Are your clothes getting uncomfortably tight in the waist? Are you avoiding the full-length mirror because your midsection isn’t as lean as it used to be? These are some pretty undeniable signs that you’ve accumulated excess belly fat. And while this is common, it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of growing older. In fact, it’s important to keep excess belly fat in check, as fat in the abdominal area poses a greater risk to your health than any other kind of fat on the body.

Kinds of belly fat

Not all belly fat is is created equal. There is subcutaneous belly fat — the fat under your skin that you can see and pinch — and then there is visceral belly fat — the dangerous kind.

Visceral belly fat collects inside the body cavity under the abdominal muscles and around the internal organs. This kind of fat poses some serious health risks because it can trigger internal inflammation and impede proper functioning of major organs like the kidneys, pancreas, and liver. It has also been linked to conditions such as hypertension, sleep apnea, cancer, and even dementia.

The chief health risks of visceral belly fat for men include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Premature death

The dangers for women include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Breathing problems

Causes of belly fat

Several major culprits are involved in the accumulation of belly fat — especially visceral belly fat — and a few of these causes are beyond your control. For example, for women, aging can play a big role because as women age, muscle mass usually decreases. This results in a slower metabolism and lower levels of estrogen, which can influence fat distribution on the body. Also, genetic variants can influence where and how fat accumulates.

But the good news is that there are many more factors involved in belly fat accumulation that you can do something about, such as:

  • Lack of physical activity in general and sitting too much in particular
  • Consumption of sugary foods and refined carbs
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Low protein and low fiber intake
  • Stress

Even more good news is that while you can’t target or spot reduce subcutaneous fat — you simply have to lose fat all over your body — you can target visceral belly fat to some extent.

5 ways to lose belly fat

You can determine whether you need to lose belly fat by using a tape measure. An abdominal circumference of over 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women is considered abdominal obesity. If that’s where you are, here are some proven ways to lose that belly fat.

1. Avoid sugar

Avoid refined sugars, especially sugary drinks, at all costs. Excessive sugar intake means that your liver gets overloaded with fructose and winds up turning it into fat instead of metabolizing it. Several studies have shown that consumption of large amounts of sugar, especially fructose, can lead to significant accumulation of abdominal fat and fat around the liver. The usual outcome is insulin resistance and metabolic problems.

And sugary drinks like soda are the worst. The problem is that your brain doesn’t register liquid calories the same way it does solid calories. One study found a direct link between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and an increased risk of obesity in children. Most of your liquids should be plain water. Try adding lemon, lime, or cucumber to water if you need more flavor. Tea, particularly green tea, is also beneficial to your health and may even help you lose weight.

2. Eat more protein

Eating more protein has several health and fat-loss benefits. It can, for example, reduce hunger cravings by up to 60% and boost metabolism. A good rule is to have a source of good-quality protein in every meal.

Protein is perhaps the most important macronutrient related to fat loss, and adding quality protein to your diet could be the one most important thing you can do to lose belly fat. In general, people who eat more and better-quality protein have less belly fat. In fact, one study uncovered an inverse relationship between the amount of quality protein consumed and amount of belly fat.

When most people think of protein, they think of meat. But diets high in animal protein have been linked to an increased risk of cancer in people under the age of 65. Make sure to include plenty of plant-based forms of protein in your diet. Good sources are quinoa, legumes, nuts, seeds, spinach, kale, and cauliflower.

3. Get more fiber

You also need to get more fiber in your diet, especially when you increase your protein intake. Fiber is basically indigestible plant matter and helps move food through your digestive system. The best kind of fiber is the soluble, viscous fiber that can help prolong the feeling of being full and reduce appetite. According to one five-year study, eating just 10 grams of soluble fiber every day resulted in a 3.7% reduction in visceral belly fat.

Eat more fiber-heavy, plant-based foods, including certain fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes. It’s also a good idea to include a quality soluble-fiber supplement in your diet.

4. Decrease and manage stress

Chronic stress can adversely affect your health in several ways, one of them being an increase in belly fat. Stress increases production of the hormone cortisol, which can lead to inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and accumulation of abdominal fat.

We all experience stress — it’s a natural, normal, and necessary response to life-threatening situations and can be a key to survival in some situations. The problem is prolonged, ongoing stress. The trick is reducing or eliminating whatever is causing the stress or finding ways to manage or deal with the stress in a healthy manner. Both yoga and meditation have been shown to be effective stress-reducing and stress-management strategies. Regular exercise is also key.

5. Get plenty of sleep

Another effective way to prevent or lose belly fat is to get enough sleep. Adequate sleep is absolutely essential for overall health and weight management. Sleep deprivation is a notorious contributor to weight gain, especially visceral belly fat. Adequate sleep — around seven to eight hours per night — aids in reducing stress, improving mood, enhancing mental function, and improving heart health.

The quality of your sleep is as important as the quantity. And that means getting rid of anything that can contribute to sleep apnea, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Sufficient, quality sleep is an essential component in any successful weight-loss program.

Shed the belly fat and move toward health

If you’re ready to shed some belly fat and avoid the significant health risks, Quest Weight Loss has you covered. Quest Weight Loss is built on the Vivaliti Weight Loss system — the most trusted approach in medically managed weight loss — and we strive to provide a warm, inviting environment full of motivation and support.

Our custom weight-loss plans focus first on safety, efficacy, and health benefits, with the four pillars of nutrition, hydration, exercise, and supplementation supporting your personalized program. It’s a custom-tailored program that gives you everything you need to succeed.

We understand the challenges of formulating a weight-loss program that meets your specific needs and that you can stick with. We truly want you to succeed, so your goals become our goals. That’s why we do our best to provide ongoing support with:

  • Nutrition and lifestyle education
  • Genuine encouragement
  • Counseling and recommendations
  • Additional tools and resources

If you’re ready to lose belly the fat and attain better overall health, contact us today for a free consultation!