Losing belly fat can be a long, hard process. While losing weight in other areas of the body may easily come off, belly fat is harder to budge. So it’s important to understand why.
“There are three types of fat: triglycerides, the fat that circulates in your blood, subcutaneous fat, the layer directly below the skin’s surface, and visceral fat (also known as abdominal fat or belly fat),” explains Colette Heimowitz, MS, Vice President of Nutrition & Education at Simply Good Foods Company. “Visceral fat is located beneath the muscles in your stomach and poses risks to your health when there is too much of it.”
She adds that visceral fat produces excess hormones and chemicals, which negatively impact almost every organ in your body, and increase your risk for health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.
Unfortunately, it’s this visceral fat specifically that contributes to the extra weight you may carry in your mid-section.
“The body tends to store visceral fat, or abdominal fat, easily and resist ‘losing’ it since it is in such close proximity to almost all of our vital organs,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, a New Jersey-based registered dietitian and consultant for MyFitnessPal. “It is an easy source of quick energy for organs, so it makes sense the body would want to ‘keep’ it around.”
Palinski-Wade notes that everything from stress to lack of sleep to aging to a diet rich in simple sugars can increase these fat stores, and it can be hard to shed it without making consistent lifestyle adjustments.
If you’re struggling to lose abdominal fat, here are 8 things to try. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.
“Stress hormones can cause the body to store more fat in the midsection, even if your body weight doesn’t change,” says Palinski-Wade. “One of the best ways to reduce stress quickly is by simply practicing ‘belly breathing’—breathing in through the nose into the abdomen, holding for a few seconds, and then exhaling deeply through pursed lips like you are whistling. This can help to slow heart rate, calm the body, and reduce circulating stress hormones.”
“Protein helps trigger the release of leptin, which helps us feel fuller, longer and can slow calorie consumption leading to more belly fat gain,” says Cory Ruth, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, women’s health expert, and CEO of The Women’s Dietitian. “Easy ways to add more protein into your diet include protein-packed smoothies with Greek yogurt or protein powder in the morning, grilled salmon or chicken for lunch, lentils, or black beans for dinner, and hard-boiled eggs and roasted almonds for snacks.”
“Your body is built to handle the equivalent of only one to two teaspoons of circulating blood sugar at a time, and anything more than that has the potential to be converted into body fat,” says Heimowitz.
“Simple sugars in the diet can cause belly fat to accumulate quickly. Too much added sugar can also increase insulin resistance, which leads to excess insulin in the bloodstream, encouraging even more fat storage in the belly.,” says Palinski-Wade.
“The largest source of added sugar in the diet is sugary beverages, like soda. By swapping soda for sparkling water with a splash of juice, you can enjoy all the same refreshing carbonation without any added sugars.”
“A short, brisk daily walk helps encourage lower cortisol levels,” says Ruth. “Studies show even a quick walk can help regulate your insulin levels more effectively, leading to less fat storage in your abdomen.”
“When you cut down on carbs, especially refined carbs like white bread, rice, bagels, pasta, cookies, candy, and chips, and focus on nutrient- and fiber-rich carbs such as vegetables, and low-glycemic fruits, you start to lose belly fat, because your body is burning fat for fuel,” says Heimowitz.
“Reducing belly fat doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but it takes consistency especially when it comes to food choices,” says Palinski-Wade. “So many of us eat without realizing what we’ve actually eaten or how much. When you track your food, you can see how what you eat impacts everything from your energy, mood, stress levels, and even sleep – it doesn’t have to be hard to do.”
“Lemons are known diuretics that can help reduce stomach bloat, and upping your hydration can help keep your appetite at bay, meaning a lower calorie intake and less belly fat,” says Ruth.