by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
Why your stomach won't always be flatAs nearly every news outlet covered Lea Michelle's supposed baby bump on Monday, I found myself repeatedly shouting "Come on!" "Really?" and "Ugh!" to my computer and TV screens. One report noted her "hint of something other than rock-hard, six-pack abs," and I nearly lost it because the truth is, no matter how fit you are, it's just not normal to have a perfectly flat stomach all the time.
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, even if your weight and body fat are completely stable.
Some of the healthiest foods, including beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and onions produce gas as they're being digested, which will expand your GI tract like air filling a balloon. And just eating a bulkier meal, even if it's super healthy like a large salad, means your midsection will inflate more than if you ate a compact energy bar with the same number of calories.
Then there's the fizzy bubbles created by carbonation, which are gas, so reaching for sparkling water rather than still can also trigger a temporary extension.
Finally, some not-so 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 trigger some swelling.
Bottom line: It's normal for your belly to bulge a bit and deflate throughout the day, and the degree of post-meal belly expansion has no correlation to how a meal will impact your weight or health.
Baby-bump rumors are about as logical as accusing a pregnant person of having a boob job-bigger breasts are a normal consequence of pregnancy, and a rounded tummy is a normal result of eating, end of story. So the next time you see a friend, co-worker or celeb sporting a little curve, instead of wondering when she's due or if she's packing on pounds, consider that maybe she just had Chipotle for lunch!
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What's your take on this topic? Do you experience more bloating after certain meals, or have you ever been asked if you're pregnant after simply eating lunch? Do celeb baby-bump rumors drive you crazy too? Please share your thought or tweet them to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.