1. Avoid the Bloat
—Try to limit carbonated beverages, eat more slowly and chew your food to almost liquefied. Also avoid drinking through straws and chewing gum. All of these will make you suck in more air that will eventually lead to gas buildup and bloat. Foods that you are intolerant to (possibly dairy, wheat, nuts, etc.) and artificial sweeteners can also contribute to unnecessary stomach discomfort or inflammation and add to a thicker midsection.
2. Stand & Deliver
—Slouching over with rounded shoulders will always make your belly look bunched around your waistline let alone cause back/neck pain and zap you of your precious energy. Every degree your posture goes forward creates twice the amount of pressure on the low back. Elongate the chest/shoulders (anterior muscles) with doorway stretches and strengthen the trapezius/rhomboids (upper back/posterior muscles) with tubing/cable pulling movements. Also, avoid excessive exposure to computer glazing and carrying heavy pocketbooks, which can also pull your head and shoulders forward.
3. Use your internal weight belt
—The deep abdominal muscles (Transverse abdominis/obliques) help stabilize your core and spine acting as your internal corset. By performing vacuum-type exercises, you can naturally pull your tummy inward. Excessive crunches will only lead to dysfunction and a distended belly. Try this: Put a belt around your waist so it is fairly tight. Then suck in your belly so the belt is loose and retighten the belt….keep tightening the belt and sucking in your belly to help strengthen and train your deep abdominal muscles to give you a slimmer look.
4. Don’t skip the good stuff
—Meals that is. Approach your daily eating like an upside down triangle (most calories earlier in the day and less at night) where the breakfast like a “queen” would hold true. Your first meal should consist of high quality, calorie dense macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats). A nursing mother needs approximately 300 extra calories in addition to her normal daily intake to supply the energy/nutrient demands. If a woman eats less than 1200 calories per day, her metabolism will respond as “starvation mode” and hold onto the extra fat for her built-in survival mechanism. Also, a multi-vitamin will only benefit a woman to the degree that her nutrition is intact. If you eat highly processed and “ill” food, then this is what you will become: vertically ill and undernourished. You deserve more than this and so does your newborn. The nutrient/antioxidant dense foods consist of: hormone/antibiotic free lean proteins and grass-fed beef, organic fruits/green leafy veggies, nuts/seeds/legumes, whole grain/sprouted products that give you more bang for the buck and will provide sustained energy without the blood sugar spikes.
5. Let there be resistance
—In the form of weight training. Women slowly trust the benefits of weights and realize that they will not make them look bulky and broad. Compound/Multi-joint exercises will help burn more calories, recruit more muscle fibers for assistance, demand core stability for enhanced function and also add more variety in your workouts to prevent boredom/burnout. A good portion of these exercises uses only bodyweight while standing and require little to no equipment (squats, lunges, dips, push-ups, pull-ups, step-ups, stair climbs, planks, etc.). You can also mix other fun and “functional” equipment into your routine (dumbbells, medicine/swiss balls, rubber tubing, etc). Muscle requires more energy so you end up expending more calories in the long run. Although it is known that muscle weighs more than fat, it is also known that it is denser and takes up less space. You will weigh more on the scale but your clothes will fit better. Optimally, a woman should perform 3-4 days of weight training per week to receive the best results (either 3 total body workouts or 2 upper body/2 lower body workouts).
6. It’s all about the water
—and this is exactly what we are designed to drink. Your body is almost 75% water and every bodily process requires water to be present. You must realize that the more you take in, the more you will eliminate. You should consume approximately half our bodyweight in ounces daily and depending on other factors (age, humidity, temperature, and nursing demands) and if exercise is included, you may need additional intake of water if necessary. You should not only rely on thirst as an indicator but can use the urine test (dark yellow and strong smell require more fluid) to determine if you need additional intake. Water is excreted in 3 different ways from the body: respiration (breathing), perspiration (sweating), and urination. All these processes will ultimately eliminate toxins and other foreign substances that can backfire as far as your skin’s appearance and viscosity. To keep it simple, if you are not properly hydrated with fluids, you will become fatigued and appear to look more bloated since your body will try to hold onto whatever water you have as a survival mechanism. This is not only dangerous for your health but not a condition you want to experience.
7. It’s well beyond Cardio
—The term “cardio” just refers to the fact that your heart is working. Unfortunately this term is misused and misunderstood. Yes, you will burn calories while doing the common aerobic exercises and you may burn more calories from fat. More importantly, you will get more bangs for your buck by incorporating “high-intensity/anaerobic” short burst intervals in your repertoire rather than “steady state” long duration aerobic sessions. The best part is that you will have more total calorie expenditure and complete your workout in a shorter time period. Ultimately, this will shed more adipose tissue (fat), reduce your overall body fat composition and give you the flat/lean midsection you’ve dreamed about.
8. Choose higher dominant “ab” sports/hobbies
—As far as incorporating more activities where you recruit more abdominal muscles and optimally use them in the way they are designed to be used. If you are so lucky to have a natural birth with minimal scarring/trauma, you will need to progress to the more “explosive” activities in your regimen. The abdominals are designed to stabilize the spine and respond for both endurance and strength demands. Most movements initiate in the core (deep abdominals/spinal muscles) and you will need to develop sufficient stability/strength to take the load off the low back, something that supported weight during pregnancy. Once you have an adequate strength base (with the help of a trained fitness professional) you can progress and incorporate your favorite activities that address rotational movements in a three planes (sagittal-bending forward/back, frontal-bending side-to-side, transverse-twisting). Some of these activities include: Boxing, Martial Arts, Swimming, Racquet sports, and Dancing, Eventually you will function better at your given activity and your midsection will become flatter and more sculpted.
9. Work “in”
—means focusing on working from the inside out. Develop your inner being by incorporating various disciplines of Yoga, Pilates, Chi Kung, Tai Chi, and Meditation. These are examples of more “Yin” exercises rather than the typical “Yang” exercises you are more familiar with and previously mentioned. This will ultimately mold you into a more balanced individual so you can cope will the stresses of motherhood and cherish the must-needed “quite time.” Also, most of these activities burn calories, require deep breathing for increased abdominal control, but obtain the key components for recovery and repair. Remember, your muscles grow and repair during sleep and these specific rest periods. Without this required phase of repair, your hormonal systems will be over-taxed and will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue, weight gain, and energy deprivation. More women need to make this a priority in their daily routine to avoid the disasters of bodily shutdown.
10. “Green your Routine”
—You deserve it to yourself, your children and the planet to be more “Eco-conscious” in your approach to health and fitness. You are in a way training to sustain optimally via the world in health. You and your child can work together in harmony to improve your health, and help preserve the planet with a unique balance. It is the little things that can eventually add up and have compounding effects and results. You can take a “Mommy & Me” class, or enter a stroller walking class to burn extra calories while bonding with your child in nature (a win-win connection). Park further away in the shopping centers, take the stairs when possible instead of elevators, and take a walk or bike ride into town rather than driving and overall you and planet will benefit. Recycle to the fullest, start an organic garden or compost pile, and walk the dog (your dog needs exercise too) which still involves physical effort to keep you moving. Every mother knows their time is limited but in the end they can all make a difference in their family’s lives and the planet as well. Try your best to eat local organic foods that support the local farmers and reduce the extra expenses of travel and also minimize your exposure to pesticides. Again, by performing bodyweight exercises in the presence of nature will eliminate the need for costly equipment and make you a happier and healthier person in the long run. Explore your local parks/reservations to familiarize yourself with hiking trails and take the kids along as well so they can know what it is like to bond with nature. Breathe the fresh air, appreciate the sun’s love and watch yourself glow and with proper attention your belly will look the best it ever has!
by Frank Villani
C.H.E.K. Holistic Lifestyle Coach
N.S.C.A Professional Fitness Expert
Maximum Fitness magazine contributor
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