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Surprising Habits That Shrink Your Abdominal Fat

Experts weigh in on how to get rid of belly fat. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

An expanding waistline is something many struggle with and losing excess abdominal fat is more important than you think. Hidden deep in the belly is visceral fat–a health issue not talked about enough, but it wraps around your organs and can lead to major problems like some cancers, stroke, type 2 diabetes and more. Getting rid of abdominal fat is vital for overall health and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who share their tips for eliminating belly fat. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Belly Fat is Dangerous

Woman sitting at the gym with pink pilates ball.

Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet explains, "Studies have shown that women and men with belly fat have a greater risk for heart disease. This fact is also true regardless of the individual's body mass index (BMI). Even those with a normal BMI but carry a spare tire in their midsection have a greater risk for heart attack and heart disease. This particular form of fat can be difficult to lose as it is often found in and around abdominal organs. It can also be difficult to target this area in exercise. The best approach to reducing belly fat for improved health is to take part in moderate exercise while also integrating a balanced diet low in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates."


Manage Stress Levels

stressed woman

Dr. Hector Perez, Chief Surgeon with Bariatric Journal shares, "When you're stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone can lead to weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. Stress can also cause you to make poor food choices or eat more than you otherwise would."

Richards adds, "Elevated cortisol and the inflammation it causes can create many negative health issues and these issues can impact the person's nutrition. The primary way inflammation caused by cortisol causes nutrient issues in the body is through gastrointestinal problems. The cortisol flooding the body, and gut, along with inflammation cause digestion and absorption of nutrients to become compromised. This leads to the potential for nutrient deficiencies, loss of appetite, indigestion, and irritated or inflamed gut lining. All of these can then lead to an imbalance in the gut's microbiome, which further exacerbates these issues. All this can ultimately result in abdominal weight gain due to bloating and the body holding on to weight due to elevated cortisol.

Cortisol is known as the stress hormone meaning it rises due to stress either physical or mental. While it is a necessary hormone, when it is elevated it causes a wide variety of negative health outcomes, including weight gain. There are a few simple steps you can take to lower your cortisol levels. 

-Bring balance into your diet – Replace processed and sugar laden foods with whole plant foods. Processed foods and added sugar will raise your cortisol levels while simultaneously causing weight gain from empty calories. 

-Take a supplement – Once cleared by your healthcare provider consider adding a B12 and vitamin C supplement into your regimen. Both of these vitamins aid in metabolism of cortisol which will lower your blood cholesterol levels." 


Get Quality Sleep of 7-9 Hours a Night

woman sleeping at night with eye mask

Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD reveals, "The nutrients we take in regularly play a part in natural body processes than we often realize or give it credit for, especially sleep quality and quantity. What we consume can both hinder and promote restful sleep and promote weight gain. Foods that contain melatonin, the natural chemical responsible for sound sleep, can help to improve sleep quality. Almonds, walnuts, and bananas are all rich in melatonin and make excellent night time snacks to help promote a restful night's sleep. Foods that prevent quality sleep and can cause excess weight gain are often rich in refined carbohydrates. Simple carbs reduce serotonin in the brain, the chemical responsible for inducing sleep. These foods are typically processed convenience foods like pastries, crackers, chips, and pasta, avoiding these close to bedtime."


Calorie Reduction

Man counting calories on table

Dr. Sean Preuss, CXO at The Perfect Workout shares, "When people lose weight, visceral fat is included. Therefore, the most effective ways to lose weight are usually effective ways to lose visceral fat. Dietary changes, specifically reducing overall caloric intake, is the most effective way to lose visceral fat (and fat in general). A reduction in calories stimulates lipolysis, where fat tissue in the body is broken down to create energy."


High-Intensity Aerobic Exercise

group of young, attractive multiracial women running in tank tops and leggings across a modern bridge
Shutterstock / Rido

Dr.  Preuss states, "High-intensity aerobic exercise can stimulate an increased metabolism for hours after a workout, leading to a small amount of fat loss, including visceral fat." 


The Kind of Cheese You Eat Makes a Difference

cheese assortment

​​Dr. Suzanna Wong, a Licensed Doctor of Chiropractic and health expert with Twin Waves Wellness says, "Switch your cheese to lower fat cheese – this reduces your saturated fats down, which in turn starts to lower your visceral fat and cholesterol levels."


Increase Your Fiber

Woman Eats Cereal

Dr. Wong explains, "Having higher levels of fiber improves your gut bacteria which in turn helps you digest your food better. The added fiber helps to flush out cholesterol, reduce your visceral fat and keep you fuller, making you less likely to reach for extra high saturated fat foods. Concentrate on eating more whole foods, particularly potatoes, fruit and vegetables. The fiber within these helps your digestive system work more effectively, and keeps you full, which helps you to eat less calories and bring your belly fat down."


Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

Coffee and Sugar Main Picture

Bishnu Pada Das, a certified personal trainer with the Crazy Athlete  explains, "Artificial sweeteners may help some people lose weight but are not effective for everyone. And you should also know that many experts remain concerned about its side effects and weight gain. Ultimately, it's best to avoid all sweeteners as much as possible, but if you can't do that, you could consider temporarily moving to artificial sweeteners from sugar. But your end goal should be to move to natural and reduce sweeteners eventually.  So, instead, you can choose naturally sweet foods like whole fruits to satisfy your craving while taking advantage of the whole foods."

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