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Everyday Habits You Wouldn't Believe Lead to Abdominal Fat

Avoid these bad routines and lengthen your life.

Developing belly fat—or visceral fat, the fat in the abdominal area that grows around vital organs like the liver and pancreas, raising health risks—can be a bit more complicated than "calories in, calories out." (Although burning more calories than you consume on a daily basis is a great starting point for reducing belly fat.) In fact, some of the everyday habits that can pack on belly fat might shock you—some aren't commonly associated with weight, and others may even be considered healthy. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Poor Sleep

Woman Lying On Bed

Researchers at Wake Forest University found that dieters who slept five hours or less every night put on 2 1/2 times more belly fat than people who got adequate sleep, meaning seven to nine hours a night. Experts say poor sleep alters the production of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite. Not sleeping enough also increases the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that tells the body to hold onto fat around the abdomen. 

RELATED: The #1 Best Cure for Visceral Fat, Say Experts


Drinking Diet Soda

woman drinking soda

Still don't believe that thin people don't drink diet soda? In a decade-long study at the University of Texas, researchers followed nearly 500 adults and found that those who drank diet soda developed a 70 percent larger waist circumference than those who didn't drink any soda. Diet drinks are a major dietary underminer: Artificial sweeteners prompt the body to expect an influx of calories; when none are forthcoming, the body nudges you toward the kitchen—or the drive-thru—to compensate.

RELATED: Stop Doing This or You'll Get Obese, Experts Warn


Stressing Out

Mature businessman experiencing a headache while working at his desk

Unfortunately, "stress belly" is a thing. Excessive stress causes the body to produce more cortisol, a.k.a. "the stress hormone," to help it cope with the strain. One of the things cortisol tells the body to do? Hold on to fat around the abdomen in case of emergency. This can cause a bulging midsection even in otherwise thin people. 

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Eating Out Of Cans

Woman in pantry with groceries, wooden rack for storing food in the kitchen.

It's not just what you eat that can pack on belly fat; be mindful of the container it came in. Specifically, whether it contains Bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical found in the lining of aluminum cans. One study at Harvard found that people who had the highest concentration of BPA in their urine had significantly larger waists and a higher risk of obesity than those in the lowest 25 percent.


Not Getting Enough Protein

drinking protein shake

Several studies have found that making high-quality protein a regular part of your diet is inversely associated with developing belly fat. One of the latest was published this summer in the journal Scientific Reports: Researchers found that a test group that took a protein supplement along with a mildly calorie-restricted diet lost more visceral fat than a group that took a placebo. In addition, the test group's gut microbiota was activated by the protein supplement. Some studies have connected healthy gut bacteria to the loss of visceral fat—regardless of what you eat. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael