One of the top belly fat-building offenders is stress — and not just because that bad day at work can make you feel like demolishing a pint of Cherry Garcia. When your body senses you're overwhelmed, it automatically starts producing cortisol — a hormone has been proven to eff with your body chemistry and stimulate extra fat storage in your gut. Yeah, sucks. When you're feeling worked up, close your eyes and take long, deep breaths for about five minutes. You'll immediately start to feel more relaxed, which should calm those hormones down and nix that belly sabotage.
You might feel silly, but it works. When Alan R. Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, tried this with 3,000 volunteers, he found that the more frequently people sniffed, the less hungry they were and the more weight they lost—an average of 30 pounds each. One theory is that sniffing the food tricks the brain into thinking you’re actually eating it.
You may have an apple-shaped or a pear-shaped body structure. Accumulation of fat occurs differently for different people, it actually depends on the body structure. For those whose bodies are pear-shaped, the fat tends to accumulate in the lower part of the body, like the buttocks. But for those whose bodies are apple-shaped, your body tends to store fat around the middle section, thus resulting in fat accumulation around the belly. You must know that there are two types of belly fat – visceral, which accumulates around the abdominal organs, and subcutaneous, which occurs between the skin and abdominal wall.
Even if you do meet your goal, it's nearly impossible to keep off the weight over the long term: "The amount of restriction required [to maintain that number] will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct," Dr. Seltzer says. And since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, he adds. That could mean gaining more pounds than you lost in the first place.
Stress wreaks havoc on every part of your body, and can lead to breakouts, joint pain, headaches, and yes, even excess belly fat. That’s because when you’re stressed, your body pumps out extra cortisol, that not-so-great hormone you keep hearing about. Studies show that cortisol not only spikes your appetite, but may also redistribute body fat to your belly area, according to a review published in the journal Obesity.
If you're eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day, your workouts will suffer and the constant stress on your body can lead to muscle loss and slow your metabolism, as we reported in 10 Things You Don't Know About Calories. If you're trying to eat super healthy, you might be surprised at how few calories you're actually eating—try tracking your daily intake with a food tracking app and make sure you're fueling your body, not depriving it of nutrients.
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to researchers at Yale, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.