Belly fat. It’s super stubborn.
For many people—women especially—even after losing weight and toning muscles in other places, their belly remains. It’s frustrating and discouraging.
While genetics play a role in how people store fatty tissue,1 there are a few common factors that might just be helping your belly fat hang on—despite your best efforts.
Women who experience high levels of stress tend to have a rounder abdominal region.
It also includes visceral fat — which lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs. Regardless of your overall weight, having a large amount of belly fat increases your risk of: Cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
When you’re stressed, your body secretes cortisol—known to many as the stress hormone. The more cortisol, the more fat stored in the belly.
You likely have stressors, such as work or school, that you can’t eliminate. For these, there are a few things you can do to reduce your levels of corresponding stress. Contemplative practices such as yoga and meditation can be helpful in stress reduction.
And, of course, regular exercise, even if it’s not vigorous, can also help lower your stress level and release natural fat-reducing components in the body.
We need sleep to rest, recover, and rejuvenate. And yet, most of us would admit that we don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can impact your metabolism in multiple ways.
First, when we don’t get enough sleep, we lower our energy expenditure and burn fewer calories. Second, lack of sleep correlates with increased appetite. And third, if we don’t get enough sleep it can cause changes in our glucose metabolism.
Think about that for a minute. Without enough sleep, we’re likely to eat more, move less, and our blood sugar regulation is altered. Suddenly, the correlation between lack of sleep and stubborn belly fat is pretty clear.
So how do we get more sleep?
One way is to turn off screens an hour before bedtime. Let your mind and body unwind from the day. If you have to be doing something productive during this time, use it to prepare for the morning. Make your lunch or lay out your clothes. These small steps can help you relax by simply knowing you won’t have to worry about them in the morning.
Daily exercise, just like getting enough sleep and reducing stress, is something we all know we should be doing.
But most Americans aren’t getting enough exercise. In fact, a recent survey released by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that nearly 80 percent aren’t meeting the recommended guidelines for daily exercise6,8—including 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly and moderate or high-intensity strength training of all muscle groups at least twice a week.7 Regular aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities provide a myriad of benefits. Among them is combating stubborn belly fat. Even without diet changes, a daily exercise regime can result in a substantial reduction in belly fat.7
You are not alone in your struggle to lose belly fat.
The good news is that scientists are learning more every day about why abdominal fat is so hard to lose and how we can fight it. Getting more sleep, reducing your stress level, and getting the right amount of daily exercise may not seem like big changes. Until you implement them. After a while, you may find your belly fat is not so stubborn after all.