Belly fat has proven to be one of the hardest types of body fat to lose. However, knowing the causes makes preventing and losing it much easier.
Belly fat refers to the fat around/in the abdomen and they’re of two types:
- Visceral fat: This is fat stored in a person’s abdominal cavity. This fat surrounds vital organs and usually results in health complications.
- Subcutaneous fat: This fat lies just beneath the skin.
Visceral fat makes up only a small proportion of body fat. However, it is more harmful than subcutaneous fat. Experts have also linked it to a variety of health problems.
A lot of factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise or inactivity or stress often causes people to gain belly fat. Excess belly fat increases the risk of some diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, asthma and dementia. However, improving one’s diet and exercise and making some lifestyle changes can help in losing unwanted belly fat.
Causes of belly fat
Being overweight is one of the leading cause of major diseases. Causes of belly fat include the following:
1. Poor diet
Consuming sugary foods or so-called ‘junk foods’, such as cakes and candy, can lead to weight gain, slows down metabolism and reduces the body’s ability to burn fat.
Eating a low-protein, high-carb diet can also affect your weight. People who don’t include lean proteins in their diet tend to eat more as protein keeps you fuller for longer.
Also reading the food labels helps you avoid food with bad fat such as trans-fat. The American Heart Association recommends that people replace trans fats with healthful whole-grain foods, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
2. Excessive alcohol
Consuming excess alcohol can cause a variety of health problems, including liver disease and inflammation. Excess intake of alcohol causes more calories than your body can burn. These calories are then stored as fat. Where the body stores the fat is determined to an extent by your age, s*x and hormones.
Women tend to have more subcutaneous fat than men, so that excess fat gets deposited in their arms, thighs, buttocks and also their bellies. For the men, these fat are stored mostly in their bellies.
According to a 2015 report on alcohol consumption and obesity in the journal, Current Obesity Reports, drinking excess alcohol causes males to gain weight around their bellies, though study results in females are inconsistent.
3. Lack of exercise
Consuming more calories than you can burn off causes you to gain weight. That’s why it’s important to exercise or keep moving as often as you can. An inactive or sedentary lifestyle makes it hard to get rid of excess fat, particularly around the abdomen.
Cortisol, a steroid hormone, helps the body to control and deal with stress. Being in a dangerous or high-pressure situation, makes the body releases cortisol, which can affect metabolism. High levels of cortisol hormones have been associated with a buildup of visceral fat.
Often times, when people feel stressed, they reach for food for comfort. Cortisol causes the excess calories to remain around the belly and other parts of the body for later use.
5. Other causes
There are other things that cause belly fat, and they include genetics, environmental factors, inadequate sleep and smoking.
How to lose belly fat
Generally improving one’s lifestyle can help to lose belly fat. Listed below are some changes and lifestyle choices that you can adopt to lose belly fat.
1. Eat right
Eating a healthful balanced diet helps you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Avoid foods that encourage belly fat deposition such as sugary foods, fatty foods (especially trans-fat) and refined foods and beverages. Eat more of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and fibres.
2. Limit your alcohol intake
Most alcohols contain additional sugars which make you gain weight. It is best to reduce or totally limit alcohol consumption when trying to lose belly fat.
3. Keep moving
An inactive or sedentary lifestyle leads to serious health problems on the long run. Exercise helps you lose visceral fat and gain muscle mass. It’s important to include a good amount to exercise in your daily routine such as brisk walking, using the stairs instead of elevators and standing more often when you can.
Exercise is most effective if cardiovascular and high-intensity training are combined alongside weights and resistance training.
4. Reduce your stress
Avoid situations that causes stress. Stress can make a person gain weight. The release of the stress hormone cortisol influences a person’s appetite and could cause them to eat more. Engage in relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga to help relieve stress.
5. Get quality sleep
Too little sleep has a negative impact on one’s health. A study found that adults under age 40, who slept for five hours or less a night, accumulated more visceral fat. However, too much is not good either. Good quality sleep is essential when trying to lose belly fat.
6. Quit smoking
Those that smoke are more likely to store fat in their abdomen rather than on their hips and thighs. 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.