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Signs You Must Lose Your Abdominal Fat Now

Here's how to tell it's time to get rid of your belly fat, according to experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

​​Belly fat isn't just uncomfortable, it can be a serious health issue. "Abdominal fat is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and kidney disease, by itself and in addition to the other risk factors it causes, related to obesity, inflammation, and hormonal imbalances," says  Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, aka "The VibrantDoc," a recognized leader in functional medicine and author of the new self-care book Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Reverse Aging, and Glow. So how do you know when it's time to lose abdominal fat? Eat This, Not That! Health talked to experts who explained how to know when to make positive lifestyle changes. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Bigger Waistline

Woman worried about weight gain.
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If you've had to loosen up your belt notch, it could be time to hit the gym. Dr. Kristina Hendija says, "Check your abdominal circumference. Visceral fat tends to accumulate at the abdominal area, leading to a widening waistline. Though this is generally not the first symptom of a dangerous level of visceral fat, it may be the most noticeable one."

Dr. Stephenson adds, "If your waist measures 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men, at the smallest part, usually just over your belly button (without sucking it in), it's time to lose the fat."

2

Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio is Too High

Person measuring their waste line
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Dr. Stephenson explains, "Measuring your waist at the smallest point and your hips at the widest point, then divide your waist size by your hip size. The number should be no higher than .85 for women or .95 for men. Above that is an indicator of abdominal obesity, even if you are at a normal weight."

3

You Can't Touch Your Toes

Woman standing barefooted on yoga mat stretching body in the morning posing in cozy bedroom, bending forwards, trying to touch toes with her fingers.
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"You feel burdened by and self-conscious about your belly. That alone is reason enough to make a change," Dr. Stephenson states. "Also, if your belly sticks out but you can't pinch much flab, that's a sign because the fat is mostly under the muscle, where it causes more trouble. In addition, if your belly gets in the way when you bend over and try to touch your toes, making you feel out of breath and uncomfortable, it's time to do something about your belly fat." 

4

Common Causes of Belly Fat

woman is chewing pizza, while laying on the white sofa. She is watching TV shows, being on blurred background.
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Dr. Stephenson  says, "According to a study published in Obesity, the lifestyle factors that were most associated with abdominal fat accumulation over a five-year period were sedentary lifestyle and a low fiber diet.  More exercise and a greater intake of soluble fiber were both associated with a decrease in visceral fat, even independent of any change in weight. For each 10 grams increase in soluble fiber per day, the rate of visceral fat accumulation decreased by 3.7%. Other studies have shown that visceral fat accumulation is most heavily associated with a lack of exercise, smoking, and alcohol intake—the notorious 'beer belly' is usually primarily visceral fat. Another big contributor: stress. The release of stress hormones, especially cortisol, sends the body the signal to store fat aggressively, in response to a perceived emergency. It is essentially hoarding resources."

5

Ways to Lose Belly Fat

older couple running
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Dr. Mir Ali, MD, bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA says, "Truncal obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cancer. Unfortunately, you cannot target weight loss to certain areas like your abdomen. However, losing weight overall will lead to a reduction in truncal obesity. A diet high in fiber and protein as well as low in sugar is a great place to start. Minimizing or eliminating alcohol intake is also critically important. Finally, improving your sleep, reducing stress and exercising regularly can all lead to a positive reduction in abdominal fat." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of 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