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Obesity and Weight Management

Large stomach

10/03/2007

Question:

I gave birth to my 2nd child 2 1/2 years ago, and am still having trouble losing my mid-section. I have a small frame and have never been overweight, in fact have always been underweight. I am 5`7 and have weighed at most 142 lbs during the hieght of both pregnancies. I fluctuate anywhere between 124 lbs to 132 lbs, and am most comfortable and look the best at 125 lbs. I am 36 years old. The problem is that despite regular exercise (3-5 times/week)and weight training with a professional trainer 2 times a week, and eating well proportioned, healthy foods (my diet consists of mainly fruits and vegetables, soy products, skim milk or cottage cheese, and minimal whole grains), I still have a belly that looks loike I am pregnant. I have a BMI of 19, and no fat anywhere else. My legs are very thin, and somewhat weak even, my arms are small to average size, and my back, and butt have no fat on them. I am perplexed as to why I cannot flatten my belly despite calorie-controlled dieting and regular exercise....people ask me if I am pregnant...with a comment of "you are so tiny, except for your belly. If you saw me, you would not say I am fat, you would think I either swollowed a small watermelon, or was expecting my third child. I have tried all kinds of abdominal exercises and machines. I have high blood pressure which I developed during my first pregnancy, and am currently taking 2 medications for - Lebatelol and Lisinopril. Diabetes, heart disease and stroke all run in my family. I also suffer from chronic migraines, and have been on medications and seeing a neurologist for over 15 years.

Thank you for any light you can shed on my `situation`. I have tried every `diet` and all types of trainers, and exercise plans for the past 2 1/2 years....with no luck. Also, I constantly bruise very easily all over - mainly on my legs just from bumping thinsg, and often break blood vessels in my eye, causing a red splotch.

Answer:

It sounds like you are living a healthy lifestyle, eating right, and exercising regularly. Also, you are within the healthy body weight range for your age, weight and height, and your BMI falls within the ‘normal’ range as well. Your problem is common among postpartum women, because during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles have not only been stretched, but they have been weakened. Therefore, you have to work to re-strengthen those muscles. Exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles would help hold your tummy in, and essentially get rid of it. I would suggest speaking with your personal trainer for specific abdominal exercises that may help.

Remember too, not everyone is meant to have a perfectly flat stomach. The human body has some curves in it, including the stomach. Your body type may naturally have a little more curve in this area than someone else’s, and may never look like it did before you had two children. If you are still concerned, I would recommend speaking with your primary care physician for other underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to your ‘tummy.’

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Response by:

Jaime  Ackerman Foster, MPH, RD, LD Jaime Ackerman Foster, MPH, RD, LD
Extension Nutrition Associate
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University