Wendy Powell

Postnatal Fat Around the Middle. Why Won’t It Shift?

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Pregnant woman in a green dress, gray sweater, and cream hat outside in the snow.

The tummy fat that doesn’t shift however you eat or workout. There are hormonal reasons your body is storing disproportionate postnatal fat around the middle. Whilst reducing low-quality calories and exercising smart have a role, it has just as much to do with balancing your hormones.

A purely calories in/calories out approach may not be working for you. You might drop a few pounds, but there will be bulges of postnatal fat around the middle you just can’t shift.

Postnatal fat around the middle and your hormones

With mummy tummies or postpartum fat around the stomach, the stress hormone cortisol is key. Medium to long-term stress means emotional stress. But it also means physical stress on your body caused by a poor diet, lack of sleep or stress. Both cause increased cortisol levels, which in turn raise blood sugar.

Higher blood sugar triggers the overproduction of insulin, the ‘fat storage hormone’. Insulin is responsible for abdominal fat storage.

Stress is pretty unavoidable when you’re a mum. When our children are young, every hour throws us another curveball: a tantrum, sick to mop, a sleepless baby to calm, a rash to examine, a sibling argument to defuse. The adrenaline pumps – and hormones go crazy.

Eating to balance hormones

So, while this is definitely not as ‘easy’ as it may sound ‘simple’, there are a few approaches you can try that will help you balance your hormones and minimise postpartum fat around the middle:

  1. Limit sugar and refined carbs: This is the most important box to tick! Try to radically reduce the sugar you can see (in sweets, biscuits, and cakes) and the sugar you can’t (in white bread, baked beans, fruit juice, and booze). These foods raise blood glucose levels, elevating insulin levels and causing fat around the middle.
  2. Be spicy: Grate a cinnamon stick and add some spice to your breakfast or yogurt. A small amount daily has been found to keep blood sugar levels stable, preventing the overproduction of insulin.
  3. Get more sleep: Sleep is an important time for your body to regulate hormones. Losing just one hour’s sleep a night can raise insulin levels in the body. It also makes you more likely to eat and drink bad stuff, such as caffeine, which makes your body release cortisol.
  4. Eat in peace: Keeping mealtimes sacred (no computer, no TV, no phone and no book to distract you) has been linked to reduced cortisol levels and decreased body fat.
  5. Release tension: Exercise, have a bath, read a magazine, meditate – do whatever helps you to shake off the stress of the day.
  6. Be a peaceful parent: Yeah right… well, we can try!! Avoiding shouting helps keep everyone’s stress levels down. It’s not always easy, but even the most model parent (know one of them? Me neither) sometimes needs to take a deep breath to avoid sending her heartbeat into overdrive!

Ab exercises or diet – what works?

Doing ab exercises will not give you a flat belly. Making the right food choices and balancing your hormones will do that. The right ab exercises will get you strong abs, but if you want to see them, you need to lose the fat. Have fun on your mission to balance the hormones that are hindering your mummy tummy fat loss or hiding your abs!

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