3 (Non-Fat) Reasons You Might Have A Big Tum

This post will cover three reasons someone might have a disproportionally bloated / big belly, even though they are not overweight.

   So sorry about the radio silence. Life has had rather big ups and downs, and I needed time off to deal with them. I couldn't bring myself to churn out content when my heart wasn't in it.

   So, today I wanted to talk about "fat" bellies, that aren't actually fat. A lot of people attack their abdominal regions with crunches (or simply hatred), when very often the problem is a different one.

Food Intolerance

     If you wake up with a flatter belly but bloat over the day, or if your belly seems to change size from day to day, your body might have trouble digesting some kinds of food. Basically, your digestive lacks the chemicals to digest certain parts of the food, and so it lands up undigested in the intestine, and there certain bacteria cause the bloating. And gasses. Other symptoms may include skin problems (I know several people whose acne or dermatitis cleared up after they quit diary or gluten), sluggishness and lack of energy, constipation, headache and even mood swings.
    I realised that something wasn't right when I noticed instant bloat after eating yoghurts. When I ate a cheese raclette and new year's eve, I looked more pregnant than my then 7-month-pregnant friend. I decided that I was lactose intolerant, but was confused that lactose-free milk caused bloating too. So I got myself tested (a quick test where you take a dose of lactose and blow into little containers), and it turned out that I can digest lactose, but I have a hard time digesting milk proteins. And eggs.
    If you live in a place without free health care and can't afford to get tested, you need to try to watch how your body reacts to what you eat. Try removing a suspect food for a couple of days from your diet and see what happens. People are often intolerant against lactose, gluten, eggs and soy, so you might start here first.


Anterior Pelvic Tilt

   Or what I call the Strippers Posture. The lower back is too arched, the butt is too far back, the belly sticks out in the front and the abdominal muscles are usually not engaged at all. Not only does the belly look bigger in this position, the posture can cause back pain. The upper body bosture is thrown off balance as well. Persons especially prone to the anterior pelvic tilt are women who wear high heels (which push your spine into this position) and women who have been pregnant (the big belly means that the gravity point of the body is further in the front), and overweight people.

    You should maintain a neutral pelvis at all times. Tuck your tailbone in, pull your navel towards your spine, and lift your torso from the navel up. You will look slimmer, and your butt will look tighter, and you will protect yourself from back pain.
     To find your neutral pelvis position, try this Pilates exercise: stand with feet shoulder width part, knees slightly bent and soft. Imagine you have a pendulum or a bell attached to your perineum. Now, slowly tilt your pelvis back and forth, imagine you are swinging the pedulum. After doing this a couple of times, stop in the position where the pendulum would be hanging straight down. Now, tuck your tailbone in an extra inch, and stand up straight. This is your neutral pelvis position.
     I really recommend a couple of Pilates classes, they will teach you o automatically adopt the right posture. Some usefull exercises that you can do at home to correct the anterior plvic tils are the teacup exercise, back to wall,
Yogis will love this page that explains how the wrong pelvic tilt throws the whole Asana out of alignment.


Diastasi Recti or Abdominal Muscle Separation

    If you've been pregnant, chances are you might still have an abdominal muscle separation. Basically, muscles separate to make place for the growing bump, and don't always get together again. This means the abdominal "corset" doesn't keep things in place anymore, also your abdominal muscles are weakened and chances are you are using your back muscles to compensate for that.
   In many countries women aren't checked for diastasis recti. I remember writing about in once on a Polish forum, because I didn't find anything about diastasis recti in Polish on the entire Internet. A couple of years later I googled again, and I found lots of hits -- most were copy-pasted from my forum post!

   Here is how to check for diastasis recti.

   If you do have diastasis recti, I highly recommend the book Lose Your Mummy Tummy by Julie Tupler. If you recently gave birth, it is imperative that you first deal with your abdominal muscle separation before you attempt any kind of ab exercises! And you must get the Mummy Tummy book!

Abdominal Fat

  Now that we have covered the non-obvious causes of a big belly, here is the obvious one: you might have fat stored there. You can check by pinching your skin on your abs and other body parts, and comparing the thickness (the layer of fat attached to it). What is not so obvious is that belly fat does not go away with crunches and other ab exercises -- these create muscles that will still be hidden under that fat. The simple truth here is that abs are made in the kitchen. Nutrition is the key here -- a clean diet.
   Of course some kind of exercise is necessary too, and here is an observation -- crunches and exercises meant specifically for the abs are thankless exercises, most people tend to focus too much on them. If you want to invest your time and energy better, try limiting your crunches to a max of 100 and instead focus on engaging (lightly flexing) your abs during your entire exercise routine, or when you are running or riding your bike. (This is especially important for women with kids, as often we unlearn to use our abs during pregnancy). A lot of exercises mean for other body parts involve the abs as well. At the gym, your ab muscles should be engaged during every exercise. This also protects the lower back. As my Pilates teacher told us before starting every set: "pelvic floor up, pull navel towards spine!", and only then would we start.

    I am not a doctor and the stuff I shared in this post is a result of my own research to solve my own problems. I'd like to encourage you to use this as a springboard for your own research.

   I hope that this posts inspires you to research more and tweak your habits if necessary. And always remember that changes are easiest to implement if they come from a place of acceptance and positivity. By that I mean an attitude of positive feelings towards your body (it is, after all, your home during this lifetime), while at the same time deciding to work on things that could be improved. It's like renovating your home because you like it and want to make it nicer (much more rewarding than renovating a home that you hate), or helping a kid to learn new habits (much easier if you both like each other).
   And if all fails, shapewear is a girls best friend!

   In case you are wondering, I am stuggling with all of the four problems that I described here! How about you? Also, if you have any interesting resources that could help me or other readers, like books, websites, apps, or advice from your mom, do share!
photo credit: !ºrobodot via photopin cc

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