While a big belly isn’t always caused by overeating, it is a common culprit. If you notice that your stomach is getting bigger, it is worth examining how much you’re eating as well as the kind of foods you consume. Keeping a food journal can help you assess whether your big stomach is due to overeating or another cause.
You are overeating when you consume far more calories than your body needs. The number of calories needed varies depending on your sex, age, and activity levels. According to the American Heart Association, a moderately active adult male should consume about 2,600 to 2,800 calories per day, while a moderately active adult female needs 2,200 to 2,400 calories per day. These caloric amounts increase if you have high activity levels or decrease if you are sedentary.
Food and Weight Gain
Foods that are high-caloric or high in fat can cause you to gain weight. But foods that are quickly digested by the body and provide few nutrients can cause you to gain weight as well. In particular, a regular diet of foods rich in simple carbohydrates, such as white rice, white flour and foods with a high sugar content, can cause you to pack on the pounds. Foods that help you maintain a stable weight or even lose weight tend to have low fat content and be high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Analyze your diet to see whether you are eating the foods likely to make you gain weight.
Even if you’re eating the right foods, if you’re eating too much of them, you will likely gain weight. If you don’t have the time or interest in tracking your calories, take a look at how much you’re eating. Consider how full your plate is when you eat, and whether you have seconds or even thirds at a meal. If so, you might be eating too much. The American Cancer Society website offers various tips for controlling your portion size, including comparing the portion of food on your plate to certain objects to assess whether the food is a normal portion size. For example, a 3 oz. piece of meat or fish should be approximately the same size as deck of cards.
Sometimes a big stomach is not a sign of overeating, but a sign of bloating. Certain foods cause you to retain water or create excess gas in your gastrointestinal tract. To see whether your growing belly is because of bloat, avoid salt, raw vegetables, and gas-producing foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, baked beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions and peppers. If you are lactose intolerant, also avoid milk, yogurt and other dairy products. If you believe these foods to be the cause of your big belly, limit these foods in your diet. However, remember to substitute them with other healthful foods that don’t cause you to bloat.
Alternative Reasons for a Big Stomach
Your growing belly might have nothing to do with the foods you’re eating. When entering menopause, some women are more likely to store fat in their stomach than other parts of their bodies. Also, some people are simply genetically predisposed to gain weight in their bellies. Medical conditions such as constipation, hernia and, in rare instances, a tumor may also cause your stomach to swell. If you believe that a medical condition is the reason for your stomach growing larger, consult a medical professional.