Belly fat is unhealthy – no two ways about it. While excess fat is generally a concern, abdominal fat is particularly dangerous and can lead to problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. “We found that apple-shaped people—even if they’re perfectly healthy and have normal blood pressure—have increased blood pressure in their kidneys. When they’re also overweight or obese, that’s even worse.” says Arjan Kwakernaak, MD, PhD. Worried about your belly fat? Here are five science-backed ways to target it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss them Sure signs you already had COVID.
Do you have a “stress belly”?
Uncontrolled stress can make belly fat worse – and excess belly fat leads to more stress, experts warn. “We found that women with more abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels of life stress.” says Elissa S. Epel, PhD. “Greater exposure to life stress or psychological vulnerability to stress may explain enhanced cortisol reactivity. In turn, their exposure to cortisol may have led them to accumulate more abdominal fat. These relationships likely hold true as well.” for men. However, excess weight in men is almost always stored in the abdomen. In contrast, in premenopausal women, excess weight is more often stored in the hips. Therefore, for women, it is possible that stress affects body shape more than than in men, leading to abdominal fat rather than lower body fat accumulation.”
Focus on your sleep
Yes, it’s tempting to stay up late watching your favorite shows, but if you don’t prioritize sleep, that belly is likely to stay. “Our fat cells need sleep to function properly” says Matthew Brady, vice chair of the committee on molecular metabolism and nutrition at the University of Chicago. “If you don’t sleep, your brain can feel sluggish, and it turns out that your fat cells need sleep too, or are metabolically sluggish. When fat cells are working properly, they safely store fat for later use, such as when you sleep or exercise. Fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from circulating in the body and damaging other tissues. But when your fat cells stop responding properly to insulin, then the lipids leave the fat cells and enter your blood.”
Clean up your diet
No, you don’t have to starve yourself or cut out entire food groups, but be sensible and make smart choices. “Balance, variety and moderation are still important” says psychologist and registered dietitian David Creel, PhD. “Eating lean protein, lots of vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit, moderate amounts of whole grains and low-fat dairy still works for the majority of people.”
Regular exercise is a great way to fight belly fat and improve overall health.
“Patients want to know why they can’t just do crunches to melt fat.” says Dr. Krill. “When you do crunches, you’re strengthening the abdominal muscles, but it doesn’t specifically target fat or loose skin around our stomach. It’s also important to understand that where we gain or lose fat is influenced by our genetics. Any added muscle will increase our resting calorie burn, while cardiovascular exercise will boost our metabolism during and for a short time after exercise.Exercise can also have indirect positive benefits on weight by helping us sleep better and manage emotional eating”.
Watch your sugar intake
Eating too much sugar can lead to fat deposits around major organs, studies show. “When we consume too much sugar, the excess turns into fat and is stored.” says PhD So Yun Yi. “This fatty tissue found around the heart and in the abdomen releases chemicals into the body that can be harmful to health. Our results support limiting added sugar intake.”