Commonly referred to as love handles, a spare tire, or a muffin top, belly fat makes you appear older than your actual age and prevents you from wearing your favorite outfits.
Although excess fat in other parts of your body is also problematic, belly fat is more stressful because it points to a whole lot of other problems like fatty liver and high levels of bad cholesterol, and it’s the most stubborn when it comes to losing excess body fat. So, why is belly fat so hard to lose? This article explains everything you need to know about losing belly fat.
How Your Body Stores Fat
First of all, it’s important to note that fat is an essential nutrient that should be included in your diet. However, fat should be taken in moderation because it provides your body with more calories and energy than proteins and carbohydrates. One gram of fat provides your body with approximately nine calories. This is twice as much as the calories provided by one gram of carbohydrates and proteins.
Calories are essential to your body because they’re converted into energy that allows you to perform important physical and mental activities. This process is commonly referred to as the basal metabolic rate. Your body continues to use energy even when you’re resting. For instance, you need energy for hormone regulation, blood circulation, cell growth, thinking, and digestion.
However, you need to strike a balance between the number of calories you consume and the amount of energy that your body needs to perform these tasks. If you consume more calories than your body can burn, the extra calories will be stored in different parts of your body as fat. This fat can be converted into energy in the future when you don’t consume enough calories.
In the past, people consumed more calories than their bodies needed hoping to store more body fat for survival during drought. It’s easy to go for a few days without food when you have extra pounds of fat in your body because they’ll serve as your source of energy. But since most of us have enough food supply today, we don’t need to store extra body fat.
So, avoid eating too many calories than your body needs because you’ll end up storing too much body fat. Also, since most of us don’t engage in a lot of physical activities, our bodies don’t need a lot of calories. Therefore, if you don’t want to be fat, don’t take more calories than your body can burn.
Scientifically, fat is commonly referred to as a triglyceride, which is a module consisting of three fatty acid chains connected to one glycerol module. When you consume fat, it enters your body in this format. But it has to be broken down into individual parts as it passes through your digestive wall.
As the individual parts leave your digestive wall, they regroup to form triglycerides. But they’re broken down again by fat cells and muscle cells to allow the glycerol and fatty acids to enter the cells through your cell membrane. Also referred to as adipocytes, fat cells are responsible for storing fat as triglyceride in your body. These white adipose cells store fat for future use as energy.
Aside from storing fat directly from food, your body will also store fat produced by your liver. The extra fat makes it easy for your body to store energy in your fat cells. This is one of the reasons why you’re unable to lose weight through a low-fat diet.
Belly Fat in Men
According to the National Library of Medicine, men are more likely to accumulate more belly fat than pre-menopausal women. This accumulation of belly fat in men, which strongly predicts mortality, is attributed to the higher dietary fat acceptance by their abdominal visceral fat. The enterocytes absorb the dietary fat so that it can easily be circulated in the form of chylomicrons and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs).
Therefore, it’s important to understand the difference between VLDLs in men and in women. For instance, the chylomicrons in men are usually larger in size and more in number than those in women. This explains why men are likely to store more belly fat than pre-menopausal women. The excess fat stored in the abdominal area of a man eventually causes his belly to enlarge, giving him an apple-shaped body contour.
This also means that it’s harder for a man to lose belly fat than it is for a pre-menopausal woman. The larger and higher production of chylomicrons in men makes the process of getting rid of excess fat in their abdominal area harder because they’re likely to accumulate more fat than they burn.
Belly Fat in Women
As noted above, women, especially those in their pre-menopausal stage, produce less chylomicron than men. That’s why they’re likely to accumulate less fat in their abdominal areas. However, this process changes when a woman reaches menopause because most of her body fat tends to stick around the abdomen.
Furthermore, the American Council on Exercise claims that women generally accumulate more body fat than men, revealing that an active woman can have 21 percent body fat. The council further claims that a woman needs to have at least 10 percent body fat to function normally, while a man needs only 2 percent body fat.
Women need more essential body fat because they have to care for fetuses. These fat reserves in women are usually developed during puberty when a woman’s estrogen production is at its peak. It‘s also important to note that while fat distribution in the body mainly depends on an individual’s genetic factors, most fat women tend to be pear-shaped while fat men are apple-shaped.
This means that most pre-menopausal women store fat in their hips, buttocks, thighs, upper arms, and lower abdomen. The fat stored in a woman’s thighs is important for carrying pregnancy and nursing. Additionally, the fat stored in a woman’s legs and buttocks (gluteofemoral fat) indicates good metabolic health.
The fat stored in a woman’s lower abdomen is more of subcutaneous fat than visceral fat. While the subcutaneous fat in women gives them soft curves, the visceral fat in men exposes them to serious health risks like liver and heart problems.
Why Belly Fat Is So Stubborn? 6 Possible Reasons
If you’ve ever attempted to lose weight, then you know that belly fat is the most challenging type of body fat to lose. The abdominal area seems to hold on to the extra pounds of fat a little longer, even after you’ve lost fat in all other areas. No matter how hard you work out and stick to your healthy diet, your belly fat won’t respond immediately.
This can leave you frustrated, especially if you have a protruding belly that’s ruining your overall appearance. So, why does fat in this area refuse to go despite all the hard work you put in? There are several reasons why this could be happening to you.
1. Active Fat
Scientists have established that visceral fat discharges hormones that affect how your body functions. These secretions cause inflammations that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases like cancer. This fat also discharges a certain type of protein that inhibits your body’s ability to use insulin efficiently.
When your body fails to use insulin properly, it increases your risk of becoming diabetic. Your liver will produce more bad cholesterol, making it hard for the belly fat to go away. It also increases your risk of developing high blood pressure and stroke.
2. You’re Addicted to Sugar
Sugar is very high in calories, which are converted into fat for storage in your body. So, the more sugary foods and drinks you consume, the more subcutaneous and visceral fat your body stores. Unfortunately, most of our meals are full of sugary ingredients. So, your fondness for sugary foods and drinks and their prevalence in social gatherings make it hard for you to lose belly fat.
3. Low Estrogen
As mentioned above, women tend to accumulate a lot of fat around their waist and belly when they reach menopause. This is mainly due to the sudden decrease in estrogen levels. So, even if you don’t gain too much body weight after menopause, you’re likely to notice growth around your waist.
4. Lack of Physical Activity
While it’s important to adopt a healthy diet, dieting alone won’t help you to lose excess belly fat. You need to combine your healthy diet with exercises, especially those that target your core. Walking for 30 minutes every day can help you to lose belly fat.
5. Too Much Stress
Contrary to what many people believe, too much stress can cause you to gain excess body weight. When you’re under too much stress, your body releases the cortisol hormone, which causes your fat cells to grow rapidly thus encouraging your body to stack up more fat around your internal organs. Studies have shown that people who are susceptible to stress have more belly fat.
You could be genetically predisposed to holding fat around your waist and in the abdominal area. For instance, if your father was apple-shaped or your mother was pear-shaped, your chances of having too much belly fat are very high.
9 Tips for Losing Belly Fat Quickly
As you already know, a slim midsection comes with a lot of health benefits like prolonging your life and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other weight-related complications. That’s why you must work tirelessly to get rid of the extra pounds of fat in your abdominal area. Here are some effective tips for losing belly fat quickly.
1. Minimize Your Carbs
Many people assume that reducing fat in their diet will help them lose weight fast. But as indicated above, a low-carb diet helps to shed off the extra pounds faster than a low-fat diet. Some fitness experts even encourage their clients to adopt a high-fat diet, commonly referred to as the keto diet, to lose fat quickly. Since carbohydrates are high in calories, your body will store the extra calories as fat, making it hard for you to lose belly fat.
2. Develop Better Eating Habits, Not a Diet
When you develop healthy eating habits, you discover better foods that become part of your daily eating plan. This will not only help you lose weight, but also keep it off for good. A diet plan, on the other hand, is seasonal and won’t necessarily help you to keep the extra weight away.
Plus, it’s very hard to stick to a single diet plan for the rest of your life. Your chances of going off the plan at some point in your life are very high. But when you establish a healthy eating habit that works for you, it’s very easy to stick to it for perpetuity.
3. Don’t Lose Hope
Losing belly fat is a long and tedious process filled with disappointments. But you should never lose hope. If one strategy doesn’t yield results, switch to a different strategy. The idea is to remain consistent.
4. Lifting Weights
While aerobics are great for increasing your heart rate, they may not help you to burn more calories. That’s why you should add moderate weight to your exercise plan. Strength training helps you to build muscle mass thus burning more calories even when you’re not working out.
5. Know What You’re Eating
Before you include any food item in your weight loss plan, check its ingredients to know how they affect your body’s ability to burn more calories. For instance, make sure your ingredients don’t have added sugars and large amounts of carbs. So, read the label carefully before you put the items in your shopping basket.
6. Avoid Processed Foods and Junk Foods
Processed foods are known to be laden with trans-fats, excess sodium, and added sugars. These three ingredients make it very hard for your body to burn fat. You should also stay away from junk foods like fried chicken, fries, pizza, etc. They’ll derail the process of losing weight, especially if you eat them regularly.
7. Find Social Support
Since the process of losing weight is long and frustrating, you need someone to encourage you along the way. For instance, you can find a colleague, friend, or family member with whom you can work out together. That way, you’ll have a reason to continue working out. A simple compliment about your new look will also go a long way in motivating you to keep going.
8. Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome
If you pay too much attention to the results you’re getting, you’ll soon lose hope, especially when you realize that it’s taking you longer than you expected. Instead, focus on what you need to do to get rid of belly fat. For instance, if you decide to do 50 sit-ups every day and avoid alcohol and other sugary beverages for the next three months, focus on that.
9. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting means switching between starving yourself and having your meals on a regular schedule. This type of fasting gives your body enough time to burn more calories and fat thereby accelerating your weight loss process. Your intermittent fasting plan can include daytime fasting, periodic fasting, and time-restricted eating.