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Signs Your Belly Fat Needs to Be Melted and How to Do It Safely and Effectively

Learn how to tell if you have too much abdominal fat and how to get rid of it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Losing abdominal fat is a common weight loss goal, especially after the holidays, but keeping a trim waistline does more than make you look great. It can extend your lifespan. We all know excess body weight is unhealthy, but that's especially true of belly fat . A growing midsection is a sign of visceral fat–a deadly fat that's hidden deep in your abdomen. It wraps around your vital organs and can cause cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more. Getting rid of visceral fat is important for your overall health. 

Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet tells us, "Visceral fat is the type of fat that begins to center around the front of the body, the belly, over time. This belly fat can place strain on the heart and other organs while also being deep inside the belly and wrapped around organs." Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD adds, "Belly fat can be uncomfortable, inconveniencing, and make certain aspects of life harder to do, but it is also quite dangerous. The potential health complications from belly fat do not get as much attention as they should, this would be a greater motivator to try and get it off and keep it off. This type of fat is not just on the belly, but surrounds the organs as well. This places the individual at risk for developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, liver issues, and diabetes."

While genetics determines the shape of your body and how you store fat, lifestyle choices play a large role as well. Visceral fat is caused by lack of exercise, a diet high in fatty foods and sugar, as well as stress. Good healthy habits make a difference and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who share signs you need to lose belly fat and how. As always, please consult your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What's Too Much Belly Fat


Best explains, "Weight isn't a good indicator of belly fat alone, body shape is a better way to know if you have too much belly fat. There are two primary body shapes; apple (android) and pear (gynoid). These shapes can equate to the same number on the scale but have very different health implications. The android shape holds weight primarily in the stomach and mid-section where it wraps around organs and places excess stress on the heart." 

Richards says, "If your waist to hip ratio becomes disproportional, with the waist becoming greater than the hips, you have begun gaining too much belly fat. This doesn't necessarily require a measurement, but that can be done, however a visual check is typically accurate. If you've gone up a pant size or more is another indication that you may have too much belly fat."

Cleveland Clinic says, "Healthcare providers have specific guidelines they use to measure body fat. Visceral fat makes up about 10% of your body fat. You can figure out your visceral fat level by calculating your total body fat percentage and then taking off 10%. If your body fat percentage is higher than recommended, then your visceral fat range will be, too.

There are a few ways you can measure your body fat:

–Waist measurement: Wrap a tape measure around your waist just above your hip bones. For women, 35 inches or more means you're at risk for health problems stemming from visceral fat. For men, the number is 40 inches or more.

–Waist-to-hip ratio: Measure your waist size and your hip size (wrap a tape measure around the widest part of your hips). Divide your waist size by your hip size. A waist-to-hip ratio higher than 0.85 in women and 0.90 in men indicates abdominal obesity.

–Body mass index (BMI): BMI measures your body fat based on your height and weight. A BMI of 30 or more (in men and women) indicates you may be overweight and could have a higher level of visceral fat.

–Waist-height ratio: Divide your waist size by your height. A healthy ratio is no greater than 0.5 (in men and women). Some healthcare providers prefer the waist-height ratio. Other methods aren't as accurate at distinguishing between visceral and subcutaneous fat." 


Limit Alcohol

Sad woman drinking wine at kitchen.

Stop the binge drinking and cut back on alcohol. It can help reduce visceral fat. The Cleveland Clinic states, "Drinking too much alcohol may increase the amount of visceral fat your body stores." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, "According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more."

Best explains, "Alcohol is a macronutrient, meaning it provides calories to the body, and the body prioritizes these calories. This means any calories consumed in a two hour window before and after alcohol consumption will be stored as fat. Alcohol is also a natural depressant making it potentially harmful to mental health as well, which can lead to lifestyle habits that also contribute to weight gain and belly fat." 


Get Active

woman jogging on bridge

According to Best, "Moving your body even slightly more than you do now, for those that are sedentary, will aid in reducing belly fat. Higher intensity exercises burn fat at a greater rate, but even moderate exercise or walking will get the body burning stored fuel; fat. Getting physically active sounds daunting, but any amount of additional movement will compound and lead to greater health overall."

The Cleveland Clinic advises, "You should try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. This can include cardio or strength training. A popular workout is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT workouts cycle between bursts of intense effort and quick recovery. HIIT offers resistance and aerobic training, which can help you burn fat faster."


Intermittent Fasting


Richards says, "Intermittent fasting is thought to promote many health benefits including weight loss, improve insulin resistance, increase muscle, and initiate cellular repair among others. When you go without eating for an extended period of time the body initiates specific reactions in the body. Cellular repair is a significant benefit of intermittent fasting.

The body is better able to restore hormonal balance and rid itself of toxins which lead to cellular damage. Intermittent Fasting is becoming exceedingly popular for its weight loss benefits. It leads to lower insulin levels, an increase in growth hormones, and an influx of norepinephrine. All of these work together to facilitate the breakdown of body fat for energy."


Eat a Balanced Diet

eat fiber foods

Best says, "The term balanced meal has been taken to mean many things depending on the person using the phrase. As a general rule a balanced meal is one that contains a whole grain, a vegetable, a source of protein (not necessarily animal-based), and possibly a fruit. This gives the individual a source of all macronutrients without excess fat and calories unnecessarily taking up space in the meal. An easy example of this could look like a spinach omelet, whole grain toast and fruit. Fad dieting may help get rid of belly fat initially, but is not sustainable and nearly always leads to rebound weight gain."

Being mindful of what you drink is just as important as what you're eating. Richards tells us, "Many turn to diet sodas to reduce their calorie intake and thereby, hopefully, lead to weight loss. Unfortunately, these drinks can often lead to unwanted weight gain. Artificial sweeteners like those found in diet sodas are linked to the consumer overeating in the following meal. This ultimately negates the potential weight loss benefits thought to be associated with diet sodas. Rather, turn to water or unsweetened seltzers to stay hydrated and avoid empty calories and potential overeating."


Cut Out Processed Meats

Nutritionist inspecting a woman's waist using a measuring tape to prescribe a weight loss diet

Richards explains, "Processed lunch meat, salami, and spam are loaded with dextrose, nitrates, sulfates, and other sugars. These meats are often a consideration when wanting to lose weight, cutting down on red meat and meats high in saturated fat. However, the sodium, in these meats, along with the prior listed compounds, can exacerbate weight gain and inhibit weight loss. This can not only lead to bloating, water retention, and high blood pressure but also added belly fat."

A study published in the National Library of Medicine states, " Ultra-processed food and drink products (UPF) consumption has been associated with obesity and its-related comorbidities. Excess of visceral fat, which appears with increasing age, has been considered as the culprit contributing to adiposity-associated adverse health outcomes…On average, the consumption of UPF accounted for 8.11% (SD 7.41%) of total daily intake (in grams) at baseline…A higher consumption of UPF was associated with greater age-related visceral and overall adiposity accumulation. Further studies are warranted to confirm these results in other populations and settings."

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