Belly fat is unattractive. Interestingly, there was a certain time it was considered a positive physical attribute especially in men. Not anymore. But appearance is not the worst thing about carrying extra weight around your midsection. It is also unhealthy, even potentially deadly.
Too much abdominal fat, especially visceral fat, has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Visceral fat is found deep within the abdominal cavity. The fat you can pinch around your belly is known as subcutaneous fat. But how much belly fat is too much?
A rule of thumb is; you want your waist to be less than 35 inches if you are a woman, and less than 40 inches if you are a man.
But, alas, getting rid of belly fat is never easy for many of us. And even when we succeed in shedding it, it keeps creeping back on us sooner or later. And it is not just about what you eat, or how much. So, where does this fat come from?
A number of reasons can cause you to accumulate abdominal fat including the following (not in any order):
We live in stress-filled times. And since modern-day stressors are more mental and less physical, your body then produces cortisol to help collect and store acids that are released when you’re experiencing stress. Cortisol tends to deposit fat around your abdomen, which often results in belly bulge.
What you can do: Learn various ways of stress management and try to get adequate rest, including sleep. Don’t forget exercise.
2. Hormonal Imbalance
Beside the stress hormone cortisol (see #1 above), various other hormones can cause abdominal fat accumulation. These hormones may also make hard to lose belly fat even when following a healthy diet and exercise regimen. This includes low testosterone, high estrogen, high insulin, and low DHEA.
What you can do: Your hormone levels can be evaluated through a saliva or blood test. Hormonal supplements and treatments may help restore some balance. Diet and exercise play a vital role in this as well.
3. Natural Aging
As much as we may not want to acknowledge it, we grow older each day. An expanding mid-section is often the companion of growing older. This is due to hormonal changes (see #2 above) and decreasing muscle mass.
For women, decreasing levels of estrogen and slowing metabolism often lead to belly fat accumulation as less of it is stored around the hips and thighs, and therefore gets stored in around the belly, as one approaches menopause.
What you can do: Diet and exercise may help, as well as certain treatments and supplements.
4. Sugar Intake
Since the discovery of sugar, we have developed an insatiable appetite for the sweet stuff. For some, it is an addiction. We crave sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. Plus, often these foods and beverages come with extra calories from unhealthy fats, including trans fats.
The result of consuming these foods is insulin spike, which may lead subcutaneous and visceral fat accumulation. This could also lead to insulin resistance, which in turn could lead to a myriad of health complications.
What you can do: Observe a sensible diet and avoid sweetened beverages.
5. Physical Inactivity
In this digital age, we are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Even good old verbal conversation appears to be going out of style. And we are paying for it all with our health. Physical inactivity coupled with bad eating habits have contributed to the obesity epidemic we see today, with bulging bellies to go with it.
What you can do: Resistance training and aerobic training may help reduce or prevent the bulge. Many people find high intensity interval training (HIIT) and high intensity resistance training (HIRT) to work even better. A full body workout is best, as opposed to just doing stomach exercises such as crunches and planks.
Watch: Belly Fat Can Be Dangerous