I recently had one of my gym members send me this photo, discouraged. These pictures were taken three days apart, after she was promised (by another fitness professional) that drinking a tea for three days would be a game changer – gain energy, loose weight, and feel amazing. ALL IN THREE DAYS! She was discouraged that nothing happened. In fact, she reported that on day three she felt more bloated than usual, her measurements (arms, waist, hips & legs – which she was asked to measure as part of the challenge!) had not changed, and she had even gained a little over a pound.
This challenge was sent to several of the moms at my gym with a claim to finding a “cure for momma belly bloat” that promised to do AMAZING wonders to all the mom’s abdomens. I saw the email that went out and I was blown away by the claims – it was a detox tea. A tea. A freaking tea and a fast.
Honestly, my heart just sank. Well, I was a combination of distraught and furious, honestly. Distraught because I knew moms in my community were being targeted and then promised that a tea and fast would help them lose belly fat (not true FYI).
There are so many things wrong with this whole scenario.
- This person advertising her teas and fast is a MOM. Someone who should know what happens to our bodies when we have babies. When we need to nourish ourselves after childbirth and heal and eat well and be our own inspiration for our daughters. (It breaks my heart when I think about moms dieting and fasting in front of their kids – especially daughters. I would be beyond myself – gut wrenching hurt – if my daughter stopped eating because she saw me skipping meals.)
- Belly fat can’t be lost in three days. Honestly, belly fat is the hardest fat to lose. In a nutshell – it’s a different kind of fat – stubborn fat – and it requires double the effort to lose this “brown/stubborn” fat than regular fat, and it is usually the last fat to lose ….. when you have a really good gym routine down, you’re eating well for YOU and your goals, you’re getting enough sleep, and your stress is low. Oh and if you’re nursing a baby – for many moms – their bodies will hold onto extra belly fat in the midsection for milk production. Many moms don’t even drop the baby weight (not that they have to) until they’re done nursing.
- “When you’re eating well for YOU…” This means there is no “one size fits all” approach to weight loss – especially for belly fat. There are a lot of tips and tricks to whittle down a midsection – but most aren’t sustainable and usually they’re designed for bodybuilders about to hit the stage. People who have washboard abs all year long are usually ones who’ve been training for years and working with a coach and a sports specific dietitian.
- “When you’re sleeping and not super stressed….” This means that in order to lose belly fat, most people need to be getting adequate, restorative sleep (which is SUPER hard for moms of young babies/kids – and I of all people know this), and your stress needs to be low. Hello – pandemic?! We are just getting back to a life of normalcy after a year of a pandemic and deadly virus that attacked our country?! Raise your hand if you’re stressed? Raise your hand if your kid wakes you up at night? Most of you raised your hand. How about we work on sleep and stress reduction before the detox??
- After you have babies, your insides are literally never the same again. Your abs may not ever look like they did before. Fun fact – my pelvic floor actually sits lower than it did before I got pregnant. Some women suffer the “belly bloat” look because of deep abdominal separation that hasn’t fully healed. A few women actually look pregnant when they aren’t because of low abdominal diastasis recti. This can be discussed with a pelvic floor physical therapist if you think this may be you.
- Detoxes and teas and fasts …..they just don’t work…. at least not permanently. You can detox and fast all you want, but if you go right back to doing what you did before, you’ll be in the same boat you started in within 24 hours. Guess what? There are other ways to clean out your gut and build up better gut bacteria than a cleanse and a fast. Just eating a diet lower in sugar and processed foods and higher in fruits, veggies, and leans proteins will help heal your gut and reduce bloat. And guess what? THOSE things are sustainable. Please don’t forget – if it isn’t sustainable long term, IT WON’T WORK.
- Fasting isn’t good for women. It actually works better for men. (Doesn’t it all? Eye roll.) But fasting is a sure fire way to screw over your hormones and cause mood disorders, metabolic distress, and thyroid problems. What freakin’ tea and fast is worth that??
- This is the “I’M JUST SO MAD MOMS ARE MAKING A BUCK OFF OF OTHER MOMS’ INSECURITIES” reason. I mean, we are MOMS! We should be celebrating what our bodies have done and not out here trying to get other moms buy into the hype that a tea and three days will solve all their “problems.” And what are these “problems” anyway?? Growing humans and birthing babies is definitely NOT a problem, and we definitely don’t need to try and “fix” it by NOT nourishing our bodies that GREW these amazing humans!
- It takes TWO years for a mom to replenish her vitamin and mineral stores that pregnancy and nursing depletes. TWO YEARS to build up a healthy immune system, good gut bacteria, and all we need to keep us healthy for our family. WHY in the world do we need to drink detox teas and fast??
- Our little humans that we are raising, should NEVER see us refusing a meal, sipping “skinny teas,” and “dieting” to be accepted, liked, and to feel “worthy.” What message does that show them? I will be dammed if my kids see me refusing food so that I can look a different way. I know I can’t stop society from teaching them about “diets” and looking a certain way to “fit in” but I will never ever promote it in my house. Food is fuel. Food is medicine. Food is fun. Food is nourishment. It helps our bodies grow. It helps our bodies heal. It gives us energy. It fights disease. It should NEVER be used as a tool for “acceptance.”
What really works to beat belly bloat?
- Not to care that we are bloated. Simply, stop caring about what society thinks you need to look like, and remember we are all human. Also, we’re women with monthly cycles. It’s all but impossible to not have a little belly bloat at various times of the month. Ladies, our hormones fluctuate. Our luteal phase typically lends to more bloat just because of higher levels of progesterone, causing water retention and a slower digestive system. Our follicular phase is usually a phase of less bloat and better digestion because of the increase of estradiol during this time.
- Look, maybe you just ate a little too much sodium and need more water. I love salty foods and during the summer I’m more bloated than normal. I’m not great at getting in enough water even though I know how important it is. Maybe that’s you as well?
- Find a way you can eat that’s SUSTAINABLE long term. I eat a lot of protein. As many veggies as I can. I try to avoid processed foods and sugar, but we don’t always. I have ice cream when I want it, and I celebrate all occasions with food that makes me happy. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol but when I do, I make sure it’s something I really enjoy. Long term sustainability is KEY. Weight loss isn’t a downhill journey. We have seasons of success and seasons of gains. If we consistently make the smart decisions, the inconsistencies won’t matter.
- We need more sleep. Sorry moms, we do. I don’t know how to tell you to get that, but just know, it’s ridiculously underrated and could be a game changer for fat loss. And mental health. And overall mom-health-and-energy. We need more sleep. And less stress. Again – we are moms so IDK how to have less stress, but if there’s a way to delegate some of that stress out to others, send it off! (PS- one thing I’ve learned with our second kid – husbands don’t do things the way we do them, but their way actually still works most of the time! They can feed those kids, dress them, bathe them, and at the end of the day, we all survive!)
- Go see a pelvic floor physical therapist to get an idea of what’s really going on, on the inside. After my first baby, I went to a PFPT and she helped me work on releasing my PF muscles – they were too tight after birth! And after my second, the same PT helped my with some back, deep core, and inner thigh muscles that needed help after pregnancy and birth. AND a PFPT can assess your core for diastisis and give you a plan to heal your belly muscles!
- Don’t fall for quick fixes, no matter how desperate you are.
- Don’t fall for fasting fixes either. Follow accounts like @drstacysimms, @drjolenebrighton, @nicolemjardim, @womenarenotsmallmen, and other women in the fitness space who understand food and women’s bodies, cycles, and hormones.
- Support all moms’ bodies, no matter what.
- Eat to restore your body’s vitamin and mineral depletion from pregnancy and breastfeeding. Lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, beef, fish, and consider taking a pre or postnatal vitamin, fish oil, vitamin D, and a b complex for optimal health, wellness, and energy.
- LOVE your body for who you are and what you are capable of! You are STRONG!
To all the moms out there who want to beat the belly bloat, I’m with you. I know how it feels. As a person in the fitness space myself, it’s a REAL tough battle to be in the in-between of ”
I really want my abs back” and at the same time, “I love that my body grew and birthed two beautiful children.” And at only a year postpartum (as well as being 40 years old), I know just as well what it’s like to have that extra little roll of fat that likes to sit at the base of my belly … that I love to tuck into my high-waisted yoga pants. 😉 I’m not immune to it, I don’t love it, but I know a tea won’t fix anything. I know my body still needs to (and deserves to) eat. I know my family needs a nourished, healthy, energized mom. I know that if I want to lose fat, it will take a lot of time, a lot of consistency with choosing wholesome foods, exercise, sleep, hydration, and reducing stress. I know it will be a journey, and process, and I’ll need more patience than I have. But I also know that my body is strong AF, it made humans from scratch, rearranged its organs, shifted bones around for birthing, and has even made milk for them, going on 42 months so far!!!!
That’s pretty damn awesome, if you ask me. We are awesome. Our bodies are awesome. Our families and our children need us to be awesome, strong, and resilient. Not skinny. Just say no to that quick fix detox ya’ll. Eat some real food. Go to the park with your kids. Laugh, and sleep well tonight. You got this, and I think we, together, can change society’s perception of just what we moms really need.
If you want to know why belly fat is hard to lose and get some real tips on what might help burn it, check out my blog post here, on just that topic.