ABDOMINAL fat can be hard to get rid of.
Whatever affectionate name you give it, muffin top, love handles or little podge, even months of healthy eating and exercise can make it difficult to shift.
While you might think it’s down to your lifestyle, your stomach shape sometimes has nothing to do with your weight.
Experts have previously discussed the different reasons as to why weight gain isn’t your fault.
This can be down to anything from a lack of sleep, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), thyroid issues, lipoedema, limited mobility and even the medication you are on.
It turns out it’s not just carrying a few extra pounds that can increase the size of your tummy – lots of factors can be to blame.
Our guts are where we store stress, hormones and insulin resistance – all things that can make your stomach appear bigger.
Here, we take you through the different things your belly fat might be trying to tell you – and how to blast it…
1. Mummy tummy
Our bodies are brilliant and during both pregnancy and childbirth, our bodies go through a lot of stress.
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While there is no rush to get back to the same shape your body was before, having a baby can make you feel a little uncomfortable.
You might have a mummy tummy if your stomach is flabby and can often appear to form two separate pockets of fat either side of your belly button.
A wobbly belly and loose skin are both natural side effects of pregnancy.
But if you still look pregnant months or years after having your baby, you may have a condition called diastasis recti.
This is where the two long muscles that run down your middle – which separate when you are pregnant – do not close together again afterwards.
How to treat it
Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said you shouldn’t diet immediately after pregnancy as this is dangerous.
“It takes nine months to grow a baby – and your tummy can’t go back overnight.
“But immediately after giving birth is a dangerous time to diet as your body needs energy for breastfeeding and coping with sleepless nights caused by your waking baby.
“If it’s been a year since you gave birth, a calorie deficit with a balanced diet is the best advice.”
Brits are more stressed than ever, with the rise in energy costs making it hard for people to relax.
We often forget that stress can seriously impact our bodies, especially our gut.
Stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol — known as the stress hormone — which contributes to the storage of fat, particularly abdominal fat that is often the hardest to get rid of.
Stress can also lead to a decrease in fat oxidation, the process that allows fat to be burnt as energy. This means that you don’t necessarily have to be consuming more food to put weight on.
How to treat it
Take steps to manage your stress such as deep breathing, going for a short walk or building time into your day to relax.
Herbal supplements such as ashwagandha and rhodiola have been shown to help lower cortisol levels. However, if you are taking medication, you should always check with your doctor before taking supplements.
Nutritionists also suggest snacking on nuts if you notice your belly getting bigger from stress – as they’re packed with magnesium which seems to help keep cortisol levels low.
Broccoli is also a great thing to add to your diet as it’s high in folic acid, which aids stress reduction.
Bloating is the feeling of pressure or swelling in the tummy – and over 70 per cent of people regularly suffer from it.
It can be caused by a variety of things including irritable bowel syndrome, flatulence, Coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and endometriosis.
Ways to beat bloating in a week
Nutritional therapist Natalie Lamb, who works with Bio-Kult, has outlined a seven day plan in order to help with bloating. Here are the seven steps:
- Start taking a multi-strain probiotic.
- Use apple cider vinegar before each meal to support digestive function.
- Reduce simple sugars and refined carbohydrates.
- Start eating more fibre.
- Drink cups of homemade bone stock or including it in soups and stews.
- Leave legumes to soak well overnight. It will ease their digestion if they cause you bloating.
- Relax more. Stress is known to reduce the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
The sensation of bloating can cause abdominal distention, which is a visible swelling or extension of your belly.
In rare cases, bloating can also be a sign of something more serious, including ovarian cancer so it if persists, it is important to speak to your GP.
How to treat it
Nutritional therapist Natalie Lamb, who works with Bio-Kult, says there are several steps you can take to help with bloating.
In particular, she recommends using cider vinegar before each meal to support digestive function, reducing simple sugars and refined carbohydrates and eating more fibre.
She also suggests drinking cups of homemade bone stock or including it in soups and stews and leaving legumes to soak well overnight.
4. Over consuming
This can be down to consuming both too much booze and too much junk food.
After years of too many beers, many people find their tummies morph into something looking more like a keg.
It’s mainly down to those brewed liquid calories you sink at the bar which contain anywhere between 180 to 500 calories per pint – depending on your tipple.
Too much salt and processed foods can upset the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in your stomach, resulting in weight gain.
Upper-belly fat can also be a sign you are not eating enough fibre.
Drinking even a little less each day through the week can have benefits for your health, helping you cut down on calories and contribute to weight loss.
And if you really can’t ditch the booze, consider picking a tipple which is lower in calories.
Otherwise, lifestyle changes like doing more exercise and cutting down on your calorie intake and fatty foods will help you shift that stubborn beer belly.
5. Weight gain
While it’s not the only reason, weight gain is of course a factor that might be to blame for your tummy expanding in size.
That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
Tummy fat – also known as visceral fat – is among the most dangerous to the body and is linked to increase risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
So it’s not just about how good your jeans look, shedding a few pounds around the middle really can help you live longer.
How to treat it
Increasing your activity level is one of the main ways you can lose overall weight.
You don’t have to spend hours at the gym or running to get fit, but if you aim to spend 15 minutes a day being active this will slowly make a difference.
On top of this, cutting down on the calories you consume is key when it comes to cutting down belly fat.
Opt for more filling foods rich in fibre and protein – both of which can help you feel fuller for longer.
In particular, whole grains have the added benefit of stopping fat from being stored around the stomach, by lowering the insulin and cortisol (the stress hormone) within your body.
They’re also a great low-fat source of slow-release energy, which keeps you going throughout the day.
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