When I was around 20 years old, a man came up to me in a nightclub and asked me how I got such a flat belly, his wife didn’t have one anymore!
At the time I was rather proudly sporting a flat tummy and slight six pack, neatly presented in a figure hugging hot pink dress that would have shown all lumps and bumps. Of course, disregarding the obvious retort of “you shouldn’t be so cheeky about your wife, you’re not looking so hot yourself you know!” I promptly replied about my gym loving, ab crunching lifestyle.
Course what I now realise is the secret to my flat tummy was youth!
Despite binge drinking, take away loving and late night partying, I could still rock up to the gym and do a few gym ball exercises and a spot on the treadmill and my metabolism would forgive me.
Fast forward another decade and I had my son. I think I put on about 2.5 stone (though never actually been a fan of the scales so didn’t really weigh this properly) I expect the sudden love for mars bars didn’t help the weight gain but I kind of expected my pre child days to spring my body back.
I’d been doing Pilates by then for about 8 years and it was a life saver when it came to back pain through my pregnancy and got me delivering Dylan with some impressive pelvic floor pushing. 8 weeks after I had him I thought it was time to get serious about getting into shape again so the food plans started, the exercise was upped and the workout at home with baby Pilates happened. I was really excited at the thought of my flat belly returning.
One day when getting dressed, I noticed a line on my tummy that hadn’t been there before. Shock horror it was my “mummy tummy.” The leftovers from the sagging skin, dropping belly that once so hugely held my son inside. This now rather depressing sight drooped over my lower belly like some sad reminder of my old days passed!
Now I know some of you will be thinking that these lines, stretch marks and flabby bits are a love reminders of the wonder that is pregnancy and the memento of your child arriving into this world. But me, I just wanted my old flat belly back! I love my child, but going from luscious locks, perky boobs, healthy skin and a flat toned body, into a sad sack tummy, spotty flaky sallow skin, empty booby sacks and hair that refused to grow except in random places making me look like a devil. This was not good.
It took about a year before I started feeling like me again properly. The boobs changed so many times I couldn’t keep up with repeat bra changes, the stretch marks faded (annoyingly I forgot to use Bio Oil on my boobs so this was the only place i got them) the hair grew back, my skin perked up but my tummy has never quite been the same.
A more desperate woman would have gone crazy with the ab crunches in a quest to squash the mummy tummy, and probably would have choked on her tea reading this when I say it was a year before I started feeling myself again. I know these celeb mags are always proudly pointing out the ladies back into the bikini after 3 weeks from giving birth, but it’s unrealistic for most of us.
My secret weapon to feeling me again in the tummy department are the pelvic floor muscles. When you activate your pelvic floor, you co-connect with your deep abdominals called your transversus, or what I like to call your “super iron”. This is a wrapping muscle that goes around from front to back, giving you pelvic and lower back stability but the really great news for us mummy tummy phobics, it’s wraps and flattens your tum! Doing proper Pilates exercises with mindful awareness to this pelvic floor/transversus connection makes a podgy saggy mummy tummy, lift and flatten away like the best flattest, crinkle free ironing service.
No matter how hard you try to “crunch” away your belly, you will only make it worse and possible lead to abdominal separation if you do that too soon without building a good foundation inside.
Have I got the perfect belly? No not by a long shot. Since having a child, it’s never ever been the same. BUT I am never going to be wearing a crop top in public again, I prefer tankinis over bikinis and the only people who see me naked are me, my husband and my child. So I’ve learnt to live with that accept it. But after trying a pair of ‘hold me in belly’ Spanx and finding that I can hold my mummy tummy better myself AND more comfortably without feeling like my insides have been choked.
I am now ditching the Spanx for more “ironing!”
P.S- Guys if you’re reading this over her shoulder, the same secret goes to you. get “ironing” if you want to improve your beer belly!
Written by Michelle Smith
Director, The Pilates Pod. Mummy to Dylan age 4yrs old.