One of my pet peeves is when people tell c-section moms that it is impossible to have a flat stomach again. It’s not. It’s harder. It’s harder for any mom to have a flat stomach again. Our bodies go through so many changes! But it isn’t impossible. Granted, I still have some loose skin but I feel like my belly is pretty flat and fabulous. However even when I got past the belly fat (which is what most people are referring to when they say you can’t have a flat stomach. Yes, you can – but not at 35+% body fat. haha).
I wasn’t fit pre-pregnancy. Not even close. I do, however, have a naturally small frame and I am an apple shape. So I got pregnant, and I was still as inactive as before, if not more. I had just switched from my job in the chemistry lab to a job in regulatory so I was sitting instead of standing.
I gained 50 lbs while I was pregnant. Which is a lot for someone of my build. My belly button was herniated a bit and my abs were totally separated. All of my weight gain was in my belly (both baby and all the fat I put on). So people always said “oh, you’re all belly! You’ll bounce right back.” No.
I’m not a ball, ain’t no bouncing. I aint no rubber band either, ain’t no snapback. And that’s ok.
Anywho, It was awhile postpartum before I started on my fitness journey. LB was born via unscheduled C-Section and I knew my abs were weak. My core had never been incredibly strong but even like 12 weeks after giving birth I felt like I couldn’t sit up in bed. I had to roll to the side to get up. That was the first time I looked into diastasis recti. I did the test (we will discuss this earlier) and my gap was 4 finger widths apart. I assumed it would close with time and kept pushing.
When I finally started my first beachbody program (t25) the weakness was undeniable. I couldn’t do any of the core work basically. I strengthened my core over time but things felt different. I noticed than when I went to ‘crunch up’ (laying flat on the floor with my knees up and crunching) my belly made this tent shape. It wasn’t flat. The center protruded out. But I didn’t think much of it.
I lost a ton of weight by the time I was about 1.5 years pp and I loved how I looked. However, I noticed in my pics that even at such a low low weight (I was probably about 13% body fat in the pic on the left) my belly popped out. Like a newly pregnant fit mom or something. Observe the difference, I weigh more on the right but that is AFTER I got the gap closed. Don’t let the lighting fool you – I had that skin in both pics.
At this point I was starting to lift a lot heavier too and was having trouble squatting more weight. My legs or glutes never gave up, always my core. I used to say “my back broke”. I would get down and just not be able to support my mid section and fall over (well, drop the weights on the safety catch. Don’t worry, I’m cool yal).
That is when I went back to google. I did the test again, and my gap was still there! I was at about 2.5 finger widths. which explained why when I still had the ‘cone/tent’ shape when I did core work. Gosh I wish I had a pic of this! I can’t even make my core do this weird shape thing anymore now that the gap is closed.
Ok, so what is the test? You lay back flat on your back and crunch up. With your fingertips, feel around (I always did near my belly button, above and below) and find the ‘edges’ of your ab muscles. How far are they apart? I measure in finger widths. Like I lay my fingers flat on my belly (vertically) and see how many I need to reach from edge to edge. My gap was 4 fingers around 12 weeks post, and a bit over 2 fingers when I noticed the issues I was having about 1.5 years postpartum.
I took to pinterest and google and found tons of tips for help. I knew I wasn’t gonna go to a physical therapist unless I absolutely had to. And most doctors aren’t really concerned that you can’t squat 200 lbs – so they weren’t going to try to help me anyway.
I’m not a doctor or therapist. My degree is in chemistry, and I am a coach that helps people change their lifestyle. But, here is what worked for me.
First – I ignored all the suggestions that I wear a belly binder after having my c-section. I wore it for about 3 weeks then quit. At this point (over a year post), I started sleeping in it for about a week. I can not tell you if that helped whatsoever and the scientist in me says it was probably all mental.
Second, I stopped doing crunches and planks and intense core work. On days when I had core work on my calendar, I did these simple moves. I didn’t do a video because honestly there isn’t a lot of movement involved.
- This one is the easiest and can be done anywhere. Stand (or sit). Engage your abs. use them like a girdle to pull your midsection in tight. Think of this as a kegal for your core. Hold it, then release. The rest of these will be actual “can’t do just anywhere” exercises haha.
- The second is similar to the first, however you do this while in ‘table’ position. Get on all fours and relax your core. Slowly use your abs to draw your muscles in tight, pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold. In the beginning, I couldn’t hold this more than 5 seconds. I was sweatin yal! It was crazy.
3. This third one is simple and welcomed. Cat/Cow. After doing #2, this will feel AWESOME. Make sure to keep your abs engaged while you do this.
4. Next we take it up a level. Similar to #2, you start on all fours. Draw your core in and then extend one arm (still touching the floor). Find your balance and lift and lower that arm. Do 10 reps on each side, then repeat.
5. This one is very similar to #4, but do it with your legs instead of your arms. When I first added this move to my routine, I would sit my knee down back to table top after lifting instead of just going up/down. That made it a bit easier until I was ready to do the full movement.
6. This one is a combination of 4 and 5. Use opposite arm/leg and lift and lower at the same time. If this one is too hard starting out, that’s fine. I built up to this one over time. The focus on this isn’t the actual movement but keeping your abs engaged and your core tight like a human corset the entire time.
7. I modified this move from a t25 workout that I couldn’t do, and found that attempting could be bad until my gap closed. I did this one after a few weeks of the others. This is a modified “V hold”. You just do one leg at a time, lift and lower – or lift and hold. You can modify the height of your leg to make it easier or harder. Holding with your leg all the way up is easier than with it half way up. Focus on your coreeeeeeee. I literally can’t say this enough.
8. Really similar to # 7, but laying down. When you do this – keep an eye on your belly. If you get that cone/tent look – you’re doing it wrong or you aren’t strong enough in the core for this move yet. That’s ok! You’ll get there.
I still do all of these from time to time. One thing I noticed is once my gap closed up (I’m less than 1 finger width now) – I still occasionally got the cone/tent shape if I wasn’t focused on my core. I am assuming that from where my abs were separated and the center of them wasn’t required to do much work, they were weaker or less used to being engaged. It took some focus at first to ‘remember’ to hold that part in too.
Now it’s natural and I can’t get the cone/tent shape anymore. I know because I tried so I could take a pic for yal LOL.
In conclusion – avoid letting your belly get that cone/tent shape at all costs. Don’t do crunches/planks/sit ups – those will make the condition worse. I found the stronger my abs got with the gap still there – the more the center protruded out.
Lastly – if you’re reading this and then go do the test and don’t have diastasis recti but still have a little mommy gut – it’s cool. If it’s just fat, that’s a good thing. Fat is easier to lose than closing that gap.
Hope this helps! If you need help or tips, feel free to email me. Tarra.Yvette@gmail.com ❤