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.
Your physician may use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to record detailed pictures of your fat tissue. They may also use CAT or CT scans to produce cross-sectional images of your body or other bioelectrical impedance machines to differentiate between fat tissues. Calipers are sometimes used to measure fat under muscle but are not considered to be an accurate tool.
Sleep takes all that hard work you’re doing in the kitchen and the gym, and fast tracks those results. A good night’s sleep helps your body recover from activity and also regulates hormones responsible for hunger cues. “Sleep is essential [for fat loss and overall health]. It’s recommended that adults get 7-8 hours per night. There are a lot of studies on [sleep and fat loss], showing that good sleep can help us eat better and help us to lose weight,” says White. The two specific hormones sleep has an influence over are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin works to keep your energy steady and appetite low. Alternatively, ghrelin increases feelings of hunger. When you fail to get adequate sleep, ghrelin is increased and leptin is decreased, which messes with your hunger signals and can cause you to eat more. By getting your 7-8 hours a night you’ll avoid any wacky cravings and emotional eating, which will make your fat-loss goals that much easier to achieve.
When your cortisol levels are through the roof, it triggers the release of insulin, and this is where things go awry. Initially, the ‘fight-or-flight’ response shuts down your digestive system so you can deal with the “threat”, like a very hungry lion or, more realistically, heavy traffic on your way to work. Once the danger has passed, your body seeks to replenish the hundreds of calories you burned fighting to the death/swearing at rush hour traffic and makes you ravenously hungry.
There are currently no legal requirements for food manufacturers to label trans fats, according to the British Dietetic Association, so you need to check ingredients lists for hydrogenated fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils. The biggest culprits? Your ‘cheat day’ favourites: cakes, biscuits, ice cream, popcorn, pies, fried food, fast food, takeaways — the list goes on.
While it’s often assumed that bread is off-limits when you’re trying to lose belly fat, the right bread may actually expedite the process. Switching to sprouted bread can help out carb-lovers eager to get their fix without going up a belt size, thanks to the inulin content of sprouted grains. The results of a study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reveal that found that pre-diabetic study subjects whose diets were supplemented with inulin shaved off more belly fat and total weight than those whose meal plans didn’t pack this healthy prebiotic fiber.
"One of the hardest parts of losing weight is maintaining the lifestyle changes you’ve made. It’s difficult to stay motivated all the time, especially if you’ve slipped up along the way. But don’t let this affect your end goal. If you’re feeling particularly unmotivated, ask a friend to join you for your workout and then afterwards cook something healthy for dinner together."
3. Exercise Ball Crunch: This is one of the most effective ways to strengthen and flatten abs. Studies show this exercise is 40% more effective than regular ab crunches as it targets smaller muscles for flat toned abs including the oblique’s for a small waist and the outermost muscles that your typical ab crunch may miss. To begin, lie down on the ball positioning it under the lower back. Place arms behind your head. Tighten your abs as you lift your torso off the ball while keeping the ball stable. Lower back down and repeat 15 times with 1-3 sets.
You don’t need to dole out big bucks for specialized workout classes or equipment when your two greatest fat burners are with you at all times—yes, your legs. “Running is one of those workouts that you can do anywhere. All you need to do is go outside—you don’t need equipment. At an average pace you can burn up to 600 calories per hour. Of course the more intense and the faster you run the more calories you’ll burn. Depending upon pace you can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour. You can incorporate intervals of walking, jogging, and running [to not only ease into your run, but also to bump up the calorie burn]. You can also choose to go up hills or do sprints. Going out in the heat you also burn more calories. “I would definitely incorporate running as a great workout to burn belly fat,” says White.
What’s more, your body digests protein more slowly than carbs, so it keeps you feeling fuller longer and zaps your need to needlessly snack. “During weight loss, you want more protein—to prevent hunger, enhance satiety, and minimize muscle loss, as long as there’s some degree of physical activity,” Tom Rifai, MD, regional medical director of metabolic health and weight management for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit told Prevention.
The number one reason it’s so hard to lose belly fat: hormones. With menopause comes a drop in estrogen; this decrease alters where the body stores fat, making women more prone to gaining visceral belly fat. Other hormonal imbalances during this time can leave the body feeling hungry, even after eating. Sleep disturbances, common in perimenopause and menopause, are associated with decreased levels of leptin (an appetite suppressant) and increased levels of ghrelin (an appetite stimulant).
"Fructose has (rightly so) gotten a bad rap lately for its role in promoting central obesity or belly fat," says St.John. "However, fructose found in whole foods like fruit does not act so sinisterly in the body. Fresh or frozen raspberries contain a great deal of fiber, which helps to regulate the body's insulin response and also reduce belly fat." If a fresh pint comes with a steep price tag at your local grocer, consider buying 'em frozen: they're cost-effective, last practically forever, and are picked at the peak of freshness.
Many exercisers wonder if sit ups burn belly fat. If you're like most frustrated exercisers, you do countless crunches and see only a small result. It may cause you to question the purpose of sit ups. Well, wonder no more. Here's the low down on the popular exercise. Find out what sit ups can and can not do for your belly before you invest any more time or energy.