If you’re on a weight loss journey, you may find that belly fat is notoriously difficult to lose. As the pounds fall off your face, arms, and other parts of your body, the weight around your stomach can hold on. So why is it so hard to lose belly fat?! There are four specific reasons.
“First, your stomach has a higher concentration of ‘beta’ fat cells, which don’t respond as readily to the fat-breaking process,” he says Cory Ruth, MS, RDN, Registered Dietitian, Women’s Health Expert and CEO of The Women’s Dietitian. “Second, the stress hormone cortisol (pandemic, I’m looking at you) is linked to storing fat around your belly. Third, high insulin levels tell your body to pack more pounds around your belly. Finally, genetics can play a role in where you store fat on your body, which can mean more belly fat.
If you’re struggling to lose belly fat or want to start a journey to lose more belly fat, nutritionists say there are a few things you should consider that can help you shed those pounds. Here are 8 pieces of advice they hope you will follow. Read on to learn more about how to eat healthily. Don’t miss 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
“Crunches and sit-ups are great for toning and building abs, but these exercises don’t necessarily burn belly fat,” she says Amber Pankonin, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian and owner of food blog Stirlist. “Instead, focus on reducing overall calories and increasing your physical activity.”
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“Elevated insulin levels (which can result from a high-carb, low-protein, low-fiber diet) promote more fat accumulation around your abdomen,” says Ruth. “Including more protein and fiber in your diet (and complex carbohydrates in moderation) may help reverse the insulin-fat-gain train.”
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“A high-fiber diet is essential to our overall health and is often the missing element when it comes to weight loss. Fiber helps people maintain and even lose weight,” she says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Registered Dietitian and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“Fiber keeps you fuller longer, bulks up the digestive tract so you can have regular bowel movements and feel full, and provides you with a steady release of energy over time (it’s digested slower than low-fiber foods). You don’t have to take a fiber supplement or eat fiber-fortified foods. It’s best to get fiber from REAL foods that are naturally high in fiber. These foods include fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains such as oats, barley, quinoa, whole grain breads.”
“Alcoholic beverages can increase belly fat or make it difficult to reduce belly fat if you overconsume,” says Pankonin. “It’s also important to consider the foods that are often paired with alcohol, like fried foods. So, more mindful beverage choices could also have an impact on food choices.”
“If you eat healthy, exercise regularly, and manage your stress well, but don’t take the time to get enough sleep, you could be putting your health (and belly fat) at risk more than you think,” says Ehsani.
“Getting enough sleep every night — at least seven hours a day — is essential for overall health and can help you shed unwanted weight. The problem is, when we don’t get enough sleep, our hormones that regulate hunger get messed up, and we crave simple energy that comes in the form of sweets, treats, and sugary drinks. We tend to crave and reach for a sweetened latte, biscuits, or potato chips. We know that these foods are usually high in energy calories, sugar, fat and don’t provide us with much nutrition, making it difficult to lose belly fat.”
“It works because inflammation and stress often go hand in hand. When stress levels are high, it can increase cortisol levels, which can increase appetite,” says Pankonin. “By learning how to manage stress, it can help you manage multiple areas in your life, including your food and drink choices.”
“Protein is an essential food group that we need every day, but many people tend to eat small amounts of protein at breakfast and lunch, and then a large portion at dinner. It’s best to keep protein at a distance and have quality sources throughout the day. Protein takes longer to digest, keeps your blood sugar stable, makes you feel full (feeling full), making you less likely to overeat at every meal,” says Ehsani.
“You also don’t have to eat an animal protein source at every meal to get enough protein. You can also get protein from vegetarian sources. Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, seeds, nut butters, eggs, tofu, seitan, tempeh, beans, legumes, whole grains like quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, barley, oats.”
“Water is essential to our health and making sure we’re drinking enough of it every day can be a challenge for some people. Aim for at least 64 ounces, or 8 cups, per day,” says Ehsani. “If you forget to drink, set alarms on your phone to remind you or calendar notifications. Drinking enough water every day is a simple habit that can greatly help those struggling to lose belly fat. If we don’t drink enough water, we might compensate by overeating at mealtime, mistaking hunger for thirst.”
While there’s no single answer to why belly fat is so hard to lose, you may feel discouraged when you’re finding it harder to lose.
“Every person is very unique. So if you need extra support, working with a registered dietitian to figure out what health and diet habits need to be addressed will help you lose unwanted belly fat,” says Ehsani.
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