Hope for When That Diastasis Recti will NOT close!

It is an amazing time to be a core fitness specialist ministering to the muscular core needs of women with this website right here that provides TummySafe Fitness. With news being spread about diastasis recti being fixable for most without surgery, more research being done, more case studies documented, well, here at Fit2B we are so blessed to be in the vortex surrounded by amazing colleagues doing a lot of that work!

Yet one of the biggest questions from people trying to fix their bellies always circles back to when that diastasis recti will not close {or the one that is narrowing slower than we wish it would} or just a belly that’s not responding in general to whatever you’re doing to flatten or firm it.

I’ve been there, and if you’ve ever plateaued in your struggle to narrow your diastasis recti (DR) gap or just tone your tummy in general, you’ve been in this sweet lady’s exact same shoes. She wrote…

Some days I’m like, “yay my tummy feels and looks like its getting somewhere” then other days I’m like “Are you kidding me? It looks the same, its DR measures the same, and when I sit down it all pooches up and looks like I’ve never done an abdominal workout in my life!”. aahhhh! I feel strong and capable but is there ever going to be a day when it looks flat without me having to do a full tummy breath and zip it all up….sorry just having a bad week 🙁 I don’t have much to complain about compared to others but I’m a high achiever by nature. And all I see when I’m sitting and laying down is this big sunken hole in the middle of my belly 🙁 I feel like it won’t matter how many exercises i do for how long…this is it, this is the best it’s going to be.” -Jessica C.

We wonder when the exercises and the attention to alignment will finally pay off.We can’t wait to gently press our fingers in AND NOT be able to press our fingers in past knuckle depth. We wonder when that happy moment will come when we go to do our bi-monthly check {no, you should not be poking around in your tummy every day, friends – twice a month is plenty} and finally discover that our linea alba feesl a lot less like the Grand Canyon and a lot more like the dip between two knuckles.

Dear Mom, I know you are upset with the way your belly looks and feels...but there is HOPE - Fit2b.us


Well, the interesting, hope-filled fact that I want to center this whole article on is that – like many things in this beautiful life – size isn’t nearly as important as strength. Indeed, when you first learned about diastasis recti, you might have fixated on the size of your DR and it’s frequent {not always} relationship with the distension of your stomach. And then you might have fixated on the concept of closing one to flatten the other, thinking that “closed” means no gap at all.

However, did you know that a 1 finger-width (FW) gap is considered “closed” since there will always be a firm little dip around your umbilicus? Ideally the dip down the middle of your abs near your navel should feel like the space between two knuckles on the back of your hand, and it should feel like the end of your nose up between your ribs and near your pubis.

It’s not the size of your gap that matters, so much as the strength of it.

Just like the scale on which you weigh yourself {that indicates I am obese on the BMI scale because muscle weighs more than fat, and I’m all – cough – muscle} numbers are stupid. It’s more about how your feel and function and fit into your favorite pants than it is about width or weight.

Like Carolyne Anthony of The Center For Women’s Fitness said in this post on her Facebook page, “When we look at photos of men and women with very bulky musculature, we sometimes assume that the gap between the recti muscles is diastasis… If the fascia is healthy and springy to the touch, there is nothing to worry about. NOT EVERY GAP IS DIASTASIS RECTI.”


My gap is totally narrowed and healed from ribs to pubis. It’s been that way for a long time, but the journey didn’t happen overnight. People, let me tell you, I know from a deep personal place how obsessing about getting a diastasis recti down to that certain “1FW” width can lead to a bad case of the crazies. I also know that “closed” isn’t always necessary to regain stability, function, painlessness, continence, and a flatter tummy.

Read my rehab story here {click} 

Join me for the workouts that help me stay healed here {click}

Meanwhile, please understand that more and more core experts are calling for better language to describe the difference between a normal dip and a diastasis recti where the abs have shifted apart to an unhealthy degree.

For example, if you have a functional core with no leaking issues or prolapse, and no back pain, and your 2-FW diastasis resists the press of your fingers with fascia that has rethickened nicely, your physical therapist may not call that a diastasis to worry about and may not have you focus on it very much. Meanwhile, someone with a 2-FW diastasis that allows her to press in up to the 3rd knuckle, and who is also dealing with incontinence, back pain, poor posture, and anxiety will have more homework and more recovery time ahead of her.

In her article here, Lorraine Scapens, one of our professional contributors to “Experts on Diastasis Recti” from New Zealand where she’s the founder of Turningbaby.com and Pregnancy Exercise, addressed how a DRA doesn’t always need to close completely for a woman {or man} to get his/her life back.

“Up until recently we would often advocate that full closure is necessary as we know that this is best for optimal function, but some women can function without pain, leaking or poor posture when a DR remains so it becomes necessary to assess each person individually.” -Lorraine Scapens, Founder of Pregnancy Exercise & TurningBaby.com

Wendy of MuTu System has also written to our mindset regarding a diastasis recti that hasn’t yet closed, addressing it head-on in Lesson Ten of our Experts on Diastasis Recti eCourse {here}.

Does this mean we settle for a 2FW separation that’s hit a plateau? Do we call “game over” and quit thinking about our alignment, breath-based movements, and go back to doing crunches?

No, not at allComplete closure is possible, and I believe we should keep working toward that 1-FW for optimal abdominal integrity. But if your core has hit a plateau, and you know there’s more you could do, but you’re not sure what because you’re already doing the TummySafe Fitness and the walking and the breathing and, and, and AHHhhhhh!! Well, keep reading because I have some expert suggestions:

First, what you need to do is pat yourself on the back if you’re aware and working on it.

You’ve established those healthy patterns and come this far. You need to trust your core to keep healing quietly behind the scenes as you continue to focus on caring for yourselves and those around you. We have to give the healing time and remember it’s less about the gap itself and more about the fascia that holds the two sides of our abs together.

Long thought to be unfixable without surgery to stitch it closed manually {a major thing to recover from in and of itself} we now know that the connective tissue of your linea alba does regain tension, does regenerate, and it definitely does re-thicken if stimulated consistently by the appropriate mechanics and chemistry. But it takes time.

Second, you need to take a closer {non-obsessive} look at your environment, mechanics and personal chemistry.

The quality of your fascia is affected by the quality of your chemistry, mechanics and environment. In other words, the quality of your core is directly related to your hormones and how you’re eating, plus the quality of your motions and your habitat or home.

To be blunt, if you’re doing all the right exercises for diastasis recti, but the blasted thing won’t shut, you’ve got to give yourself some grace while you examine what you eat, what your wonky hormones might be doing, and how your life is set up outside of your workout program. Those all have a greater affect on your fascia because we do them more than we do our 15-20 minutes of “ab work.”

NOTE: This blog is the 2nd installment in what has become known as “The Unclosed Core” series which has 3 more blogs that go into the specifics of those last two paragraphs. Be sure you read “Part II: How Chemistry Affects Your Diastasis Recti” where I will brought an herbalist and physical therapist to the table to discuss how hormones and herbs impact your fascia. You may also want to go back and read the first unclosed core blog: “Giving Diastasis Recti Time to Heal.”

P.S. What about that lady, Jessica, who was so frustrated up there in that quote at the start of this article? Well, it’s funny you ask, because she really did heal. It took time. But she did it, and she blogged about it here.

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