Over the weekend I saw a photo of a female celebrity (who is in a relationship with a male celeb) leaving a café with the caption ‘baby bump?’ and I had to refrain myself from shouting out loud, “Come on, can’t a girl eat without the world thinking she’s having a baby?!”
The truth is having a perfectly flat stomach all the time just isn’t normal. After you eat or drink, food and liquids naturally expand your stomach and intestines, so at least a little ‘bump’ is inevitable every single day. So if you regularly get stalked by paparazzi, or you have family members who are anxiously awaiting news of a new addition, here’s the low down on when you might get mistaken for being pregnant:
After a gassy meal
Some foods naturally produce gas, which expands in your GI tract like air in a balloon. Beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions (and dairy if you’re lactose intolerant) are notorious examples. So if your lunch or dinner plans may involve a stir-fry or black bean soup, you might not want to wear a form-fitting dress.
After enjoying a carbonated drink
I adore sparkling water and all natural seltzer, but the fizzy bubbles created by carbonation are gas, which can temporarily get trapped in your belly, leading to a poochy look. So if you want to keep your midsection looking a little flatter stick with plain old H2O.
After a high volume meal
When fully expanded your stomach can hold about six cups of food, the equivalent of about six baseballs worth (talk about expansion), and some of the healthiest meals can be pretty bulky. For example, a salad made from two cups of baby mixed greens dressed with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of fresh lemon, topped with a half cup cooked, chilled red quinoa, a half cup chickpeas and a quarter of a sliced avocado clocks in at over three cups in volume, but it’s a perfectly balanced slimming meal with fewer calories than a cheese burger, which is much more compact. Bottom line: the degree of post-meal belly expansion has no correlation to how a meal impacts your health or your weight.
After some not so healthy habits
A few other less than healthy habits can also lead to belly bloat including smoking, chewing gum, eating too fast, and skipping meals. Each causes you to gulp excess air, which can fill up your GI tract and lead to belly swell.
Just know that it’s normal for your belly to expand and deflate throughout the day or from day to day. And, on days you want to minimize this as much as possible avoid the above culprits, choose smaller portions of healthy foods spread out throughout the day, slow down when you eat, and stick with plain water. While some of those celeb baby bump rumors may turn out to be true most are just normal anatomy and physiology at work.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.