An apron belly, also known as a ‘mother’s apron’ or pannus stomach, is a common and often distressing concern after significant weight loss, as loose abdominal skin and excess fatty tissue hang over the abdomen. It is also often a concern for women after childbirth, hence the name.
What is an apron belly?
When you’ve committed to losing weight and worked hard to achieve the body shape you want through a rigorous commitment to diet and exercise, it can be very distressing to be left with physical reminders of your previous physique.
Stretched, loose skin, whether due to pregnancy or being previously overweight, is a common issue, particularly as you grow older and the skin becomes less elastic. The stomach is often a problem area and an apron belly refers to stretched abdominal skin and remaining fatty tissue that hangs low over the abdomen.
Often, men and women feel that they still have a less than pleasing body silhouette as it creates the illusion that they are still larger in size. It can affect how your clothes fit and cause chaffing and rubbing. Many patients say it causes them distress and dramatically impacts their self-confidence.
The extent of an apron belly can vary. Some patients can have a slight overhang covering the pubic area, but it can sometimes reach the upper thighs or further.
What causes an apron belly?
Significant weight loss or pregnancy are the two leading causes of an apron belly. Pregnancy, particularly multiple pregnancies, results in extensive stretching of the abdominal skin and muscles, leaving you with extra skin that does not fully retract once you give birth.
Genetics can play a role also as some patients are more susceptible to putting on weight in this area. The ageing process is also a factor. As we age, the levels of collagen and elastin in our skin drop yearly. These naturally occurring proteins in the dermis give our skin its strength and elasticity and, as they deplete, our skin is less likely to snap back after it has been stretched.
Finally, some medical conditions can also cause an apron belly to form. Hormonal conditions that cause extreme gain and weight loss and disorders such as diabetes can all result in a hanging belly.
What are the health risks of having an apron belly?
An apron belly is a mass of tissue that is hanging down from the abdomen and, in the most serious cases, it can extend all the way down the thighs, and it can cause significant health concerns.
The physical manifestations of this tissue overhang are chafing, skin infections, redness and swelling and perpetual discomfort. Rashes are common and can even result in ulceration in some men and women.
An apron belly can also make it challenging to maintain personal hygiene and cause a great deal of psychological distress. Some serious health issues are associated with carrying a significant degree of visceral fat around your tummy, as it generates toxins that can affect your body. These health concerns can include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Increased risk of certain cancers, particularly ovarian cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
How can you get rid of an apron belly
Rather than being happy when they have lost significant amounts of weight, many men and women are demotivated by the excess skin and fat left behind. A common question we’re asked is how to get rid of an apron belly.
The benefits of working out for your health are manifold, so exercising regularly should be part of a healthy lifestyle. However, in terms of getting rid of an apron belly, it is essential to ensure you are doing the right exercise.
Targeted fat loss, also known as spot reduction, has become popular for those who wish to slim down a specific area of the body by burning fat in the upper arms or inner thighs, for example. However, several recent studies have debunked the spot reduction theory.
One study looked at 40 obese women over 12 weeks and found that resistance training of the abdominal muscles had no effect on belly fat loss, proven by ultrasound imaging. This is due to how your body burns fat. Stored fats, or triglycerides, are burned by the body for energy, but during exercise, this fuel is drawn from anywhere in the body – not just the area that is being targeted.
So, rather than focusing on crunches and planks, up your cardiovascular exercise and aim to slim down all over.
Reducing your calorie intake can help you reduce an apron belly, and this can be as simple as making a few small dietary changes:
- Steer clear of ultra-processed foods – evidence suggests that the average person in the UK gets more than half of their energy intake from ultra-processed foods. One recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that refined carb intake was linked to a more significant accumulation of belly fat.
- Increase intake of non-starchy veg, including broccoli, leafy greens, courgettes, mushrooms and tomatoes.
- Up your proteins – protein-rich food includes chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and tofu.
- Choose whole grains – this includes brown rice, wild rice, quinoa and other wholegrain cereals.
Increasing your water intake
Increasing your water intake can be one of the most effective, non-invasive ways to reduce an apron belly, as it increases the amount of calories the body burns, a process known as resting energy expenditure.
The general guide is that you should take half of your body weight in ounces of water. Black coffee and herbal teas also count. At the same time, limit your alcohol intake, as this will definitely hinder your effort to eliminate an apron belly.
Alcohol contains almost as many calories as pure fat, and most alcoholic drinks are high in sugar, which means lots of empty calories and lead you to gain belly fat.
Through surgical procedures such as abdominoplasty
A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is the most effective solution for an apron belly. During a tummy tuck, your Karidis Clinic surgeon will remove the excess skin and fat hanging from the abdomen.
They will also access the abdominal muscles that often become stretched and lax after pregnancy and weight gain. These are tightened up and stitched into place to create a flatter contour to the abdomen. This is known as diastasis recti repair and will be performed at the same time as the excess skin is removed.
Liposuction is often performed simultaneously as an abdominoplasty to remove any excess fat. Although it is essential to realise that both a tummy tuck and liposuction are not weight loss procedures, you must be near to or at your ideal body weight and able to maintain this in the future.
Through non-surgical treatments
An abdominoplasty or liposuction are surgical procedures, so patients must know the degree of risk and potential complications before proceeding. Often patients ask if there are non-surgical apron belly treatments, and at Karidis Clinic we offer EmSculpt NEO for body contouring and Exilis Ultra 360.
Exilis delivers radiofrequency energy into the target area to break up fat cells so they are flushed out by the body’s lymphatic system while at the same time stimulating collagen production to tighten the skin.
However, for many patients, these non-surgical treatments cannot address the significant excess fat and skin present in an apron belly.