What You Need To Know About Baby Weight And Diastasis
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
She said "It's my fault for not losing the baby weight".
She thought her aching back and abdominal separation was her own fault because she didn’t lose the weight after having her third baby.
Recently I have had a few conversations with moms who were convinced that losing the “baby weight" will heal their diastasis and pelvic floor issues.
Hearing women blaming themselves for being in pain because they didn't lose the baby weight, when it really is about how their core muscles function, is not something I'm OK with.
Here's the truth.
A couple of extra kilo’s leftover from pregnancy aren’t causing your diastasis so losing them won't fix it.
Let me break it down for you.
A diastasis is not simply a squishy tummy with extra body fat on it.
Diastasis is a functional weakness of your core and pelvic floor muscles and how you load them.
You core is a pressurised system, so if you lack of control of that internal pressure, it will push out at the weakest points.
This might be the connective tissue down the middle of your abs (called the Linea Alba) or it might be on your pelvic floor causing leaking, unstable hips and lower back pain.
The Linea Alba is designed to stretch out while you are pregnant to make room for the baby, but if you don't relearn to create tension on it after you have had your baby, it remains limp and slack like a deflated balloon. This is what you can feel when you test for a diastasis and your fingers sink into your stomach.
(If you have a higher bodyfat percentage with a larger belly, it effects your ability to control your internal core pressure and activate your core muscles which can potentially impact your diastasis. )
The fact of the matter is that you can lose body fat without improving your diastasis or stopping leaking. I know lots of fitness instructors who look fit and strong but leak when they jump or sneeze.
It is also fully possible to heal your diastasis and tighten your stomach without ever changing the number on the scale. ( I have had clients lose weight while healing their diastasis, but it was a by-product of eating better and moving in the right ways rather than a push to lose weight.)
Losing weight (or body fat) and restoring function to your core and pelvic floor are two completely different goals and require different types of training to get the results you want.
I know there is a whole mommy bootcamp, get your pre-baby body back industry out there which is hard selling you on the idea that that the baby weight is the problem.
The messages telling you to “exercise more, tone up, do more ab work, get your body back into shape and you will be all better” are everywhere.
Hearing it often enough makes it is easy to believe it’s true.
If you have a squishy belly and you feel like your ab muscles have gone on holiday without you, “losing weight and toning your stomach” isn’t what your body needs to feel better.
In fact, lots of moms make their diastasis and leaking worse by doing sit-ups, planks and crunches attempting to tone up their stomachs before their core and pelvic floor are ready to handle them.
If you still look and feel 5 months pregnant and like your stomach muscles are disconnected from your body, your first step needs to be reconnecting to and regaining control of your core muscles.
One of the first things I teach the my clients is to reconnect with their transverse abdominals.
The transverse abdominal or TA's are the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles and the function like a corset giving you core stability.
As you can see, they start at your pubic bone and continue all the way up to your breast bone.
Their job is to help create tension on the Linea Alba by stretching it sideways giving it tautness, like a trampoline.
The fibres in the muscle run side to side, not up and down so they contact in this direction which is why sit ups don't help strengthen your TA's.h
If your TA's aren't working when your brain asks them to, then your first step needs to be to reconnect the "wifi signal" to them.
This is more mental than physical work.
I often tell the moms I work with that it's like trying to lift just their little toe up without moving the other toes.
If you haven't made those mental connections in your brain, then it's really hard to do. Try it yourself and see.
The more you tune in and reconnect with your muscles the easier it becomes to get them to show up to work when you need them to create stability and ease your hip and back pain.
Here's how to start getting back in touch with your TA muscles.
Once you are in touch with your core and pelvic floor muscles and can feel them firing, you need to learn how to load and strengthen your core properly.
It’s like when my son was learning to walk.
He started by pulling himself up and “cruising” along the furniture for balance and support.
With each wobbly step, he learnt to coordinate and control his muscles.
Once he felt he had his balance, he ready to load his body fully by taking those first few unsupported steps before plopping down on his butt.
It’s the same with healing a diastasis or your pelvic floor.
There is a definite process that you need to follow in order to see the results you want.
Nobody can go straight from crawling to running.
You need a systematic approach (and a coach who will help you avoid plopping down on your butt too often.)
Just focusing on weight loss won’t do this for you.
All those traditional gym exercises for your core aren't where you need to start.
You need to go back to the beginning and make sure your muscles are showing up to do their jobs before you get back into an exercise class, dancing, running or lifting heavy weights.
Also read: How and why to reset your breathing after having a baby
Skipping the work to heal your core and pelvic floor is like driving around with a flat tire. Eventually something is going to break and damage your car.
Taking the time to rebuild your foundation will help you avoid injury later down the line.
Once your core and pelvic floor muscles are functioning and your diastasis can handle the load, then you can turn your attention to losing weight if that's your goal.
Here's the takeaway message:
Don't be hard on yourself for being in pain and not pushing yourself hard enough to lose the baby weight.
Your diastasis is a complex puzzle about how your muscles fire and function, not a fat loss problem.
It's like trying to put in screw with a hammer -You've been using the wrong tool.