I'll admit it. I have a few pounds to lose, especially in my belly. I find that it's where I carry most of my weight, and that makes me pretty self-conscious. I've tried practically every diet under the sun, and most of the time they're successful in every place other than my stomach. I started to wonder if there were some certain reasons I can't lose my stubborn belly fat, and as it turns out...there are.
These are some of the reasons that you can't lose your belly fat, and some of them are easy to fix.
Yes, sorry ladies. If you're having problems losing weight in your stomach, it could be do to your age.
"If women gain weight after menopause, it's more likely to be in their bellies," says Michael Jensen, MD.
As you age, your metabolism slows down which means the number of calories you need to function fluctuates. Especially in menopause, women produce less estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, and this shift means you'll hold more weight in your stomach. Luckily, a balanced diet can help negate these effects.
How many of you stress-eat? I certainly do. That's one of the reasons that we hold weight in our stomachs. The other is that when you're stressed, your body produces a stress hormone called cortisol.
"Cortisol, the stress hormone, plays a part in laying down central adipose tissue (belly fat), so if you are in a stressed state then it will be very hard to shift," says nutritionist Libby Limon. "Stress can come from many sources- emotional strain, conflict at work or relationship trouble."
3. Lack Of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can cause your body to produce more of that pesky cortisol, which as we know, isn't good. One study, which took place over 16 years, showed that women who slept five hours or less a night were 30% more likely to gain at least 30lbs compared to those who slept at least seven hours.
4. Wrong Fats
Obviously you shouldn't be eating deep-fried fatty foods, but cutting out fats completely is not helping your cause. Choosing healthy fats can aid in your weight loss.
"Fat can play a vital role in weight loss [...] the single most important aim of your nutrition should be to balance your blood sugar levels," health coach Matt Whitmore says. "Dietary fat helps you accomplish that by slowing down the release of nutrients into the bloodstream, so by all means, add a little olive oil or butter to your meals. This will help regulate your appetite and keep your energy levels consistent."
Choosing "low fat" foods brings its own set of issues, too.
"Have you ever wondered what takes the place of the removed fat?" asks nutritionist Keris Marden. "Answer: heaps of synthetic, non-food chemicals that wreak havoc on our metabolism and digestion. What's more, most low-fat and fat-free products contain loads of sugar or artificial sweeteners to make up for the lack of taste."
5. Your Body Shape
Yes, genetics can play a big role in how you hold weight. Everyone has a different body shape, and those who are considered "apple shaped" are unfortunately stuck wth a lot of fat around their stomachs, rather than their hip and thighs. Getting rid of belly fat when you're apple shaped isn't impossible, but it is going to require a lot more discipline and hard work.
If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, your testosterone levels could be elevated. This can make it harder to lose weight.
"If you're an apple shape and overweight, it's a good idea to see your doctor," Dr. Kashyap says. These indicators could also mean you are prediabetic or diabetic.
Sure, you want to lose weight, but what are you willing to give up for it? Losing stubborn belly fat isn't easy, and not giving it your all means you won't see results.
"Reducing belly fat takes a combination approach of a low-calorie diet that is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates and sugar along with cardiovascular and weight training," Dr. Kashyap says. "If you are willing to do the work, you can move past genetics and lose it."
8. Wrong Workouts
Just walking for a bit or running on the treadmill won't cure all your problems. Doing the wrong workout, like not including weight training, can slow things down. These are some recommendations from professionals.
"You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer.
"Physical stresses such as overexercising and endurance exercise can upset cortisol balance," Limon suggests. "Switch gruelling cardio workouts for 20-30 minute HIIT sessions instead."
"You need to do a combination of weights and cardiovascular training," says Sangeeta Kashyap, MD.
"Muscle burns more calories than fat, and therefore you naturally burn more calories throughout the day by having more muscle," says Kate Patton, a registered dietician.
9. Lack Of Magnesium
If your diet doesn't contain enough magnesium, your body could be going in and out of whack.
"A 2013 study found that taking higher amounts of magnesium helps better control insulin and glucose blood levels. This same study also showed magnesium helps with bloating and water retention," says Dr. Sherry Ross.
These are some foods that are high in magnesium:
- Leafy greens
10. Diet Soda
You may think that swapping your regular soda for diet soda is a smart choice, but the reality is it could be having the same effect. The artificial sweeteners in the soda can trigger your body to crave additional calories, since the taste signals to your body that its about to get an influx of energy from the sugar. Your body believes its hungry, so you're likely to eat more.
11. Processed Foods
This shouldn't be a shock to anyone, but processed foods can lead to inflammation, which in turn leads to belly fat. There are certain food groups to avoid if you want to cut down on inflammation.
"Refined grains like white bread, crackers, and chips, as well as refined sugars in sweetened drinks and desserts increase inflammation in our bodies," says Patton. "Belly fat is associated with inflammation, so eating too many processed foods will hinder your ability to lose belly fat."
There's a reason they call it a "beer gut." Certain alcohols, liked beer, are linked to belly fat, so unfortunately it might be time to cut back. Consuming alcohol can also cause your appetite to increase, which in turn increases your food intake. I don't think you need an explanation as to why that's not good for your belly fat situation.
Yes, we all know it, and we hate to hear it...but sugars and carbohydrates can cause you to gain weight, specifically in your belly.
"Cortisol is also implemented, alongside insulin, in blood sugar control, so a high sugar diet can cause belly fat to stick fast even if you're restricting calories and trying to lose weight (excessive calorie restriction isn't something I would recommend anyway," Limon explains.
There are some ways you can eliminate sugar from your diet.
"Try to cut down on sugar, saturated fats and white refined foods such as white bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, as they metabolise quickly, resulting in soaring blood sugar levels, which promotes fat storage," fitness specialist Lucy Miller suggests. "Base your diet around lean meats, vegetables and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as those found in nuts and avocados."
So as you can see, there are a lot of reasons that your belly fat might be sticking around longer than you want it to, but with a little hard work you can make some changes that will solve that problem.