Fat Belly and Its Causes
Excess belly fat is a common problem for both men and women. Unfortunately, it isn’t a problem that gets easier to manage as we get older. Indeed, after the age of 30 we start to lose muscle and, because we move less, gain fat. Thus, it becomes increasingly harder to lose belly fat. Where you gain fat and how easy it is to lose belly fat is partly down to genetics. Our genes help determine how many fat cells we have and where these fat cells are stored. Most men preferentially deposit fat in their abdominal area; this is due to the action of male hormone testosterone. The stress hormone, cortisol also encourages belly fat. Women tend to deposit fat on the hips, thighs and buttocks, which is down to the effects of the female hormone, estrogen. For this reason, a woman’s body shape changes and belly fat increases after the menopause when estrogen levels decrease. Though men tend to have more belly fat than women, men generally lose belly fat faster as a result of regular exercise.
Your body shape also affects how easily you lose belly fat:
- Pear-shaped: smaller upper body than lower body. You will find it easier to boast flat, defined abs, as the hardest place for you to lose body fat is from the lower body. The easiest place to lose weight is from your upper body.
- Inverted-triangle: bigger upper body than lower body. You carry most of your fat in your trunk and arms. Therefore, losing belly fat is harder and achieving low level of body fat in the abdomen more difficult. Also, this body shape is the most likely to have high levels of deep belly fat (visceral fat). For this reason, losing belly fat is particularly important.
Basically this is caused by eating the wrong foods, consuming too many calories and/ or insufficient exercise. You probably also are carrying extra weight around your hips and legs. Losing belly fat is pretty straightforward, but does require a lifestyle overhaul. You need to implement a diet that will help you lose belly fat and regular exercise to burn fat and strengthen your abs. Read about which foods you should be avoiding and which ones will help you quickly lose that belly.
The stress hormone known as cortisol, promotes fat to be deposited in the belly area. High levels of cortisol are linked with greater amounts of belly fat. Alcohol, smoking and caffeine all increase cortisol levels. Read more about which type of diet will help reduce cortisol levels.
Post pregnancy the uterus is heavier than pre-pregnancy causing the uterus to drop. The uterus does return to its pre-pregnancy size, but takes about 6 weeks to do so. Also, pregnancy splits the abdominal muscles (the linea alba muscle separates) down the middle. Therefore, it’s not even worth thinking about aiming for flat abs until that process is complete and stays clear of crunches, as they will force these muscles farther apart. Don’t rush into exercising; give yourself at least 2 – 3 months before exercising to get back into shape. Always speak to your doctor or midwife before starting an exercise program, particularly if you’ve had a caesarean section. It is essential to ensure your abdominal muscles have healed before starting vigorous exercises.
To get back your pre-pregnancy body, you need re-train and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and your deepest tummy muscle layer (transversus abdominus). The pelvic floor muscles help to stabilize the pelvis and support the organs of the lower abdominal cavity, including the bladder and uterus. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises known as Kegels (named after Dr. Kegel) generally recommended for strengthening the pelvic floor. The transversus abdominus is a deep abdominal muscle and acts as a corset, pulling you in. Exercises targeting the transversus abdominus will help to strength your core and flatten your belly, by pulling it in from the inside out.
You know you have a bloated belly, if it starts off relatively flat in the morning, but grows larger throughout the day with gas or indigestion. Bloating can affect you irrespective of size, you may be slim or overweight. Your belly may be bloated due to food intolerances, sluggish bowels as a result of a poor diet or a relatively unknown, but probably common condition called Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is when there are abnormally high levels of bacteria in the small intestine, especially the type of bacteria usually found in the colon (large intestine) than the small intestine. Basically, there are two problems (1) too much bacteria and (2) the wrong type of bacteria in the wrong place. The symptoms of SIBO include excess gas, abdominal bloating and distension, diarrhea (less frequently constipation) and abdominal pain. It is thought that many people labelled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), are in fact suffering with SIBO.
FACTORS THAT CAN INCREASE BELLY FAT
There are several factors that increase the likelihood of developing excess deep belly fat, including:
- Male gender
- Post-menopausal women
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Heavy drinking (3 or more drinks per day for men, 2or more drinks for women
- Chronically high stress levels
- Poor diet, of high fat, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates