Hannah Northcott: “Bye-Bye Mommy Tummy!”

I’m not a gym junkie, was never an athlete, and the most I’ve jogged – or what my husband, Steve, would call the version of his fast walk – is five kilometers. “Run forward and not upwards,” Steve coached while we were in the thick of the Color Run.

Not being one for speed, I turned to yoga and finally found a form of exercise that I enjoyed. Yoga made me feel connected with my breath, body, mind, and soul. I liked yoga so much that I underwent a journey of getting multiple certifications. However, even after practicing yoga for more than a decade, I couldn’t seem to tone my mid-section after my second baby, Ariella Rose.

While taking my yoga therapy course, I learned about Diastasis Recti and also came across the vast work of biomechanist and anatomy expert, Katy Bowman. Katy explained Diastasis Recti as “the unnatural distance of the right and/or left halves of the rectus abdominis from the midline.” In other words, the front of my abdomen split open.

I first noticed the symptoms of diastasis recti in my yoga practice.Upon moving into a back bend, my belly protrudedand formed the shape of a cone.

It was as if my gut would peer through the unnatural distance between the right and left side of my abdominal wall. Aside from that, I felt that I lost my core strength. After being cleared to exercise after my emergency caesarian operation, I couldn’t do a forearm plank or chatarangga in my sun salutation. I was curious to know why I couldn’t do movement that I repeatedly did in past years.

I shared about these with my yoga therapy trainer, Christina Mroz. She shared, “Your opening is small. So minor adjustments to your postures and watching how you move might be enough.  You may have to take out all backbends and planks for a bit to see greater bounds in healing if you want things to go a little faster.”

I listened to Christina’s advice and used restorative and gentle yoga to work my transverse abdominals, the muscles that wrapped around my midsection like a corset, to help knit back the three-finger opening in my core. I removed backbends, planks, and crutches from my practice for a year.

Katy’s book also helped me identify ways of knitting my core back again through alignment, breath work, and mindful ways of moving the body.

After a year of gentle practice, breath work, and prayers for healing, I noticed that the separation has decreased to the width of a finger. “Sometimes taking a step back in your practice is what you need to make progress in your healing,” Christina encouraged.

Upon learning that my core has regained its integrity, I wanted to find an exercise program that would challenge my body and get rid of my mommy tummy. After all, 40 wasn’t too far down the road, and I refused to believe that it was going to go downhill from there.

In my 225-instructor yoga certification course, I met fitness coach Michelle Kellog from the Beachbody group. Michelle posted sweaty selfies in her Facebook page that captured her smile beaming underneath her thick brown hair as she finished a work-out. Moreover, she posted transformation photos that documented how she was able to work through her post-partum belly, severe diastasis recti, and shrink it down back to her pre-pregnancy form. Thus, I called Michelle, registered with Beachbody on Demand, and paid the $99 subscription fee to have access to all of their online workout programs.

“I recommend you to start with the 21 Day Fix,” coached Michelle. “Most of my clients have found success with it because it’s easy to follow.”

The 21 Day Fix program, created by celebrity trainer Autumn Calebrese, included 30 minute exercises and a color-coded Fixate eating plan. What I didn’t realize was that there were two programs on the site and I mistakenly chose the harder option called 21 Day Extreme which was an intermediate and advance level workout but since I was able to do the first workout (although I struggled with it), I just stuck with it for 21 days.

I immediately saw results; furthermore, I realized that I could workout more consistently. It was the first time that I exercised for 21 days straight! 30 minutes a day was just what I would take to browse through Pinterest and Facebook and working out was a better use of my time. I also learned a lot about my eating patterns.

Being Asian, I was accustomed to eating a lot of carbohydrates ranging from rice, noodles, and bread. Being pescetarian, I learned that I was consuming a limited amount of protein.

The Fixate nutrition plan helped me learn to combine food groups and proper portion control. It was not a starvation diet, and I immediately realized the opposite; I needed food to fuel my workouts.

However, I found it a challenge to make all the healthy food myself because I had a full time job, was directing a theater production, and have two young daughters at home. Thus, I partnered with Doko Beijing, a healthy food provider to make and deliver my meals on days that I can’t make them myself.

(For healthy food delivery, check out Doko Beijing here.)

After 21 days, I saw a visual difference in my core and the toning of my muscles. So much that I immediately did another 21 days.

Having experienced the success of this program, I now have a WeChat group of women who will undergo the fitness challenge of 21 days after the Chinese New Year. Together, we will take positive steps to healthier versions of ourselves and continue to tighten that mommy tummy.

If you’d like to join us, please scan this QR code above. The 21-day journey will begin on February 26 until March 11. Once you join, I’ll send you an introduction along with a link for where to get your supplies.

Do you have fitness goals this year? How are you dealing with them in China?

Join the group of other China-focused parents on Facebook by clicking here  or on WeChat by scanning the QR code


Hannah believes in the power of thoughts, the agility of emotions, and the necessity of movement. She’s a chronically curious movement learner, traveler, dreamer, drama educator, master yoga instructor, and podcast junkie. Don’t be surprised if you found her flowing through sun salutations to the tune of Moira Peter’s Brave on the Great Wall of China.

As a global theater artist and wellness advocate, Hannah pioneered and currently teaches the middle school drama and dance program at the International School of Beijing. She also launched the first Drama Yoga Festival in the world, runs Journey to Wholeness wellness retreats, and participates in the collaborative creation of drama festivals as an ISTA Theater Artist.

Hannah is an archeologist of the soul – she uncovers hidden jewels in people and inspires them to connect deeper with themselves, each other and the world, through global and cultural proficiency, drama, theater, and yoga.

WeChat: Hannah_Northcott
Twitter: DramaYogi

Photos: Hannah Northcott, All Rights Reserved, and Pixabay

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