If you've been thinking that your muddled middle is purely pregnancy-related, you could be quite right. Many moms will overexercise and diet to starvation trying to "lose the pooch" when they actually have an injury to their abdominal muscles that leaves their vital organs unprotected and unsupported by the core. Its called a diastasis recti, which simply means that your outermost abdominals have literally come apart at the seam of connective tissue (linea alba) where the four abdominal layers join.
What is Diastasis? Diastasis occurs when continuous forward forceful pressure literally splits apart your outermost abdominal layer, also known as your six-pack or rectus abdominus. For a long time, having a split in the abdominal wall was accepted as normal and natural in women that had carried more than one pregnancy. However, thousands of cases of "mummy tummies" in men and women have never been pregnant have been documented by diastasis experts such as Julie Tupler, physical therapists like Kelly Dean of The Tummy Team and personal trainers like Kim Vopni from Pfilates.
Why don't more people know about it? The reason most people do not know about diastasis has a lot to do with our visual society. Women are told that they are just being vain and that a pooch is normal after pregnancy. We have forgotten the fact that our core isnt there to make us look good in a swimsuit, and when we do want to get ready for swimsuit season, we put WAY too much focus on the six-pack. Unfortunately, targeting just the outside "pretty" muscles with endless crunches, planks, burpees and sit ups can truly SHRED them.
What do "normal" abdominal muscles feel like? Normal, healthy abdominals should have only a very narrow trench down the middle, no wider than a finger-width. If you feel a child's belly, their linea alba is quite narrow. A grown-up's should feel about the same as when you place a finger between two knuckles on the back of your hand.
What's wrong with "shredded" abdominals? Abs with a diastasis recti where the six-pack has split apart cause serious health issues such as...
- chronic lower back pain because a deflated core won't support your spine
- stress incontinence (a.k.a. "leaking" when you sneeze or laugh or jump) because a weak inner core won't hold pressure up off your pelvic floor and bladder.
- prostate health because true core training will massage the prostate in beneficial ways.
- bowel issues because the abs aren't holding the organs in the right spots and shielding them from outside jostles and bumps.
How can I check myself for a Diastasis? Fit2B Studio provides a free self-check video for diastasis that we filmed with a physical therapist who is an expert on the subject of core training for the prenatal and postnatal client. You can watch that video by clicking here!
What do I do if I have one? If you have a diastasis, the good news is that if you abandon crunches, sit ups and unmodified planks while pursuing corrective training and rehab, you can close your split and reclaim your body's health. Fit2B Studio offers several free tools and resources to help raise awareness worldwide, and we want people to know that help is out there. Healing is possible, and you don't need to stop exercising or living your life. You do need to modify your current routine and learn how to strengthen your deepest core muscles to take pressure OFF that injury. To learn more, please visit our Diastasis awareness section where you will find printables, handouts, more videos, and a directory of professionals worldwide!