Monday, March 24, 2014

Reader Question: What to do about the 'Mummy Tummy'? Part 1

Last summer, the Duchess of Cambridge made headlines for not only birthing the boy third in line to the British throne, but also leaving the hospital wearing a dress that showcased her one-day-post-partum midsection.

Not all that goes on in a mother's middle is exclusively baby. Kate won praise around the globe for being willing to show that everything doesn't go back to flat immediately after the little tyke is born. 

But many mothers are very distressed to find that months (or even years) after, things... well... just aren't the same. Last week I heard from three readers looking for ways to deal with their post-baby waists, and so I've been doing some exhaustive internet researchtm. It's actually turning out to be quite an in-depth topic, so I'm going to have to make it into a series. My first series! I feel like I'm growing as a blogger. 

 Before I continue, however, I would like to review with you my certifications and credentials:

.... {awkward silence} ....

Well. That was quick! Indeed, I have neither. I am simply someone who finds food and exercise interesting and does a lot of both. (Eating food and exercising, that is.)

Ok, with disclaimers out of the way, let's discuss. Basically, your midsection goes through an awful lot to accommodate your growing baby. Lingering mummy tummies result from a combination of weakened muscle, an excess fat layer around the middle, hormonal changes, and loose skin. Today we're going to talk about...

A big reason many mothers experience a saggy middle after giving birth is loose skin. We don't think of it this way, but skin is actually an organ--the largest one in our bodies. 

Skin looses elasticity with age, and this is a particular issue for those of us who didn't have our children until our 30's or 40's. When your tummy expands to accommodate the baby, then deflates after birth, it's a lot to ask of skin within a fairly short time frame. Loose skin is also a concern for people who lose a significant amount of weight very quickly, and it is seldom addressed by TV shows and magazine articles that celebrate extreme weight loss. Those contestants on the diabolical Biggest Loser? They all have issues with loose skin--guaranteed. You can't lose 50% of your body weight in four months without having skin issues.

Many people turn to surgery to address this, but before going under the knife, let's exhaust all other options, no? One way to address this is... 

Dry Skin Brushing

What is it?
Brushing your dry skin before a shower stimulates the lymphatic system. This is basically your body's drainage system, and it turns out that 1/4 of your body's detoxification occurs through the skin. Crazy, huh? The simple habit of brushing your dry skin facilitates this essential component of the circulatory system. It can improve skin tone and circulation and helps to reduce cellulite. Yay! 

How do you do it?
Use a natural, vegetable bristle brush. The bristles should be fairly stiff. This is my brush:

I think I bought it at a Whole Foods market for around $10. You can also find them at drug stores and on Amazon... along with anything else you might ever want. I kind of wish I had gotten one with a hand strap and detachable handle, but I was too cheap. Live and learn...

Begin at your feet and brush toward your heart in long, fluid strokes. Do not brush 'back and forth.' The strokes should be long and sweeping, moving toward your heart. Move up your body the same way. For your arms, start at the back of your hand and brush up the arm. Don't forget to extend the motion into the armpit, even if it tickles a little.

For your tummy, lightly brush counter-clockwise. (Try patting your head at the same time and singing 'I'm a little teapot' for an extra challenge.)

Your strokes should be light--it might feel slightly uncomfortable at first, but it generally produces a little tingly sensation. If your skin is sensitive, try adjusting the pressure of your strokes before resorting to a softer brush. Your skin should not be red or irritated long afterwards. Do NOT brush over cuts, rashes, Poison Ivy or other skin owies. 

I actually suspended my brushing routine during the very cold winter months because I quite frankly didn't want to be naked any longer than absolutely necessary, but now that we're up to a balmy 40 degrees, I'm back at it.

The great thing about dry skin brushing is that it seriously takes about 20 seconds. I do it while I wait for the water to heat up in the shower. The time and effort is really minimal. 

The Caveat: This needs to be a habit--please don't try it for three days and then tell me your skin hasn't snapped back like a rubber band. You really need to keep it up for at least a month to experience the benefits. Honestly, it's just part of my routine now. I brush my teeth, I brush my hair, I brush my skin, I brush crumbs off the table, etc. In the meantime, you'll notice brushing also serves to slough off dead skin cells, so your skin will be softer and smoother, too. Who doesn't want that?

In part 2, we'll discuss other fixes for the mummy tummy. In the meantime, happy brushing!

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