Excess belly fat, particularly upper abdominal fat deposits, can be a sign of serious health risk. If you know you are carrying too much abdominal fat, you may want to consider the main cause or causes of belly fat.
Which Apply? The Main Six Causes of Belly Fat:
- Overeating: wrong foods, wrong quantities, disproportionate activity
- Stress: and stress behaviors such as drinking alchohol
- Body shape & gender
Fat Stomach From Overeating
When you eat the wrong foods, consume too many calories, or fail to get adequate exercise, you will tend to develop a fat belly area. This is the biggest cause of excess belly fat.
If overeating or eating poorly has triggered your belly fat, you will tend to have excess weight on hips and legs as well. Improving the quality of your diet by eliminating junk food and processed food (refined carbohydrates) will help a great deal. If you couple that with reasonable portion sizes and mild exercise, such as walking, you will see results over time.
Belly Fat Caused by Stress
Experiencing stress over an extended period of time produces large quantities of the hormone cortisol. This stress hormone encourages deposits of fat in the belly area. There is a proven link between high levels of cortisol and excess abdominal fat deposits. Cortisol is increased by alcohol (“beer belly”), smoking, and caffeine. Be careful about getting too much exercise if stress is an issue, as that can increase cortisol production and make the problem worse. Consider exercises such as yoga and tai chi which promote calm and relaxation.
Pregnancy stretches the abdominal muscles and causes gaps in the abdominal wall to accommodate the baby. Because the uterus is heavier than before the pregnancy, it drops in position. It will return to its pre-pregnancy size and weight, but that will take about six weeks after birth. It’s not a good idea to exercise heavily right after delivery. Give yourself a couple of months, and focus on quality eating, particularly if you are breast-feeding. When you begin exercising, you want to focus on exercises that engage your pelvic floor such as Kegels.
If you wake up with a stomach that feels relatively flat, but find that it swells up during the day, you’re probably dealing with bloating rather than belly fat. Bloating is usually caused by food intolerances, inadequate acid production in the stomach, poor diet, or bacterial overgrowth. Typically, other symptoms such as indigestion, diarrhea, abdominal pain may accompany bloating. The first thing to try is to improve the quality of your diet and limit processed foods. Some people experience great relief (and weight loss!) When they eliminate grains from their diet for a few weeks. Your doctor may be able to help you identify the causes of bloating.
Genetics and Abdominal Fat Deposits
Not all causes of belly fat are completely within your control, but even your genetics can be mitigated to some degree. Where belly fat is deposited depends partly on your genetics. Our genes decide how many fat cells we have, and where those fat cells are located. In general, men deposit more fat in their upper abdominal area. While your genetics cannot be changed, you’ll find that building more muscle will increase your metabolism and make it easier to keep fat under control.
Body Shape and Belly Fat
Men (and women after menopause) tend to deposit belly fat in their upper abdomens, because they have less of the hormone estrogen. This creates an apple-shaped or inverted triangle appearance in the belly area.
Women under the age of menopause tend towards more pear-shaped bodies, where fat is usually deposited on the hips, thighs and buttocks in preference to the abdomen.
While your body shape gives you a tendency as to where you store excess fat, remember that your diet and activity levels are important factors as to how much belly fat your body is trying to store away. If you keep your food choices healthy, your portions reasonable, and some level of healthy activity happening, your struggles with most of the causes of belly fat above will be limited.