If you've been working out every day until you feel like you're going to pass out, but your belly fat seems to be hanging on for dear life, you're likely not imagining things. Hormones, aging and even what you eat can play a role in how tough it is to get rid of that extra cushion around your abdomen. Getting rid of belly fat can provide a huge boost to your physical health, not to mention your mental health when it's swimsuit season.
Dangers of Belly Fat
If you have too much visceral belly fat -- the type of fat that's deep within your abdomen and surrounds your organs -- your health is at risk. MayoClinic.com recommends that women keep their waist circumference below 35 inches for optimal health. Anything greater puts women at risk of heart disease, colorectal cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. Although genetic components, such as whether a woman is pear-shaped or apple-shaped, can play a role in how their bodies store fat, anyone can reduce belly fat by exercising more and eating healthy.
The aging process can make it harder for women who are older to lose belly fat. As women age, fat is distributed more in their middle region, including their bellies. This redistribution, combined with a slower metabolism, makes belly fat reduction harder as you get older. No matter what your weight, the fat you have will concentrate near your abdomen as you age.
If your insulin levels are too high, this can cause you to retain more weight in your abdomen, making it harder for you to shed belly fat than to shed fat in other parts of your body. If you have high levels of insulin long term, you may develop insulin resistance, which makes it even tougher to lose belly fat. Even if you're exercising, having a diet high in sugar or carbohydrates can contribute to having higher levels of insulin. If insulin is causing you to retain belly fat, try eating more protein, such as 20 to 25 grams of protein a meal.
Your hormones can play a significant role in whether your body tries to hold on to belly fat. High levels of stress, which lead to high levels of cortisol, can cause you to retain more fat around your abdomen. Try sleeping seven and a half to nine hours a day and eating protein at breakfast to combat cortisol. High levels of estrogen in your body, especially if you're premenopausal, can also increase fat around your belly and hip region. Ask your doctor to test your hormone levels if this is a concern.
If you're working out but not losing belly fat, you may be doing the wrong kind of exercises. Aerobic exercise helps you lose belly fat faster than strength training. Spot reduction, where you focus on crunches or other belly exercises alone in order to lose belly fat, doesn't work. The number of calories you burn will be distributed throughout your body, not just in the belly region. However, if you've lost fat but your belly still doesn't feel toned, focusing on exercises that strengthen your obliques and transversus abdominis muscles will help give your abdomen a flatter look. These muscles help hold in your midsection. Having better posture will also give your abs a flatter look.
- MayoClinic.com: Belly Fat in Women: Taking - And Keeping - It Off
- Columbia Health: I Can't Get Rid of My Abdominal Fat!
- The Dr. Oz Show: Reset Your Hormones to Beat Belly Fat
- Duke Health: Aerobic Exercise Bests Resistance Training at Burning Belly Fat
- ACE: Why is the Concept of Spot Reduction Considered a Myth?
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.