One of the most common questions I get asked by women is, “how do I get a flat tummy?”.
There is no 1 single solution to this. There are a number of factors that can lead to having a “Mummy Tummy”. So lets cover the 5 main ones that you need to look at and address.
1. Excess Body Fat
The ideal healthy body fat % for women is 25 – 31%, which is a bit meaningless when it is difficult for the average person to easily and accurately measure their body %. But most people know if they are carrying excess fat.
Reduce your body fat by modifying changing your diet and activity levels to create a calorie deficit i.e. more calories going out than in.
2. Poor Deep Core Condition
A key part of your tummy or abdomen area is the deep core. These include the transverse Abdominis (TA), Pelvic Floor (PF) and multifidus (small muscle in the back). The TA in particular will help to give you a flat tummy when it’s being engaged correctly and has been strengthened and conditioned for its endurance type role as a support and posture facilitator. If you have a significant Diastasis Rectii you will need to have this addressed, to get a flat tummy.
Learn to reconnect with your deep core muscles and how to co-ordinate the with the breath and with movement. With time and training this will be become autonomous, but for most women, it will be conscious in the beginning. Seeing a women’s health physio can help you reconnect where you are unfamiliar with these muscles or a PT trained in the pelvic floor and core recruitment and conditioning.
3. Correct Posture
If you have a pelvis that tips forward at the top (anterior tilt), a back with an exaggerated lumbar curve or even rounded shoulders, your tummy can protrude more than it should. All of these posture concerns will of course impact or create other problems. An anterior tilted pelvis may also have implications on your ability to effectively engage your pelvic floor and core muscles, leading to Core dysfunction issues. The position of your pelvis may also be the cause of lower back pain.
Check your natural posture in the mirror look for these areas of concern. If you find any areas of concern, have someone like a PT or perhaps a physio help you check your posture and give you a plan to correct it.
4. Diet & Food Sensitivities
For some people a hinderance to a flat tummy is less structural and more to do with their diet and bodily responses. There may be certain foods which cause bloating in the abdomen. It is worth taking notice of what you eat and when the bloating occurs.
Try avoiding or replacing trigger foods. Seeing a trained health professional is advisable when making any changes to your diet.
Hormones can create a number changes in the body, whether its part of your menstrual cycle or part of menopause. Hormones can change where fat is stored, change how your body reacts to foods or cause increased water retention. All of which can have an impact on your ability to get and maintain a flat tummy.
Generally there is not much to be done. If you are already addressing the first 4 areas above or eliminated them, then this item is likely something you will need to be aware of and adjust to. As long as you diet and activity levels support a healthy body fat composition, you do not have any hormonal health issues that are not being managed by a health professional, you will need to make allowances for this issue. Perhaps watch how much you eat, when you eat and what you eat at certain times in your menstrual cycle. Then cut yourself some slack 😉