Abdominal fat is not pretty, and it can sneak up on you for various reasons. Fat on the side of your abdomen is simply from an overabundance of stored fat in your midsection. But in some instances, fat stored in your abdomen could mean trouble, not only for your figure, but for your health as well. Luckily, if you eat a healthy diet and get regular physical activity, the outcome may not be so bleak.
When you're stressed for long periods of time from work, family or for any reason, your body releases a hormone called cortisol in order to provide your body with more energy. If you're actually in physical danger, this extra energy is useful for running away. But since your stressor is more likely to be something you can't run away from, like your boss, that excess energy is stored as fat that's specifically stored around your midsection.
Later in life, your waistline spreads naturally and usually more so in women than in men. As you near menopause, the hormones in your body shift balance and cause fat that was once stored seductively on your hips and thighs to creep its way up to rest around your middle. According to experts at Harvard Medical School, you may still see an increase in inches in your waist, even if you're fortunate enough not to gain weight as you age.
If you eat more calories than your body can burn off through physical activity, you will gain weight in your stomach area and everywhere else. Some culprits that cause you to gain weight are refined sugars, such as those in sodas, refined carbohydrates, like white bread, high fat and fried foods, and alcohol. Avoid these foods whenever you can to help keep your midsection trim.
Health experts agree that a healthy waist size is less than 35 inches for women. A measurement above that can raise your risk for a number of illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers. Doctors are most concerned with visceral fat, which is a type of fat that stores itself under your abdominal muscles and around your organs, as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is the soft fat closest to your skin. So if you can't grab your ab fat, it may be wise to check it out with your physician.
Sharon Smith is a Certified Health Education Specialist and professional writer. She received a Masters of Science in public health in 2010 and minored in English communications as an undergraduate student. Her specialties include behavior change, weight management and whole health.