Belly Fat: Why I Have It and What Can I Do About It?

Belly Fat: Why I Have It and What Can I Do About It?

As we know, bodies come in all shapes and sizes. So why is it that some people tend to store more weight in their belly while others store weight in other areas? In this article we’ll explore some of the reasons why you may have excess weight around your belly and some practical tips for taking it off. 

Where you store weight can be influenced by many factors 

Oftentimes, people are quick to blame an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise on excess weight gain (particularly in the mid-section). Although these are definitely important and influential pieces to the puzzle (which we will speak about in more detail!), there are a number of other factors at play. Genetics, hormone changes throughout your life, age and whether you’ve had children can all play a role in the presence of belly fat (and how ‘easy’ it is to get rid of). 

Belly fat carries higher health risks 

Although there may be a number of factors at play when it comes to carrying excess fat around your belly, it’s important to stay mindful of it. There are two types of body fat - subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat (usually makes up around 90% of body fat) is the type that lies beneath the skin. Visceral fat, on the other hand, surrounds the important organs found in our torso - like the liver, intestines, heart, stomach, etc. Over time, too much visceral fat can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other negative health effects. 

Diet and exercise play a significant role in helping to manage belly fat 

Unfortunately, doing the latest ab workout twice a day isn’t going to do much for your excess belly fat. In order to reduce belly fat, a healthy diet and exercise are essential pieces to the puzzle. Here are some tips to help you battle belly fat: 

  • Engage in regular physical activity. Global health authorities recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate activity during the week. Alternately, this can be done as 75-minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of the two). Speak with your doctor to understand the amount and type of exercise that is right for you - especially if you’re just starting out! 
  • Avoid added sugars. Added sugars are those sugars that are not naturally present in a food (ex. Fruit and dairy have natural sugars).They tend to be added to a food product by a manufacturer (ex. Sugary cereal, sweetened yogurt, soda, fruit juice, etc.) Research has shown that excess sugar (particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages, like pop, juice, etc.) is associated with an increase in belly fat in healthy adults. To avoid excess sugar in your diet: only enjoy sugary foods on occasion (as a treat) instead of regularly, read food labels and look for sources of added sugar on the nutrition facts table and ingredient list.  
  • Focus on balance. By and large, the most important thing that you can do in your diet is ensure that you are getting more of the nourishing, whole foods and less of the processed, packaged, non-nutritious foods. Focus your diet around plants (vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, etc.) and lean proteins instead of processed carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Keep portion sizes in mind - when you’re planning your meals, try and aim for ½ of your plate filled with vegetables, ¼ of your plate filled with protein-rich foods and ¼ of your plate filled with whole grain carbohydrate foods. 

Overall, if belly weight is something that you struggle with, get some help in taking action. Avoid the temptation to participate in fad diets or the latest diet “quick fix” you saw on social media. Focus on incorporating whole foods and regular exercise into your routine. Speak with one of our nutritionists to get you set up on the right path! 

References: 

Health, H. (2020, June 18). Taking Aim At Belly Fat - Harvard Health. Harvard Health. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/taking-aim-at-belly-fat

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