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The #1 Worst Thing to Do For Your "Belly Fat" Loss

Belly fat is worth the focus.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

There are a ton of articles online about visceral fat, also known as belly fat—how to burn it, slash it, and lose it. It's worth the focus. Visceral fat isn't just unsightly and disruptive to your wardrobe—it's seriously hazardous to your health. And if you notice your pants are getting tighter, it's probably because of some things you do innocently every day. One, in particular, is the worst thing you can do if you want to lose visceral fat. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Visceral Fat Is, And Why It's Bad

Body fat analysis with electronic bioelectrical impedance scale at weight loss clinic.

Unlike subcutaneous fat—the pinchable fat under the skin—visceral fat lies under the abdominal muscle, nested around organs like the stomach, liver and pancreas. This fat increases inflammation throughout the body and releases hormones and toxic substances into nearby vital organs. Excess visceral fat raises your risk of serious health problems—including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and sleep apnea. In women, visceral fat is also associated with breast cancer, polycystic ovary disease, and the need for gallbladder surgery. 

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The #1 Worst Habit for Visceral Fat Loss

pasta pizza carbs

Want to lose belly fat? Reduce the amount of added sugar and simple carbohydrates you're consuming. Refined grains, processed foods, and sugar-sweetened foods and drinks quickly break down into sugar in the body once ingested. And belly fat feeds on sugar. "​​Fructose, or sugar, causes fat cells to mature faster, specifically in the visceral fat," says the Cleveland Clinic.

Avoiding those sugars and simple carbs that increase blood sugar is key to burning belly fat. "When you raise your blood sugar, you raise insulin," said functional medicine physician Dr. Mark Hyman in a recent episode of his podcast. "You raise insulin, you sweep all the fuel out of your bloodstream and throw it into your belly-fat cells. It's like insulin basically opens the gates—all the fuel, fat, sugar, carbs, everything goes flooding into your fat cells."

Read on for more habits you should avoid if you want to burn visceral fat.

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Drinking Too Much Alcohol


The "beer belly" isn't just a figure of speech. Overindulging in alcohol contributes to belly fat because alcohol is processed by the liver—which also processes all the fats and carbs we put into our bodies. Because the body alcohol recognizes alcohol as a toxin, it jumps to the front of the line for processing, meaning that those fats and carbs are more likely to be stored as fat, particularly belly fat. (Studies have found that consuming alcohol temporarily reduces the body's ability to burn fat by more than 70%.) To lose visceral fat (and stay healthy overall), avoid alcohol or drink only in moderation—no more than two drinks a day for men and one daily drink for women.

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Being Sedentary

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

Diet alone won't burn belly fat; exercise is crucial. Moderate-intesity exercise combined with strength training seems to work best—a 2021 review of studies found that resistance training reduces visceral fat. The important thing is to make sure you're moving: According to a 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients, exercise reduces visceral fat even if you don't lose weight. That's because it lowers circulating insulin (which tells the body to retain fat) and tells the liver to burn nearby visceral fat deposits. 

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Not Sleeping Enough

Woman being sick having flu sitting on bed alone at home, having high fever or temperature, touching forehead

Not getting enough sleep is a shortcut to belly fat. Not only does being tired make your body crave energy in the form of food, it increases the brain's production of cortisol (a stress hormone that tells the body to retain fat around the abdomen) and messes up the production of leptin and ghrelin, hormones that regulate appetite and satiety. Researchers at Wake Forest University found that dieters who slept five hours or less every night put on 2.5 times more belly fat than people who got adequate sleep. That means seven to nine hours every night. 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.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael