Abdominal fat —also known as visceral or belly fat—is the metabolically “active” fat stored around major organs such as the liver and is linked to serious health conditions such as cancer and diabetes. “Reducing waist size is imperative to reducing your risk of chronic health conditions,” says David B. Samadi, MD. “It won’t happen overnight but the sooner you begin working on losing your belly fat, the sooner you lower your chance of developing heart disease.” Here are five proven ways to get rid of belly fat, according to doctors. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
There is a wealth of evidence connecting poor sleep (less than seven hours a night) to excess weight, especially belly fat—so if you want to keep your abdominal fat under control, prioritize sleep. “Normally, fat is preferentially deposited subcutaneously or under the skin,” says Virend Somers, MD, PhD. “However, the inadequate sleep appears to redirect fat to the more dangerous visceral compartment. Importantly, although during recovery sleep there was a decrease in calorie intake and weight, visceral fat continued to increase. This suggests that inadequate sleep is a previously unrecognized trigger for visceral fat deposition, and that catch-up sleep, at least in the short term, does not reverse the visceral fat accumulation. “
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is key to decreasing belly fat, experts say. “Avoid skipping meals and keep mealtimes as consistent as possible,” says Dr. Samadi. “This reduces the hunger pangs which lead you to crave high-calorie, convenience foods such as chips, sweets, or other foods and beverages high in fat, sugar, and calories. Going no more than four hours without eating helps stabilize blood sugars and keeps your metabolism running smoothly.”
Excess sitting is linked to an increase in belly fat, so make a point of moving frequently throughout the day. “Since it’s so hard for people to lose weight and keep it off, it’s better to prevent weight gain in the first place,” says Harvard Health. “Encouragingly, there’s strong evidence that staying active can help people slow down or stave off “middle-age spread”: The more active people are, the more likely they are to keep their weight steady; the more sedentary, the more likely they are to gain weight over time.”
Stress and excess weight—especially belly fat—are unfortunately closely linked. “Stress creates a fight-or-flight response by the body, which causes adrenaline to spike,” says Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD. “When stress is channeled in a negative way, like when daily or chronic stress from life events does not result in the need for immediate output, excess nutrients released from your stress response may get stored as abdominal fat. So it’s no wonder, excess stress could be preventing you from slimming down.”
Working out is not just great for your overall physical and mental health, it can help blast belly fat. “Aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week,” says Dr. Samadi. “Break this into 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. The greater the frequency, duration and intensity of physical activity, the more weight you will lose, particularly in the abdominal area. 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.
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more