Getting rid of your belly bulge is important for more than just vanity's sake. Excess abdominal fat—particularly visceral fat, the kind that surrounds your organs and puffs your stomach into a "beer gut"—is a predictor of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and some cancers. If diet and exercise haven't done much to reduce your pooch, then your hormones, your age, and other genetic factors may be the reason why. Read on for 11 possible reasons why your belly fat won't budge.
We know that this type of fat—called visceral fat—churns out stress hormones like cortisol and inflammatory substances called cytokines that affect the body's production of insulin. The result: Besides obesity, you're also looking at increased risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. No thanks. Check out these nine tips to finally rid your body of that excess stomach.
Research also shows that workouts involving high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help reduce excess fat around your middle. Besides working your core, try incorporating a day or two of more vigorous exercise into your weekly schedule. (You can start with these three beginner routines.) Keep in mind that you can lower your total body fat percentage even by moving around more at work, according to another study.
And maybe a new mattress, because it’s not just the amount of time you spend sleeping that keeps you lean, it’s also the quality of your sleep. Fat cells in your body produce a hormone called leptin that helps the body keep track of how much potential energy (i.e. fat) it has stored. But leptin is only produced during certain stages of sleep. Miss out on those stages because you’re not resting soundly enough, and you’ll disturb levels of the hormone, leaving your body with no real idea of its energy reserves. Consequently, you’ll end up storing calories rather than burning them.
1. Ditch fad diets and restrictive eating regimens. If you experimented with extreme calorie cutting and restrictive fad diets in your teenage years, it’s time to leave those unhealthy habits behind. “People turn to fad diets not only out of desperation but because they’re simply uninformed,” says Elise Chassen Sopov, RDN, an Oradell, New Jersey-based registered dietitian nutritionist and exercise physiologist who specializes in weight management. Now that you’re an adult, it’s time to choose a healthy way of eating that you can maintain for the rest of your life. Make fruits and vegetables the stars of your meals, and lean protein and whole-wheat carbs the supporting players.
Thinking about your clothes might seem more like a post-weight loss celebration than a weight loss strategy, but research and experts actually suggest otherwise. "Ample room and elastic waistbands are not your friends, because they let you get away with ignoring your body, along with the warning signs that you may be eating too much," says weight loss and fitness expert Jenna Wolfe in her book Thinner In 30. "Instead, stick with non-stretch jeans and clothes with enough room to spare but snug enough to remind you of your goals."
Don’t let extra hours lounging in bed stand between you and a flatter belly. While getting enough sleep can help boost your metabolic rate, sleeping in may undo any benefit you’d enjoy from catching a few extra winks. One study reveals that late sleepers who snoozed past 10:45 in the morning ate nearly 250 more calories over the course of the day, despite eating half as many fruits and vegetables as their early bird counterparts. Even worse, they chowed down on more salty, sugary, and trans fat-laden fast food than those who woke up earlier. If you happen to head out of the house early, you’re in for an additional metabolic boost; researchers at Northwestern University have found that people exposed to just a short period of early morning sunlight had lower BMIs than their late-waking counterparts.