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Why Can't You Lose Your Visceral Fat? A Specialist Weighs In

Here's how to lose visceral fat, experts says.

Having six pack abs is a goal many people aim for, but oftentime stubborn belly fats can be a challenge to get rid of, especially as we get older. No matter what we do, at times it seems like abdominal fat won't go away and chances are it's visceral fat that's the problem. But not to worry—there is hope. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Terry Simpson who explained why visceral fat is hard to lose and what we can do about it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Visceral Fat?

Doctor measuring obese man waist body fat.

According to Andie Hecker, celebrity trainer and founder of The A List by Andie Hecker, "Visceral fat is a type of body fat that's stored deep within the abdominals, contrary to subcutaneous fat, which sits under the skin. Visceral fat makes up approximately 10% of your body fat stores. The best way to tap into body fat stores is through aerobic workouts, be it HIIT training, or longer duration lower impact cardio, such as walking, swimming & elliptical training."


Not All Fat is the Same

Overweight woman in tight clothes at home is trying to fit into tight jeans.

Dr. Terry Simpson MD FACS, a weight loss surgery and certified culinary medicine specialist with St. Johns Camarillo and St John's Dignity Health explains, "Have you ever noticed that people, as they age, put more weight around their middle than when they are younger? This "belly fat" is called visceral fat and it is different from subcutaneous fat. If you have belly fat, tighten your abdominal muscles — the fat under your skin and before the muscle is subcutaneous fat, the fat below your hard muscle is belly fat.

These fat tissues are not the same and as we age, we tend to deposit more fat into the belly or visceral fat. This fat is also associated with diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and even an increased risk of cancer. 

We used to think that all fat is the same, and that all we had to do was to eat less and move more and the fat would disappear, but that isn't working. The two fats are different and it is in those differences that we find why it is hard to lose weight."

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How Insulin Plays a Part

woman eating cake

Dr. Simpson says, "Belly fat (visceral fat) has more insulin receptors on the fat cell than subcutaneous fat. This means that belly fat is more prone to levels of insulin. Insulin is called the 'storage' hormone, because it allows blood sugar to get into cells, but it also turns off the burning of fat. So if you eat something, be it fat or sugar or even alcohol or protein, your insulin goes up. Which fat turns off first — the belly fat. As you go on diets, you lose weight. The first weight you tend to lose is subcutaneous fat — which is why you notice weight loss in the face first (it is subcutaneous). Belly fat is hard to lose because of its insulin receptors. This is also why diabetics have a harder time losing belly fat." 

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Healthcare worker at home visit

"As you age your body hormones change — be it women in peri-menopause or menopause and men as their testosterone levels go down — you tend to accumulate your fat in your belly," Dr. Simpson explains. "We cannot reverse this with hormone replacement — no matter how many people want to sell you hormones, they don't change what kind of fat you accumulate."

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Stop the Yo-Yo Dieting

Sad woman in anticipation of an order.

How many times have you been really disciplined and lost weight, but then gained it back? That makes a big difference, Dr. Simpson says. 

"When you fall off a diet, the weight you lost in the subcutaneous fat tends to return to the visceral fat, or belly fat — making it harder to lose weight as time goes on. This is why we see people move from being pear shaped to apple shaped. 

But belly fat can be lost! The best diet to lose belly fats are those diets that are highest in fiber (diets rich in vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, and whole (not refined grains). This is why the Mediterranean and DASH diet are the most recommended diets by doctors and registered dietitians."

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Get Moving

exercise lunges

One of the best ways to lose that belly fat is to workout hard. Dr. Simpson says, "Cardiovascular exercises tend to target belly fat because that fat is resistant from the insulin and those exercises tend to reduce insulin levels: running, intense yoga, swimming."

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Lifestyle Change


"The most important is to change habits and eat a diet rich in fiber, adopting a Mediterranean lifestyle and avoiding the high fat/ high added sugar junk foods," Dr. Simpson states. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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