There are many reasons why people gain belly fat, including poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress. Improving nutrition, increasing activity, reducing stress, and making other lifestyle changes can all help people lose unwanted belly fat.
Belly fat refers to fat around the abdomen. There are two types of belly fat:
- Visceral: This fat surrounds a person’s organs.
- Subcutaneous: This is fat that sits under the skin.
Health complications from visceral fat are more harmful than having subcutaneous fat. People can make many lifestyle and dietary changes to lose belly fat.
Being overweight is one of the leading causes of major diseases.
Excess belly fat can increase the risk of:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- breast cancer
- colon cancer
- Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia
Common causes of excess belly fat include the following:
1. Poor diet
Sugary food, such as cakes and candy, and drinks, such as soda and fruit juice, can:
- cause weight gain
- slow a person’s metabolism
- reduce a person’s ability to burn fat
Low-protein, high-carb diets may also affect weight. Protein helps a person feel fuller for longer, and people who do not include lean protein in their diet may eat more food overall.
Trans fats, in particular, can cause inflammation and may lead to obesity. Trans fats are in many foods, including fast food and baked goods, for example, muffins or crackers.
The American Heart Association recommend that people replace trans fats with healthful whole-grain foods, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats.
Reading food labels can help a person determine whether their food contains trans fats.
2. Too much alcohol
Consuming excess alcohol can cause a variety of health problems, including liver disease and inflammation.
A 2015 report on alcohol consumption and obesity in the journal Current Obesity Reports indicates that drinking excess alcohol causes males to gain weight around their bellies, though study results in females are inconsistent.
3. Lack of exercise
If a person consumes more calories than they burn off, they will put on weight.
An inactive lifestyle makes it hard for a person to get rid of excess fat, particularly around the abdomen.
A steroid hormone known as cortisol helps the body control and deal with stress. When a person is in a dangerous or high-pressure situation, their body releases cortisol, and this can impact on their metabolism.
People often reach for food for comfort when they feel stressed, and cortisol causes the excess calories to remain around the belly and other areas of the body for later use.
There is some evidence that a person’s genes can play a part in whether or not they become obese. Scientists think genes can influence behavior, metabolism, and the risk of developing obesity-related diseases.
Similarly, environmental factors and behavior also play a role in the likelihood of people becoming obese.
6. Poor sleep
A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine links weight gain to short sleep duration, which could lead to an excess of belly fat.
Both poor quality and short duration of sleep can play a part in the development of abdominal fat.
Not getting enough good sleep may, potentially, lead to unhealthful eating behaviors, such as emotional eating.
Researchers may not consider smoking to be a direct cause of belly fat, but they do believe it to be a risk factor.
A 2012 study published in the journal PloS one showed that, although obesity was the same between smokers and nonsmokers, smokers had more belly and visceral fat than nonsmokers.
By considering the following changes, people may be able to lose their unwanted belly fat:
1. Improve your diet
A healthful, balanced diet can help a person lose weight, and it is also likely to have a positive effect on their overall health.
People should avoid sugar, fatty foods, and refined carbohydrates that have low nutritional content. Instead, they should eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates.
2. Reduce your alcohol consumption
A person trying to lose excess abdominal fat should monitor their alcohol intake. Alcoholic drinks often contain additional sugar, which can contribute to weight gain.
3. Increase your exercise
A sedentary lifestyle brings with it many serious health problems, including weight gain. People trying to lose weight should include a good amount exercise in their daily routine.
Undertaking both aerobic exercise and strength training can help people tackle their belly fat.
Exercise is most effective if people combine both cardiovascular and high-intensity training alongside weights and resistance training.
4. Get more sunlight
A 2016 review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicates that exposure to sunlight in animals could lead to a reduction in weight gain and metabolic dysfunction.
The review highlights that few studies have looked at the effects of sunlight on humans, in respect of weight gain. It states that more research is required to support the findings so far.
5. Reduce your stress
Stress can cause a person to gain weight. The release of the stress hormone cortisol influences a person’s appetite and could cause them to eat more.
Stress-relieving tactics include mindfulness and meditation, and gentle exercise, such as yoga.
6. Improve your sleep pattern
Sleep is vital to people’s overall health, and too little rest can have a severe impact on well-being.
Sleep’s primary purpose is to allow the body to rest, heal, and recover, but it can also have an impact on a person’s weight.
Getting enough good-quality sleep is essential when a person is trying to shed weight, including belly fat.
7. Quit smoking
Smoking is a risk factor for increased belly fat, as well as many other serious health concerns. Quitting can significantly reduce the risk from excess belly fat, as well as improve overall health.
There is a higher likelihood of various health issues if a person has excess belly fat. Causes include poor diet, lack of exercise, and short or low-quality sleep.
A healthful diet and active lifestyle can help people lose excess belly fat and lower the risk of the problems associated with it.
- Abdominal obesity and your health. (2017, January 20)
- Behavior, environment, and genetic factors all have a role in causing people to be overweight and obese. (2018, January 19)
- Fleury, N., Geldenhuys, S., & Gorman, S. (2016, October 11). Sun exposure and its effects on human health: Mechanisms through which sun exposure could reduce the risk of developing obesity and cardiometabolic dysfunction. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(10), 999
- Frequently asked questions about saturated fats. (n.d.)
- Kim, J. H., Shim, K. W., Yoon, Y. S., Lee, S. Y., Kim, S. S., & Oh, S. W. (2012, September 24). Cigarette smoking increases abdominal and visceral obesity but not overall fatness: An observational study. PloS one, 7(9), e45815
- St-Onge, M.-P. (2013, January 15). The role of sleep duration in the regulation of energy balance: Effects on energy intakes and expenditure. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9(1), 73–80
- Taking aim at belly fat. (2010, August)
- Traversy, G., & Chaput, J.-P. (2015, March). Alcohol consumption and obesity: An update. Current Obesity Reports, 4(1), 122–130