The Fitness Girl | Fitness Tips in Toronto | 3 Reasons Why Your Stubborn Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away

When you go to great lengths to get into shape by eating well, exercising hard and generally looking after yourself, it’s frustrating when you don’t see the results you want.

One of the main body grievances many people experience is struggling to lose belly fat — even after they see body composition changes elsewhere.

To understand why it’s hard to get rid of abdominal fat, as well as find solutions, HuffPost Australia spoke to a dietitian, nutritionist and personal trainer.

The risks of excess abdominal fat

“Women are more prone to gain weight around the hips and thighs, but women can also be prone to abdominal fat gain — as can men,” nutritionist Fiona Tuck told HuffPost Australia.

“When the waist thickens and begins to exceed hip girth, it can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, raised triglycerides and high blood pressure.”

“In a way, it’s good that we naturally don’t want stomach fat to be there because carrying extra weight around our abdominal area is much less healthy for us,” accredited practising dietitian and sports dietitian Chloe McLeod said.

“This is where it’s called visceral fat, which is in and around our organs — whereas the fat present all over our body under our skin is subcutaneous fat. When there’s high amounts of visceral fat, it increases the risk of developing those diseases like metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Being aware of, and managing, this is incredibly important.”


So why is stomach fat so hard to get rid of for many people?

“Fat may gather here for a number of different reasons, such as high stress levels, hormonal imbalance, ageing and a poor diet high in alcohol, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats,” Tuck said.

Possible reasons you can’t get rid of your belly fat

1. It’s your hormones

According to the experts, often the number one reason we can’t lose belly fat is simply because of our hormones and age.

“I think the main reason for belly fat is to do with hormones,” McLeod told HuffPost Australia.

“Particularly in men, as they start to get older, levels of testosterone start to decrease and this can then result in the fat cells around the stomach area to expand. Testosterone stops them from expanding, so as that reduces it becomes easier to gain stomach weight.

“With women, at a younger age fat is more concentrated around hips and thighs, and this is for childbearing reasons, but once menopause has been gone through, the fat tends to redistribute to the belly. Part of this is to do with changes in oestrogen levels.”

Solution: eat well, try resistance training and be kind to yourself.

“Even though we are predisposed to some abdominal fat, this isn’t an excuse to give up your health and fitness efforts,” Ben Lucas, person trainer and founder of Flow Athletic, told HuffPost Australia.

“One of the best ways to keep insulin levels in check is to increase resistance training. Exercises like boxing, heavy lifting, weighted squats, stretch bands and reformer Pilates require a lot of strength, which means that even after you’ve finished your session your body continues to utilise energy to recover.”

2. You’re eating too much sugar, refined carbohydrates and salt

Even if you workout six days a week or control your calorie intake, if those calories are coming from junk foods, it can make overall weight and abdominal fat harder to shift. This is because not all calories are created equal.

“Eating a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol may lead to a fatty liver and weight gain around the midsection,” Tuck said. “Cravings for high fat, high sugar foods can also be a result of high cortisol levels.”

Solution: reduce sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, and check your stress levels.

“Aim for a 12-hour fast at night after eating and before breakfast. So, if you eat at 7pm, eat breakfast no earlier than 7am. This helps give the digestive system a rest and may be beneficial to those with insulin resistance and high blood lipids,” Tuck said.

“Increase green leafy veggies to increase magnesium in the diet as this can help with stress and blood sugar balance.

“Eat three regular meals and include protein, complex carbs and healthy fats to increase satiety and reduce the risk of snacking or overeating.”

3. You’re drinking too much alcohol

“Alcohol is a big one as well, as it’s such a big contributor to calorie intake,” McLeod explained.

Popular alcoholic drinks can exceed 240 calories each, which is the same as a slice of pizza or a Mars Bar. In a night, if you’re having four or more drinks, that’s adding a huge 956 calories or more to your diet.

Solution: cut back on alcohol.

“Reduce alcohol to 1–2 drinks weekly,” Tuck said.