Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Reflections - How I Gained Eight Pounds & Stopped doing Crunches but Lost my Big Belly - Diastasis Recti Awareness

I have three sweet, wonderful, beautiful children.

Which means I went through three sweet, wonderful, beautiful pregnancies.

Ha, ha, ha. Not exactly. Not at all.

Don't get me wrong. I loved being pregnant. It is a magical thing. People can't help but smile at you when you walk by. Everyone wants to talk to you. Its kind of like being a celebrity.  A big round pregnant belly stealing the show every time. Apparently I like attention. Or at least my belly likes attention. Positive attention.

My body bounced back quite well after the first two pregnancies. However, I did slowly gain weight after baby number 2 so that I started out pregnancy #3 with 15 extra pounds. But they were pretty evenly distributed. My body really hadn't changed that much. It just had an extra layer of pudge on it.

Wow - then baby #3 happened.

And my body was not HAPPY about it. The ligaments in my abs gave out 3 months into the pregnancy. I was barely showing and they already couldn't seem to support the weight of my little peanut. It was quite painful and uncomfortable.

After baby #3 was born I was pretty round everywhere so I didn't notice my new belly problem at first. But as I started losing more and more weight I started noticing something unusual and upsetting..............I kept losing weight but my belly seemed like it was getting bigger.

What the BEEP was going on.

It got to the point in June, when I was about 15 pounds lighter than I had ever been in my life, that I looked like I was about 4 or 5 months pregnant. I looked terrible. I was so thin that people were concerned and asking me "is everything okay honey". And yet, my belly was protruding way out front.

Well, I figured out the two things that were causing my big belly problem:

1) Diastasis Recti - a separation of the abdominal muscles into the right and left hand sides. When this happens the muscles get really weak and the digestive organs just come pushing forward (especially if your bloated); and

2) The Chicory Root I had been drinking as a coffee replacement on the Candida diet was poisoning my system. Causing major bloating.

If you are over 35 and have had multiple pregnancies, there is a good chance you might have diastasis recti too. And if you are like me you might not have ever heard of it.........or thought it didn't apply to you.

If the lack of a flat stomach is DRIVING YOU CRAZY you probably think you just need to do more,  and more,  and more Crunches. Because that has to help flatten your stomach. Right?

WRONG. STOP. DON'T DO IT.

That was where I went wrong. As I lost weight my belly kept getting bigger because I was doing a gazillion crunches. Which was just making my problem worse. Traditional crunches just exasperate the problem.

When I first got checked, my muscle separation was between 2 and 3 fingers wide. [You can check this by lying flat on your back and lifting your head off the ground. Feel around by your belly button for the ridge of your muscles and see how many fingers you can fit between the separation.]

Now I can squeeze my pinkie (really hard) between the two muscles. Yay!

I stopped doing crunchies (as my 4 year old likes to call them) and I started doing contractions to isolate, tone and strengthen the transverse abdominis.

You can find lots of samples of exercises online. I'm not going to describe the exercise I do as I don't think I can explain it properly. And I just did this post to raise awareness about this issue. To guide you away from crunches and towards some exercises that will strengthen your core, not make it come spilling out. But you gotta do your own research. Because I wish someone had tapped me on the shoulder or yelled really loud in my ear "STOP THE CRUNCHIES MAMA - they are making you look fat".

I started my transverse abdominal exercises at the beginning of July and I did them daily on a pretty consistent basis over the summer.  At first they are hard to engage but as they strengthen it becomes second nature to find them. Now I try and contract them while I'm riding the bus, driving to work or sitting in the steam room. Or blogging. Us mama's gotta multi-task.

The result: it worked. Within weeks my muscle separation was getting smaller and smaller.

And by the end of summer, in combinations with some diet changes, it was like someone deflated a balloon in my belly.

Will it ever be a flat as it was before I had baby #3. No. Do I still get bloated some days and look pregnant. Yes.

However,  someone this week said "I'm just admiring your stomach - how is that possible after three kids - how many crunches do you do?".

None honey. Not a one.

I eat clean. I exercise. And I don't do crunches.

I've actually gained weight but I look better. And I feel better.  So hows that for going against conventional wisdom.............

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