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Are You Female With "Too Much" Abdominal Fat? Here's How to Lose it

Do you have too much belly fat? Experts explain how to tell and what to do about it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Putting on a few pounds here and there is normal and not a big deal, but when your waistline starts expanding and you size up in clothes, excess weight can become a big health problem. Belly fat is unhealthier than you think because visceral fat gets stored when you consume too many calories and lack physical activity. It's dangerous because visceral fat is located deep in your abdomen and while you can't see it, it wraps around your vital organs and has been linked to serious health issues like stroke, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and more. The good news is, when you lose belly fat, you lose visceral fat and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Megan Mescher-Cox, DO Board certified in Internal Medicine, Lifestyle Medicine & Obesity Medicine with Dignity Health St. John's Hospital who explains how to get rid of abdominal fat. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


How to Accurately Measure Belly Fat

Nutritionist inspecting a woman's waist using a measuring tape to prescribe a weight loss diet

Dr. Cox explains, "Most of us go by the waist circumference as a marker for belly fat.  For women, a waist circumference of over 35 inches is considered an unhealthy amount of belly fat.  The easiest way to measure it is to get a flexible measuring tape and hold one side at your belly button, looping it around your body.  It is important to measure at the belly button level." 


Why Excess Abdominal Fat is Unhealthy

Woman sitting at the gym with pink pilates ball.

Dr. Cox tells us, "Fat that accumulates in the belly is more strongly associated with health issues, notably heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver.  Fat in the abdominal cavity, known as visceral fat (aka "belly fat") is metabolically active – releasing hormones and inflammatory factors.  These hormones and inflammatory factors lead to more inflammation, which is a confounding factor in the development of heart disease and diabetes, amongst others."


Avoidance of Stress and Getting Regular Relaxation

stressed woman

"Our body will produce varying levels of hormones in response to external stimuli," Dr. Cox states. "If we live a life where we are stressed commonly, our stress hormone cortisol can be elevated.  This can result in formation of more abdominal fat.  Likewise, if we do not regularly have time to relax we will also see an increase in cortisol." 


Get Regular Exercise

woman jogging on bridge

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting 150 minutes of exercise a week and Dr. Cox says, "This helps build muscle, which increases a person's basal metabolic rate.  This will help with breaking down the fat even when a person is not working out.  Weight lifting or other muscle-building exercise is especially good at this." 


Increase Fiber Intake

Woman Eats Cereal

According to Dr. Cox, "Fiber intake is inversely correlated with waist size and abdominal fat.  To say it another way, the more fiber that someone ingests, the lower their waist line and abdominal fat, on average.  There are numerous reasons for this but especially notable are that the fiber allows the bacteria in your gut to form a protective layer which physically can block some absorption of fat and cholesterol from the diet.  Fiber also helps stabilize the levels of the hormone insulin, and when insulin levels are more stable there is less chance for hyperinsulinemia.  One of insulin's jobs is to help store sugar, thereby increasing fat and especially abdominal fat.  Additionally, foods that are high in fiber are typically more healthful options – vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils and whole grains – foods that are also without cholesterol and are low in fat." 


Stop Eating Ultra Processed Foods, High Fat Foods & Sugary Drinks

Coffee and Sugar Main Picture

Dr. Cox says, "This helps reduce the formation of belly fat by reducing the foods that greatly contribute to belly fat formation.  These foods introduce inflammation, fat, cholesterol, and significant calories that need to be stored in the body and further stimulate the inflammatory response in someone's body." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather