Do you also know, that if you never knew you had one, you may actually be making it worse? If you have a diastasis and do regular ab exercises, you are probably making it worse. Imagine that empty pea pod again. Imagine it as a person with a head on one end and legs on the other, and now imagine it doing sit ups. What is happening to that split? It is the WORST thing you can do! So, many woman have this little pooch and they tell themselves that diet and exercise will get rid of it, but it never does and then they get discouraged and do MORE ab exercises, and it’s a vicious cycle. So here are the THREE things you need to do if you have a mummy tummy, and NO IT’S NOT TOO LATE!!!! Yes I knew what to look for post delivery so I started these things right away but I have read over and over that it’s never too late. So start NOW. Like, right now.

1.Check yourself to see if you really do have a diastasis (f you don’t, I’m sorry I have nothing in this post that will help you)

2.Start the horizontal elevator exercise (also called the belly scoop in some circles) and start increasing your abdominal muscle engagement in your daily activities and STOP doing any traditional ab exercise that will cause that split to get worse.

3.Get yourself a belly binder (it’s important to really have a good handle on everything in number 2 BEFORE you start wearing the belly binder. You don’t want to rely on it to keep your abs engaged. Train your abs first, and when it becomes a habit-usually about 3 weeks, THEN start the belly binder)

How do you check for a diastasis? I’m sure if you google it and watch a you tube video there will be subtle differences, but basically, lie down, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, take 2-3 fingers of one hand and place them right above your belly button, facing down toward your toes. Relax your tummy and then lift your head off the ground a few inches until your feel the edges of your ab muscles tighten up and dig your fingers into your belly to see if there is a space between the ridge. If you can fit 2 fingers in there. You have a diastasis. 2 fingers is a small separation. 4 or more would be considered quite large. Some women who have had many kids and never corrected it can stick their whole hand in there. Mine was about 3.5 fingers.

Once you have determined that you have this, you should feel happy. You know why? Because now you can do something about it! YAY!

While you are sitting there, mesmerized about the fact that you have this and didn’t know it, and thinking about all the years you have lost not being able to do something about it, you may as well practice the exercise I’m about to tell you. I had a c section and literally started this exercise the day I got home from the hospital, so if I did it, so can you. You can do it sitting up or laying down, you can do it while you’re driving or watching a movie. No one will know you are doing it (kind of like kegels!).

Picture that your belly button is a horizontal elevator. You want to pull your bellybutton, slowly, all the way back towards your spine. Imagine there are 6 floors between your bellybutton and spine and you slowly stop at each one. Once you get to your spine (floor 6) hold for a couple seconds, and release back (also slowly) to starting position. Thats it. How freaking easy is that? It’s like the easiest exercise you will ever do. Now, the trick is, you actually have to do alot of these, and you have to do them every day. I started with  25 every night while I lay in bed, in my c-section recovery misery, with what can only be described as 2 small creatures snorting and grunting in a bassinet beside me. I slowly moved to 100. This is an exercise that puts out what you put in. Do not skimp on it. You don’t have to do 100, you could start with 30. Then go up by 10. I would aim to do 3-4 sets a day of between 50-100. While we are on the topic of abs, start being conscious of how engaged your core is. Right now, are you sitting with your back slouched and your gut hanging out? Actively engaging your core throughout the day will ensure you are using those deep abdominal muscles and not making your problem worse. Check yourself when you’re driving, talking on the phone, watching tv, even lifting your babe or bringing in the groceries. Don’t let your gut hang out! A belly binder will help with this but until you get one, you need to start engaging that core. Think “sucking in”.

And finally, get yourself a belly binder. You’ve probably heard all the rage about belly binding. Kim Kardashian does it. Brooke Burke did it. Who cares about them. Guess what? If you’re East Indian, like me, it’s in your blood to do it. My mom told me that in India, women used to wrap saree fabric tightly around their bellies right after their babies were born and wear day and night for MONTHS. If you think about the science behind this, go back to the pea pod and imagine wrapping a little band aid or splint around it to pull the seam back together. Essentially that is what belly binding does. Since I had a c section, my skin was simply too tender to wear a belly binder for a few months, but I put that sucker on as soon as I could start. And I wore it. Twenty Four. Seven. Only to be taken off for showering. I did this for about 3 or 4 months.

Which belly binder to buy? Ah the million dollar question. The “Squeem” is the one that I ordered based on all the research I had done ahead of time. No one is paying me to talk about it (but hey if you guys are reading this, pony up!). It’s a hook up, corset style binder that comes in different styles and colours. The inside has a rubber lining that keeps the binder in place and prevents it from rolling up or slipping. It feels extremely supportive and really does it’s job. They say to order it in the size you are pre pregnancy, so of course it took me awhile before I could squeeze myself into it (it was discouraging, I almost set it on fire a few times). Until then, I used the various other ones on the market that have more of a one size fits all approach. They tend to be more like wraps, with velcro or buttons to attach it. I found the squeem to be like a second skin, you can literally wear a t shirt under it and still feel good. I’ve never worn spanx but I imagine that’s kind of what it’s like.

So, thats it! That is how I lost my mummy tummy! My pooch! I wish I had taken before and after pictures but here’s the honest to god truth. When I finally got through that initial “new mom of twins” fog and looked at myself in the mirror after a month post delivery, I cried. I didn’t think that there was anything I could ever do, besides surgery, to fix this. It was THAT bad. It was so bad that I didn’t want to take a picture because I thought that is how it would always look. I had heard the success stories about the binding and the exercising but I just didn’t think I could do it. I also had twin skin which added to the problem. And, I still do, but that seems to have gotten better with time. Getting rid of the pooch helped, and I know stretched skin will never bounce back (hashtag this is 40!), but I don’t care about that as much. Unless I choose surgery to stretch that skin out, I have to live with it, so that’s what I’m doing. I do believe the belly binding helped the elasticity of my skin as I used to slather on BioOil or Strivectin or whatever “miracle” lotion I had on hand, BEFORE I put on my binder every day. So maybe that helped. Staying hydrated and taking copious amounts of vitamin C now seems to have helped a bit as well. Or maybe it’s all in my head. But I don’t care, because all that matters is that I feel good. And I do.

And I want you to feel good too. When you look good, you feel good. You just do. I truly hope that this post has helped someone. It worked for me, and I know it can work for you too.

Do you have a mummy tummy? Are you going to try this? Are you going to keep me posted? Are you someone who used these tips already to get rid of your mom pooch? I wanna hear from you! Let’s support and encourage each other!