When I first started the MuTu System to lose the baby weight and heal my diastasis recti, I thought doing 10-15 minutes of core work each day was enough. I completed the 12-week program, and even made great progress!
However, once the 12 weeks was complete, I only remembered to do the core work a few times a week and tried to jump right into high-intensity interval training right away. Suddenly my back was bothering me again, and my insides started to feel like they were falling out through my belly button. I was right back to where I started.
I went to see my OB who referred me to a surgeon, thinking I had an umbilical hernia in addition to diastasis recti. The surgeon discovered that I did not have a hernia, but told me that my diastasis wouldn't get any better without surgery. Since I did not have a hernia, surgery would not be covered by insurance. I was devastated and cried the whole way home from the doctor.
I spilled my frustrations onto the MuTu System message boards, hoping against hope that someone would tell me I had a chance at feeling normal again. That someone would share a success story to give me hope.
The founder of the MuTu System herself, Wendy Maynard, responded to my message and encouraged me to give the program another try. This time, she encouraged, really connect my mind with my core. She suggested that maybe I had disconnected and distanced myself from my belly because I hated how it looked and felt. "This is not the kumbaya bit," she encouraged. "This is the vital bit."
I decided I had absolutely nothing to lose. I was all in. Ready to recommit to healing my core by any means possible. What I discovered is that healing diastasis recti isn't about doing 15 minutes of core work then forgetting about it the rest of the day. It's a lifestyle change. I'm going to share with you some of the changes I've been focusing on, unrelated to exercise, that have made a huge difference in the way my belly looks and feels.
Lifestyle Changes to Heal Diastasis Recti
Constantly nursing a baby and working at a computer have aggravated the back pain and core discomfort that bad posture cause, so this is first and foremost the change I have been focusing on. Shoulders down, feet flat on the ground, head up, everything all stacked up nicely.
It's SO HARD TO REMEMBER, but I've been catching myself more and more. If you see me in public slouching, give me a tap on my hunchback, please.
While I'm working on my computer, I scoot up to sit on the edge of the seat so I'm putting my weight on my sit bones. This helps remind me to sit up straight and engage my core while I'm sitting.
I didn't realize how much the shoes I wear impact my posture and core, but they do! Most shoes have a lift to them (even a slight one) which throws off your center of gravity and alignment and cause you to walk incorrectly. When you walk barefoot, you work your glutes and engage your core. When you wear shoes with a lift in the heel, your body is pitched forward and your core is forced to compensate in unnatural ways.
Say what? Why had no one ever told me this?
I have purchased a pair of "barefoot" shoes which allow your feet to function as if you were walking barefoot, but with the benefit of a sole protecting your feet from the ground. They're custom-ordered from an Etsy shop based in Greece. They're so comfortable and neutral enough to match any outfit! Here, here, and here are a few barefoot shoes I found on Amazon that are cute, too!
Standing & Walking Properly
I mean...I didn't realize that I didn't know how to walk. It seems like it should be as natural as breathing, right? Apparently, wrong! Our modern shoes have forced us to walk and move in unnatural ways, so it's time to relearn my natural gate to fix my core.
I've been learning to spread my toes, walk heel-toe, look forward, and push off from my back foot. I'm "making strides" (pun DEFINITELY intended) in walking correctly, but still forget sometimes!
Related: 12 Ways to Move More Every Day
As for standing (especially when carrying my baby or toddler), it's important to stand with feet hip-width apart, weight evenly distributed, looking forward, and aligning my body instead of jutting out my chin, rolling my shoulders forward, or tucking my tailbone.
Ok. You've got to be kidding me. I have to think about how I breathe now? This is bordering on ridiculous.
Yeah, that was my first reaction, too. Breathing is automatic. We shouldn't have to think about it! That is unless we've been doing it wrong this whole time, and it's causing our body pain and discomfort.
Throughout the day, I try to remind myself to take "MuTu breaths," which just means that I'm thinking about relaxing my pelvic floor while I fill my ribs with air on an inhale, and engaging my transverse abdominals and lifting my pelvic floor on an exhale.
Sounds like a lot of work. And it was at first, to be really honest. If you give it a really good effort in your first few weeks of doing the MuTu System, it will become more natural, almost to the point where you don't have to think about it anymore.
Squatting Instead of Bending Over
Do you know how many times a day a mom bends over? I'm picking up my baby or toddler off the floor, cleaning toys 2,851 times a day, and putting dishes and laundry away. I'm rescuing the baby from putting paper scraps in his mouth, putting the leash on the dog, and vacuuming dog hair from every nook and cranny of the house.
Related: Dear Burned Out Mom of Young Kids
What I didn't realize through three pregnancies is that it is far better to squat than to bend over. Squatting obviously strengthens the legs and glutes to support our core. It also saves us from straining our backs.
Seriously. Try squatting every time you're tempted to bend over. I bet your legs will be so sore tomorrow, and you won't even need to do leg day at the gym!
Waking Up Early to do Core Work
The first time through the MuTu System, I often did my core work during the day while my kids were around. The baby still wasn't sleeping through the night, so I was sleeping in as long as I could in the morning in order to function.
Doing core work with my kids around meant that I was less than focused on connecting my mind, body, and soul, and more focused on who got which color exercise band. Half the time I would keep putting it off until the kids were occupied (which never happens), then I would get interrupted or not do it at all.
Now I wake up at five and do the 12-minute core videos right away. The gentle stretching, focus on breathing correctly, and movement is the perfect way to start the day. It's like meditation, exercise, and stretching combined into one!
Related: 7 Morning Habits of Fit Moms
Loving My Body
I think this has been the hardest lifestyle change to implement. I appreciate all that my body has done for me, but it's still hard to come to terms with how my stomach looks. But as Wendy, the creator of the Mutu System reminded me, you can't heal a part of your body you've disconnected from.
So what does this look like in practical terms? Well, it starts with thanking God for the body I have every single day. Gratitude interrupts anxiety and discontentment, so that is my number one priority.
I'm also really careful not to say negative things about my body. This is especially important because I don't want the kids I'm raising to think it's ok to say negative things about their bodies When my kids ask about my exercises, why I'm not allowed to do push-ups, or why my belly looks that way, I make sure to phrase things in a positive way. "Mommy's tummy got hurt when I was pregnant, so I am taking extra special care of it now. I'm working hard to make it strong and healthy again."
When I think about my diastasis recti that way - as an injured body part that I need to take special care of, it reminds of tending to one of my kids when they're sick. I feel compassion for them, and will do anything to ease their pain, even when they're a little bit annoying about it.
Yes, my diastasis recti is annoying to deal with. Yes, I wish my stomach "bounced back" to its original shape. Yes, I wish I could wear whatever I wanted without worrying about whether or not I look pregnant. Yes, I would rather not think about my breathing and walking and posture all the time. But a part of my body needs my help to recover and heal, so I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it better, even if it's a little annoying.
You Can Do It!
I know you feel like your body will never look or function the way you want it to again. I know because I've gone through those feelings myself. I've cried about it and gotten mad about it, but ultimately I realized there are steps I can take to improve the look and function of my body. I'm not trying to fit into some ridiculous beauty standard or look like a Victoria's Secret model; I just want to feel like myself again. And with a little work and a few adjustments to my day here and there, that is a goal I can definitely achieve.
So this is my encouragement to you: figure out what SMALL steps you can take TODAY to start healing your core. Implement one or two at a time, and start to see the changes taking place! Here are some additional resources for you:
If you want to learn more about the nutrition system so many moms have used to improve their health, lose the baby weight, and gain natural energy in a safe way, head to my Facebook group, Strong For Her Tasks, for more info!
Read about the shakes I drink every day to lose the baby weight.
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Wishing you wellness of mind, body, and soul.