A Mom's Guide to Ab Rehab

You love your kid. The wobbly tummy she left you with? Not so much. But being a mom doesn't have to mean saying sayonara to your pre-kid stomach. Small switches to your diet, workout routine, and lifestyle can make over your middle. Mix and match your choice of the following tips for a trimmer waist in no time.

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    Get More Sleep

    Women who only sleep five hours nightly are nearly twice as likely to be overweight as those who get seven hours. Sleep deprivation affects hormones that regulate your appetite, so if you don't get enough shut-eye you'll find yourself hungrier the next day. Try DVRing The Daily Show instead of staying up for the late-night laughs, and create a sleep-friendly bedroom that's dark, cool, and clean; research shows your nighttime environment can impact your quality of slumber.

  • Karen Pearson

    Work Your Butt Off

    If you're eating a healthy diet and exercising but your tummy still sticks out, your booty could be to blame, says Jade Alexis, a private trainer in New York. When your hip flexors are tight and your glute muscles are weak, your pelvis can tilt into a position that makes your tummy protrude. Get it back in place by doing these moves three times a week.

    Floor bridge: Lie on your back with knees up and hip width apart. Lift toes and push through heels as you lift hips off ground, squeezing butt at the top of the movement. Relax head and shoulders, and hold for 5 seconds. Do 3 sets of 20 reps.

    Lunge stretch: Lunge forward with left leg until right knee is on the floor (use a towel to cushion knee.) Gently ease into the stretch for 1 minute before standing and repeating. Do 3 reps on each leg.

  • Exercise With Baby: Building Core Strength
    Exercise With Baby: Building Core Strength
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    Avoid Sneaky Bloat Inducers

    High-school reunion coming up? Look thinner in a few days by temporarily avoiding carbonated drinks, gum (chewing it causes you to swallow air, which makes your stomach puffy), and gas-producing veggies such as brussels sprouts and cauliflower. "If you consume a lot of these foods and beverages, cutting them out can help your tummy look noticeably trimmer," says celebrity nutritionist Jackie Keller.

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    Start Sweating

    The key to uncovering a toned tummy is cardio. Luckily, the visceral fat that's found around your waistline is easier to lose than the type of fat that's just under the skin, such as around your thighs. Fred Devito, cocreator of Core Fusion classes and DVDs, says to aim for two to three days of heart-pumping workouts a week, which can be anything from swimming to running to biking. Start at 20 minutes, and work your way up to 60-minute sweat sessions.

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    Practice Pilates

    To get a rock-solid core, sign up for a class featuring Pilates techniques. According to a study in IDEA Fitness Journal, these strengthening exercises activate more of your abdominal muscles than sit-ups do. Plus, if you're a new mom, Pilates moves that emphasize pulling the navel to the spine are safer than crunches, which may put too much pressure on the rectus abdominis muscle that's stretched during pregnancy.

  • Best Post-Baby Workout Routines: Plank
    Best Post-Baby Workout Routines: Plank
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    Get Your Grains

    And make them whole. The extra fiber will keep you full longer, and a diet rich in whole grains also improves how your body uses insulin -- the hormone that aids cells in turning sugar into energy -- helping to reduce fat deposition, explains Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutrition at Penn State University, in University Park. Look for foods with a whole grain, such as oats or whole-grain wheat, listed as the first ingredient.

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    Stress Less

    Stress doesn't just cause your blood pressure to rise, it also makes your middle grow. When you're stressed out, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which causes fat to be stored in your belly area. To chill out after your toddler's tantrum, download a nature-sounds app onto your phone; the calming sounds will relax you. Or lie down and breathe in for four counts, hold for a few seconds, and then release the air for four more counts.

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    Drink Green Tea

    To burn fat faster, try drinking green tea. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that drinking four to five cups of green tea daily in conjunction with regular exercise reduced ab pudge by almost 8 percent after three months. The secret ingredient? Antioxidants known as catechins, which increase the breakdown of fat cells.

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    Get More Vitamin C

    Immune-boosting vitamin C could help you zap 30 percent more fat during your workouts, says a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Women who ate the recommended amount of 75mg daily were less likely to have abdominal fat than those who ingested 56mg or less. The vitamin ups your body's ability to oxidize fat -- turning it into an energy source -- which keeps it from accumulating in tissue. Aim to get at least 100mg daily from sources like broccoli, strawberries, and red bell peppers or from a supplement.

  • Jay Sullivan

    Dig Deep

    Pregnancy does a number on your core. New mom and fitness expert Sara Haley recommends exercises that target the transverse abdominal, the innermost stomach muscles that act like a corset, cinching everything together.

    Perform these moves three times a week for a show-off stomach.

    Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

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