How To Lose Weight In The Stomach Area: 6 Evidence-Based Methods

Fat around your belly isn't just an aesthetic issue. It may lead to health problems. That's why it makes sense to pay special attention to losing abdominal fat and keeping your waist in top shape.

While losing weight in the stomach and waist region is complicated, it’s not impossible. With the right approach, you can improve your appearance and reduce serious health risks.

Let's take a closer look at how to lose weight around the waist safely.

Risks of abdominal fat

Abdominal or belly fat is associated with high levels of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, as well as low levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL).¹ Additionally, it:

While scientists are yet to find the key reason why abdominal fat is so dangerous, studies have shown that it can increase mortality rates.²

Abdominal fat comes in two forms:

Subcutaneous fat

Located in the fatty tissues beneath the skin, subcutaneous fat doesn't cause more harm than fat in other parts of your body.

Visceral fat

Visceral fat surrounds internal organs and may pose serious health risks.

Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can see or pinch. It will fall to your sides or sink into your bell when you lie down. Visceral fat stays in place regardless of your position. In some cases, visceral fat may not be visible at all. However, it usually comes together with subcutaneous fat.

While visceral fat is more dangerous to your health than subcutaneous fat, losing both requires similar tactics. As you start getting rid of excessive pounds, abdominal fat will subside as well.

Subcutaneous fat's protective properties

People with a normal BMI and central obesity had a higher mortality risk than overweight people with central obesity.²

Another study with mice demonstrated that subcutaneous fat prevents triglyceride accumulation in the liver and reverses glucose intolerance caused by obesity

That's why it's important not to focus on losing fat solely around your abdomen. Losing too much subcutaneous fat without getting rid of the visceral could leave you unprotected against serious health problems.

Why is abdominal fat hard to lose?

Many people want to learn how to lose belly fat fast, but they often quit before seeing any results. More often than not, abdominal fat is the last one to go. Why does it happen?

Cell receptors

Belly fat cells have more alpha receptors than beta receptors. Alpha-adrenergic receptors slow down the fat release while beta receptors don't.

Insulin resistance

Since visceral fat may cause insulin resistance, it could also interfere with your attempts to lose weight.⁴

Inflammation

Visceral fat may release cytokines that increase inflammation.⁵ Such a response could stimulate weight gain and increase subcutaneous fat.

Smoking

The effects of smoking can lead to abdominal and visceral obesity.⁶ So, if you are a smoker, the habit could be interfering with your weight loss efforts.

Stress

Women who are vulnerable to stress store more abdominal fat, while an otherwise slender person could develop belly fat because cortisol affects fat distribution.⁷

Genetics

Besides dictating your predisposition to obesity, genetics could also determine where you store fat (apple vs. pear body shape). Thankfully, it doesn't mean that you can't prevent it from happening.

While abdominal fat is hard to lose, it's not impossible to fight it. With the right approach to weight loss, you can get rid of all excess fat in your body regardless of its location. Here are a few tactics to consider.

6 evidence-based methods to lose weight around the belly/stomach area

1. Limit alcohol intake

You must have heard about the "beer" belly. There is a reason why alcohol is related to abdominal fat. When you consume drinks (any type, not just beer), your liver is busy dealing with alcohol instead of fat.

It's also much easier to get substantial calories from alcohol than from other sources. One glass of beer is about 150 calories.⁸ You would need to jog for 20 minutes to get rid of them. Meanwhile, alcohol increases your appetite. So if you are drinking, you are likely to have unhealthy eating habits such as consuming high-calorie fried foods.⁹

If you are battling abdominal fat, try to say "no" to alcohol. If you plan to drink, stick to alcohol with the lowest calorie content, such as white dry wine, vodka tonic, and tequila.

2. Get more sleep

Lack of sleep has a variety of negative side effects. It can impair your heart health, increase the risk of diabetes, lead to high blood pressure, and much more. Insufficient sleep can also cause an increase in visceral and subcutaneous fat, as supported by studies.¹⁰

Another long-term study showed that people who slept five or fewer hours per night weighed more than those who had at least seven hours of sleep.¹¹

If you are feeling sleep-deprived, you may be contributing to your belly fat issue. According to the CDC, adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night.¹² Younger adults may need even more. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping between seven and nine hours every night.¹³

3. Adjust your workout

While cardio exercises are great for burning calories, they aren't sufficient for losing belly fat. Studies show that high-intensity exercises are more effective for abdominal fat loss than regular aerobic exercises.¹⁴

High-intensity exercises mean that you need to go all out for as long as you possibly can. Since such exercises put serious stress on your body, you need to consult your doctor before doing them.

The more stress you put on your muscles, the more fat you will eventually burn. However, it doesn't mean that you should exclude aerobic exercises altogether. They can contribute to the overall weight loss process and counter some of the risks excessive visceral fat creates.

Ideally, you should get an expert trainer's assistance with setting up your workout routine while keeping your health in mind.

4. Talk to your doctor

While the key causes of abdominal fat accumulation are a lack of exercise and poor diet, the problem could stem from health issues. If you have a hormonal imbalance, you may gain weight around the abdomen. This phenomenon is called "hormonal belly."

The hormonal belly could occur if you have problems with:

Thyroids hormones

These hormones help control metabolism. An imbalance could slow the metabolism down and lead to obesity.

Cortisol

When adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, the body goes into a "survival mode" and stores more fat.

Leptin

Leptin signals your brain that there is sufficient fat in your body. When this signal is off, your weight-burning rate could suffer.

Testosterone

Testosterone deficiency in men can prevent muscle growth and contribute to weight gain.

Estrogen

A high estrogen level could contribute to weight gain in women, while low levels of it  could lead to abdominal fat in men.¹⁵

Abdominal fat is rarely the only symptom of hormonal imbalance. However, it doesn't get sufficient attention. If your efforts to lose weight in the stomach area aren't working, consider speaking to your doctor about it.

Keeping your hormones in check won't just improve your chances of losing belly fat. You’ll have an easier time keeping it off.

5. Adjust your diet

To meet your weight loss goals, it's imperative to adjust your calorie intake. Make sure to keep the weight loss rate safe (about two pounds per week). Otherwise, you could encounter other health problems.

The key to losing weight around your belly is to consume fewer calories than you burn. To understand how many you need to burn, you must calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and consider your daily activity factor.

Learn more about calculating how many calories you need to burn to lose weight here.

You may consult a registered dietitian to assist you with a diet plan that can help you lose weight.

Besides reducing calorie intake, you have to review the type of foods you eat. Consuming processed foods is linked to inflammation that, in turn, may increase the amount of fat around your belly. Add more natural fruits, berries, and whole grains to your diet. They contain antioxidants that can reduce inflammation.

6. Pay attention to the fats you eat

Not all fats you eat affect your body the same way. A high intake of saturated fat could lead to an increase in visceral fat.¹⁶ The common sources of saturated fats are butter, palm oil, bacon, biscuits, ice cream, cheese, and chocolate.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can have anti-inflammatory effects that battle visceral fat.

This means that walnuts, avocado, fatty fish, and olive oil could be beneficial for your weight loss efforts. However, their intake should be within your calorie goals. If you don't count calories, eating too many "good" fats can be bad.

The lowdown

Abdominal fat isn't just aesthetically unappealing. It could be dangerous. By paying special attention to your lifestyle, habits, and diet, you can figure out how to lose weight in your stomach safely. This could reduce serious health risks.

If your weight loss efforts aren't effective, speak to your doctor to find the root of the abdominal fat problem.

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