Getting rid of your belly bulge is important for more than just vanity’s sake. Excess abdominal fat-particularly visceral fat, the kind that surrounds your organs and puffs your stomach into a “beer gut”-is a predictor of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and some cancers. If diet and exercise haven’t done much to reduce your pooch, then your hormones, your age and other genetic factors may be the reason why. Read on for 11 possible reasons why your belly fat won’t budge.
You’re getting older
As you get older, your body changes how it gains and loses weight. Both men and women experience a declining metabolic rate, or the number of calories the body needs to function normally.
You’re doing the wrong workout
A daily run or Spin class is great for your heart, but cardio workouts alone won’t do much for your waist. “You need to do a combination of weights and cardiovascular training,” says Sangeeta Kashyap, M.D., an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic. Strength training increases muscle mass, which sets your body up to burn more fat.
You’re eating too many processed foods
Refined grains like white bread, crackers and chips, as well as refined sugars in sweetened drinks and desserts increase inflammation in our bodies . Belly fat is associated with inflammation, so eating too many processed foods will hinder your ability to lose belly fat. Natural foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains are full of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may therefore actually prevent belly fat.
Your workout isn’t challenging enough
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan.
You’re doing the wrong exercises
Doing crunches until the cows come home? Stop it! When you’re down to your final inches of belly fat, the dreaded crunch won’t be the exercise that finally reveals your six-pack. Planks is the best functional exercise — they activate not just your core muscles but also your arm, leg and butt muscles.
Tight deadlines, bills, your kids — whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it’s not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you’re stressed, though that’s part of it. It’s also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.
You have PCOS
If your testosterone levels are high — something that can occur with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) — you might have difficulty losing weight. If you’re an apple shape and overweight, it’s a good idea to see your weight loss consultant.
Are you committed to the work needed to lose belly fat? 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. If you are willing to do the work, you can move past genetics and lose it.