Top of the muffin to ya!
Sorry, I recently watched those old Seinfeld reruns, and well, if you know, then you know.
One of my friends, about 16 weeks postpartum, recently asked me about love handles after pregnancy. More specifically, she asked me why she now had them and how to send them packing.
Believe it or not, many women that have never had love handles before pregnancy suddenly find themselves with this issue.
What are love handles anyway? As one of my gross high school boyfriends put it, they give you “more cushion for the pushin’.” Honestly, this is an awful way to put it, but there’s nothing gross about love handles.
It’s just an area of skin that extends from your hips, often called a muffin top after pregnancy. Love handles or muffin tops, whatever you would like to call them, become more pronounced when you wear tight clothing.
While your tight clothes aren’t the cause of it, you surely don’t want to accentuate that extra fat that has built up on your hips and abs.
So, if your tight clothes aren’t causing love handles after a pregnancy, then what is causing it?
Good question! That’s all from fat retention.
Fat cells build up in your body when you either ingest too many calories or don’t burn enough. In time, they kind of stack up in certain areas, particularly that midsection. While fat can accumulate anywhere on your body, some things will impact where it deposits.
Hormones, your age, a fatty-sugary diet, not getting enough physical activity, and sleep deprivation are the most common causes. Read that again.
Yup, that’s why you have a muffin top after pregnancy. Your hormones are out of whack, you need more exercise, and you’re sleep-deprived. If you are an older mama and/or eat more than your fair share of junk foods, you’re even more likely to wind up with those love handles.
Do love handles go away after pregnancy?
Yes, they do, BUT they only will if you work on the problem. You need to lose excess body fat for them to disappear.
Sorry, I tried clicking my heels to go back to the point in life when I was thin before ever getting pregnant, and I have to tell you that it doesn’t work. YOU need to work to get that fat off your body.
To get rid of your love handles after a pregnancy, you need to get to your ideal body weight. And to do that, you must keep a healthy diet and exercise regularly. You can’t do one without the other.
Can you tighten your love handles?
Eventually, yes, but it comes down to losing that fat that creates the muffin top first. When you lose weight, you won’t wind up with your stomach oozing over the top of your pants.
However, despite what you have probably seen online, don’t believe the b.s. There are no targeted exercises for fat reduction. Spot reduction simply doesn’t exist. Resistance and strengthening exercises can help you improve muscle tone and flexibility, but they cannot shrink fat cells.
You need to do cardio and add weight lifting to make fat go away. It’s not a lost cause. It IS a lot of work, and you need to remember a few things:
- You’re beautiful, Mama.
- It takes time to lose weight (and that’s ok!).
- Set small goals and work toward them rather than freaking out.
You can only do this by eating a nutritious diet and getting exercise. Once you get that all-clear at your postpartum checkup, you can begin working out again. Take it slow and work your way up. Overdoing it too soon will put you out of commission. Plus, if you have diastasis recti, you must be careful (read my post about that here and see what to do if you have it).
Being more active is the name of the game. I know you’re tired, but put the baby in a stroller and mosey down the sidewalk. The fresh air will do you good.
I know it was so hard to get a full workout in when my girls were each baby. You have to be creative with getting more movement. That cardio exercise is where it’s at. You can also strengthen the surrounding areas with side planks, bicycle crunches, Russian twists, mountain climbers, and the bridge position. Just know that doing them isn’t going to shrink the love handles but will build strength in this area.
How do I remove those love handles after pregnancy?
Well, you’ll first have to be patient. You can’t wish them away without putting in the effort. Here are some tips to get your shape back.
- Go slow and steady on your weight loss journey
Your goal should be one to two pounds per week. This will ensure it stays off with your healthy eating and exercising.
- Eat more plant-based foods
You don’t have to give up meat but focus more on dark leafy greens, whole grains, and berries that give your body some important nutrients without adding more fat or calories.
- Choose lean proteins
Proteins are great for building muscles and powering your body, especially postpartum. Choose things like fish, poultry, and eggs more often than you choose red meat.
- Add beans
Beans are super filling and full of fiber. Stew some lentils in broth with veggies, and you’ll have a satisfying bowl that sustains you for the long haul.
- Watch your sodium
Look, you KNOW salt is bad for you when you have too much. But when trying to get rid of a muffin top, it can cause you to retain fluid, making them look worse.
- Try shapewear
There are a few bands and things you can wear to help smooth things over before you get to your ideal weight. I wrote a post about it with great options, so check it out!
- Wear clothing that complements
Until you lose weight and love handles leave, you should only wear pants that fit at your waist rather than your hips. This will prevent emphasizing them and give you a more streamlined look.
As a last-ditch effort, you can get medical procedures like liposuction. I really don’t like to recommend this since it’s major surgery. Plus, your body needs time to adjust from being pregnant to being back to you.
However, if you work hard to crush your fitness goals and still have lingering fat, it may be an option you’d like to consider. Just please, don’t consider it only months after having your baby!
Gastric bypass is another procedure, too, though that is only recommended if you’re obese and have a BMI over 40.
All in all, most women who have love handles after pregnancy usually find they disappear after eating right and exercising over the first year of a baby’s life. Give it your all, and you’re not going to be disappointed!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.