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The #1 Reason You Can't Lose Your Abdominal Fat

Here's why stubborn belly fat is hard to lose, experts say.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Losing abdominal fat can be a challenge, but understanding why can be helpful in reaching your health goals. Dr. Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and Women's Health Expert at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA explains, "There are two types of fat in the body: the softer kind that's right beneath the surface is called 'subcutaneous fat'. This is the kind you can pinch. Then there's the harder kind that's stored deeper in your abdomen and wrapped around organs called visceral fat. Visceral fat is the kind you have to be concerned about since it's connected to a slew of health issues like insulin resistance, Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of cancer." Eat This, Not That! Health talked to experts who explain reasons why you can't lose abdominal fat and what to 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.

1

What You Eat Matters

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Dr. Sepehr Lalezari Surgeon and Weight Loss Specialist with Dignity Health St. Mary in Long Beach explains, "Most patients struggle with fat loss. Weight loss is multifaceted and varies based on multiple factors. Genetics, metabolic rate, activity level, and diet all play a role. The types of foods we eat have a great impact on weight gain and weight loss. High carbohydrate foods tend to lead to increased abdominal fat and insulin resistance. Ultimately this leads to type 2 diabetes. Avoiding simple processed sugars will help you lose your belly fat. I always tell my patients don't drink your calories. Avoid high fructose corn syrup, sodas are packed with this sugary trap."

2

Not Being Active

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According to Dr. Lalezari, "It's important to increase your physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity of a combo of the two. I advise my patients to start with 30 minutes at least 3 days of week and work their way up. Any continuous activity is good, even walking. The most important thing is to get started!"

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3

Stress

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Julie Bednarski MHSc, PHEc, RD Founder / CEO Healthy Crunch says, "Stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue are all factors that can contribute to weight gain, making it harder for you to lose weight. When you are under stress either from work or home, your body holds on to weight. Finding ways to manage stress through mindfulness and meditation can improve your mental health, and assist in reducing abdominal fat."

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4

Targeting One Area of Your Body Doesn't Work

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Dr. Ross states, "As much as we wish it were true, you can't spot reduce but you can make changes to get to a healthier weight. Clean up your diet by reducing processed foods and increasing the amount of whole fruits, veggies and fiber-loaded foods you eat every day. Experts also agree that it takes a combo of diet AND exercise to see results so start moving your body every day for at least 30 minutes. There's lots of evidence that strength training can kick your exercise up a notch but the most important thing is consistency so find something you can stick with."

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5

Hormone Levels

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"As women move from perimenopause into menopause, hormone levels that previously helped keep their weight in check start to fluctuate," Dr. Ross says. "Combined with a gradual decline in muscle mass, visceral fat tends to increase and weight gain in the abdomen and mid-section is more common. The end result is that many women go from pear-shaped to apple-shaped during this time unless they're proactive about combating the weight gain before it gets out of hand." 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