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5 Bad Habits Slowing Your Abdominal Fat Loss

You’re probably doing this all wrong.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Have you been trying to get rid of stubborn abdominal fat, but to no avail? Certain lifestyle choices can make losing dangerous belly fat difficult, if not impossible. "Beer bellies are linked with increased risk for a variety of health problems including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, erectile dysfunction, fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome and higher mortality," says Daniel Allan, MD. Here are five habits slowing down abdominal fat loss, according to doctors. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You're Sitting All Day

overweight woman at home lying on the floor, laptop in front of her, prepared to work out on mat according to video

Weekend warrior syndrome is real—working out a few times a week won't cancel out the damage of sitting down all day long (although any exercise is obviously better than none). "We know that spending long periods of time sedentary is unhealthy and a risk factor for chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease," says Joe Henson,  PhD, research associate at the University of Leicester. "Likewise, the amount of fat deposited around our internal organs may also predispose us to these diseases. Using MRI techniques and physical activity monitors we have shown that the more time spent sedentary, the stronger the association with higher levels of internal and abdominal fat. This was particularly so if the long periods of sedentary behavior were uninterrupted. Our findings also show that reaching the UK government's target of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity may offer some protection against the harmful effects of prolonged sedentary time."


Eating Too Much

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

While weight loss is more complicated than simply calories in, calories out, eating more than you burn off will slow down fat loss. "If you want to lose weight, consuming fewer calories than you burn daily helps you reach your goal," says Erin Coleman, RD, LD. "Eat 500 to 1,000 fewer calories than you burn daily to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, suggests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, if your weight-maintenance calorie requirement is 2,400 calories a day, aim for 1,400 to 1,900 calories daily to safely and effectively shed pounds."


Poor Sleep

woman sleeping happily in plush bed

Not getting enough sleep (less than seven hours a night for healthy adults) will slow down abdominal weight loss. "Our findings show that shortened sleep, even in young, healthy and relatively lean subjects, is associated with an increase in calorie intake, a very small increase in weight, and a significant increase in fat accumulation inside the belly," says Virend Somers, MD, PhD, the Alice Sheets Marriott Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine.


The Wrong Kind of Exercise

woman sitting with dumbbell at gym

When it comes to burning belly fat, experts recommend regular aerobic exercise. "Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass," says Cris Slentz, PhD. "But if you are overweight, which two thirds of the population is, and you want to lose belly fat, aerobic exercise is the better choice because it burns more calories." 



Hand stubbed out cigarette in a transparent ashtray on wooden table

Smoking can lead to an increase in visceral fat, multiple studies show. "Tobacco influences fat distribution through hormones like cortisol that increase abdominal fat deposition," says Sue Pedersen, MD. "In women, nicotine has an anti-estrogen effect which also favors abdominal fat collection."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan