Excess weight in your stomach is not just a cosmetic issue, it can have severe implications for your health. Those who carry extra abdominal -- or visceral -- fat have an increased risk of experiencing metabolic disturbances and developing cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes (references 4). If you tend to gain weight in your stomach, there are several controllable and uncontrollable factors involved.
Pick Your Fruit
Each individual is unique, so the way you gain weight may be drastically different from the way someone else gains weight. Some people are pear-shaped, which means they hold extra weight in their lower body. Other people are apple-shaped, which means extra weight shows up in the midsection. If you have an apple-shaped body, you may be more prone to gaining weight in your stomach when you regularly consume too many calories. Although you can’t change your general body shape, you can avoid gaining weight in your stomach by being diligent about staying within calorie recommendations.
When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol’s job is to activate glucose and fats to fuel your body with energy (references 1). In times of chronic stress, cortisol is constantly being released and as a result, insulin levels remain high. Your abdominal fat cells have receptors for both cortisol and glucose, so chronic stress often appears as excess belly fat and an expanded waistline (references 1).
Ditch the Chips
Refined grains like white bread and chips and refined sugars like those in sweetened beverages, cookies and cakes promote inflammation in your body. Belly fat is associated with excess inflammation, so when you eat a lot of refined carbohydrates, it’s likely to show up in your stomach (references 7). A study published in “The Journal of Nutrition” in 2003 also reported that binge drinkers who consumed 4 or more drinks in a day once a week had increased abdominal fat (references 8). Ditch the alcohol and replace refined carbohydrates with nutrient-dense, natural carbohydrate sources, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These whole foods have anti-inflammatory properties that not only promote optimal health, but fight belly fat as well.
As you age, your metabolic rate naturally declines. This means that your body needs fewer calories to function normally. Because of this, you may notice that you tend to gain weight in your stomach more easily. Aging women have the added obstacle of hormonal changes. During menopause, the body’s production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone slows down. The hormone shift causes women to hold onto excess weight in their stomachs (references 7).
- WomentoWomen.com: Weight Loss and Adrenal Stress
- Obesity Research: Stress-Induced Cortisol Response and Fat Distribution in Women
- Yale News: Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal Fat in Otherwise Slender Women, Study Conducted at Yale Shows
- Harvard School of Public Health: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Epidemiology and Health: Association between Alcohol Intake and Abdominal Obesity among the Korean Population
- University of Buffalo Reporter: Abdominal Fat Linked to Drinking Patterns
- FOX News: 11 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Belly Fat
- The Journal of Nutrition: Alcohol Drinking Patterns Differentially Affect Central Adiposity as Measured by Abdominal Height in Women and Men