I can't get rid of my belly pooch. What can I do?

No matter how thin I get or how many ab exercises I do, I simply cannot lose the pooch in my lower belly. Is it possible that the muscle is “ruined” from pregnancy? Should I look into a tummy tuck?

Michael Roizen, M.D.

Michael Roizen, M.D.

As chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, Michael F. Roizen, MD, is on a mission to inform... Read more

Yes, yes and let’s get specific. A condition called diastasis recti, which is a weakening or tearing of the junction between the abdominal muscles on the right and left side of the belly, can be responsible for the type of noticeable midline pooch that you describe. A combination of a nine-month-long tummy expansion, the hormone relaxin (which is secreted during pregnancy to help muscles and junctions relax) and prolonged pushing during childbirth are to blame. Multiple pregnancies up your odds.

Not every woman develops diastasis recti, so how do you know if you have it? When you do an abdominal crunch, you’ll notice what looks like a small football (actually soft tissue and fat) protruding from your belly. If this is the case with you, no amount of crunches or weight loss will solve the problem. It may be that your abdominals will repair themselves on their own, although it can take several months to get back to normal. Diastasis recti can be helped with strength training exercises that a physical therapist can work on with you.

Probably the biggest contributor to a belly pooch is excess calories, though. So before you fork over the cash for a tummy tuck, try eliminating or seriously limiting belly-fat building foods (like saturated fat, sugar and alcohol) and eating more fat-busting foods, such as olive oil, lean fish and vegetables). Then you can use the extra cash to cruise around the Mediterranean in your bikini. To learn more about how to cook and eat a healthier, Mediterranean-inspired diet, try our online program GO! Foods for You.