Fix That Lower Belly Pooch

Samantha Moon

Ask any woman about her most problematic body issue, and chances are she’ll name her lower belly “pooch.” It’s the annoying bulge that no amount of dieting, crunches, or crying seems to be able to fix. Fortunately, when you understand the root causes of your pooch, you can reduce and even eliminate it in a matter of weeks. 

What causes the “pooch?”

First, let’s talk about what causes a pooch. It can happen at any stage of life, but it’s common after having a child and for many women due to normal aging, heredity, or weight gain and loss. Pregnancy changes your body in hundreds of ways, and it takes months for most women’s bodies to return to their pre-pregnancy form.  

Medical experts estimate that up to 60% of women experience abdominal muscle separation to some degree during the first year postpartum and that 33% are dealing with it beyond that. What most women would think was the answer – lots of sit-ups and crunches – actually can make the condition worse. 

A pooch might not actually be fat, although the pooch may be covered in fat. It’s actually poor displacement of abdominal pressure and core muscle weakness. The bad news is that a pooch may be more than a cosmetic problem; if it’s not addressed, it can create medical problems later such as prolapse.

How to fix the pooch

My 4-6 week pooch program for women starts with breathing. Most of us have been breathing wrong for years, even decades, without knowing it. That’s why many yoga instructors start class with a breathing practice. The correct way to breathe is called 360 breathing.

I help women learn to improve breathing by expanding their entire rib cage during the inhale. Your rib cage should expand outward in all directions as you take in air, just like a balloon does when blown up. This pulls the diaphragm downwards into the abdominal cavity, creating pressure. This pressure helps stretch your deep core and pelvic floor muscles. As you exhale, your rib cage will come back in, and the diaphragm lifts back up, decreasing the pressure and allowing your muscles to return to their resting position. This technique uses the diaphragm muscle to make sure you get the optimal amount of pressure into the abdomen. It also stretches and strengthens the diaphragm, one of the most important of your core muscles. 

Once a patient is breathing correctly on a consistent basis, we work on posture. A natural and upright posture maintains a neutral pelvic position and allows you to breathe deeply. It also allows your glutes and deep core muscles to be available for use, especially the transverse abdominis, the muscles that run up and down the sides of your midsection like a girdle. The stronger these muscles become, the tighter your belly will look.

Then, I work on stretching and strengthening the pelvic floor, which is essential to fixing a pooch and maintaining your health over a lifetime. These essential muscles work with the deep abdominal and back muscles and the diaphragm to support the spine and control the pressure inside the abdomen. The deep layer of the pelvic floor provides support for your organs, while the superficial and middle layers help control urine and waste elimination. 

I work with patients to learn to contract and release these muscles with an exercise therapists call “lifting the beans and dropping the beans.” You lay on your side and imagine that you’re picking up a bean with your anus and vagina. You lift it up gently inside of you about 1 cm, then drop it and relax your muscles. I recommend that patients start with 3 minutes of this two times per day.

The great thing about this exercise is that once you master it, you can do it anywhere and anytime. You can do it while sitting at your desk, standing in line, watching TV, fixing dinner, or washing dishes. It will become second nature, and women will naturally perform this exercise throughout the day.. 

Once we’ve incorporated pelvic strengthening and relaxation into a patient’s everyday life, we add in 20 minutes of daily exercise in a variety of moves that strengthen the hips, core, and legs. Patients do bridges, squats, work with exercise bands, and perform other movements, many of which elite athletes also use to build and maintain core strength.

Generally, patients will see a significant improvement in their pooch after six weeks or so of consistent work. If they keep up the practice, they’ll do more than fit into last year’s jeans. They’ll see health benefits that can last a lifetime. 

To learn more about fixing your lower belly pooch and to book an evaluation, visit

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