Tummy fat is a constant struggle to lose, isn’t it? If you’re always wondering how to lose belly fat and looking for tips and advice you’ve come to the right place.
The Healthy Mummy ran a survey with over 5,000 of our community members and found that belly fat loss was the number one concern for our members.
It’s no surprise, as stomach fat is hard to target, yet it’s where the female body tends to accumulate it the most.
We’ve built the ultimate guide on how to lose belly fat, skip ahead to:
All about tummy or belly fat
One problem is that we are all impatient and we want everything now! But losing weight does take time and effort, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
By eating a high lean protein diet with healthy snacks and with a decent amount of exercise 4-5 times per week, you will be able to reclaim that once tight and toned stomach you once had (or wish for).
And by following a nutritionally balanced eating and exercise plan like on the 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge, you can bust belly fat FOR GOOD!
People will tell you that you cannot target your stomach via diet and that exercise is the only way to eliminate excess fat.
We believe that we have shown throughout all the weight loss success stories on The Healthy Mummy website that the food you choose relates to tummy weight loss.
The two types of tummy or belly fat
Abdominal fat can be divided into two classifications. Fat buried deep in the abdomen is called visceral fat. The fat located between the abdominal wall and your skin is called subcutaneous fat.
1. Subcutaneous fat
For new mums, subcutaneous fat is the most noticeable type of fat on the stomach. As the name suggests, subcutaneous fat is the sort of fat that lies just under the skin’s surface.
Women are most likely to accumulate this sort of fat around their abdomen, hips, and buttocks. Subcutaneous fat is noticeable and can cause dimpling like cellulite.
This fat serves as the body’s energy storage system. If more calories are consumed, than the body uses, extra calories are laid down as subcutaneous fat.
When more calories are burned than consumed, subcutaneous fat is the first sort of fat burned off by the body to meet the increased energy demands.
2. Visceral fat (the dangerous one)
The second type of fat in the stomach area is visceral fat, also known as abdominal fat. This sort of fat differs from subcutaneous fat as it is less visible within the body.
Visceral fat forms within the body and around the organs to help protect them. It cannot be seen from the outside and is far more dangerous than subcutaneous fat. Research is continuing into why some people seem to have greater amounts of visceral fat than others. Still, it is believed to have a lot to do with a poor diet.
Visceral fat is of great concern as it literally wraps itself around the major organs in the abdomen, such as the liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs, and contributes to the clogging of arteries.
People will high levels of visceral fat are more prone to developing serious health issues such as heart disease. Visceral fat often accumulates around the liver, leading the liver to become resistant to the body’s insulin, which in turn greatly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Visceral fat is often referred to by the medical profession as a ticking time bomb. Many people are unaware that they have visceral fat, and it cannot be seen accumulating as subcutaneous fat can.
Risk factors for developing visceral fat.
Several factors make it more likely that visceral fat will develop. These include:
- Heavy drinking
- Living a non-active lifestyle
- Eating a diet that is high in fat
- High levels of stress
Two ways to measure if you have too much tummy or belly fat
So you have a wobbly, jiggly tummy that you would like to tighten and tone? You are not alone. While The Healthy Mummy’s 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge can help you combat tummy fat with healthy recipes, meal plans, and exercises. It’s probably never occurred to you to ask yourself: ‘How much belly fat is too much fat?‘ and ‘When is my belly fat considered unhealthy?‘.
Again, you are NOT alone.
Healthy Mummy nutritionist Cheree Sheldon highlights how much belly fat are too much belly fat and two ways you can measure your tummy fat.
The problems with tummy or belly fat
Belly fat is a problem on several levels.
Cosmetically not many of us are happy with having an extra layer of belly fat. Still, there’s also the deeper layer of fat, known as visceral fat, which surrounds our organs and can pose a great health risk.
Visceral fat is metabolically active, it releases hormones, inflammatory markers, and fatty acids into our system and leads to higher LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, and high triglycerides.
Diseases and health issues linked with excess visceral fat include:
- Insulin resistance
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Breathing problems
Two ways to measure if you have too much tummy or belly fat
There are two main ways to measure if you have too much belly fat. These include:
- Waist circumference and;
- Waist to hip ratio.
Measure your waist on your bare skin just above your hip bone. Breathe in and out, then take the measurement. Do the same at your waist.
For a woman, if your waist circumference is 80cm or more, and for a man, if you are 94cm or more, this is a marker for health risks.
To work out your waist-to-hip ratio divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement (e.g. waist is 80cm and hip is 85cm, then 80/85= 0.94), the health risks are greater if your ratio is > 0.85 for women and for Men: > 0.9
One study of 44,000 women found that those with large waists, even if they were at a low BMI, had greater risks of heart disease and cancer
15 causes of excess belly fat in women
While the tools and plans to attack belly fat once and for all may seem relatively straightforward, the causes of excess belly fat are less so for many women.
Healthy Mummy nutritionist Cheree Sheldon identifies 15 different causes of excess belly fat in women.
1. Calories in vs calories out
There are many reasons women may have excess belly fat. The main one is down to the number of calories in and the number burnt off.
Quite simply, if we consume too much food, it is stored as fat. However, most of us know when we attempt to reverse the fact that it might not be as simple as that!
Nonetheless, knowing your BMR is a good place to start in attacking belly fat. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day.
2. Food choices
Food choices are a major impact on the accumulation of belly fat. Sugar, in particular fructose, has been linked to abdominal obesity, especially when people drink soft drinks.
If you eat lots of processed food, you’ll be more likely to have a larger tummy. An increased appetite can lead to overeating, which can lead to fat gain around the stomach.
Whether this is due to an excess of kilojoules consumed or because fructose slows down metabolism and fat burning doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is too much sugar is stored as fat!
When following a healthy eating plan such as the 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge, you can be confident that what you are eating is helping you reduce your waistline instead of adding to it.
The 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge has a weekly meal plan consisting of 3 snacks and 3 main meals a day. These recipes and meals are designed to help you lose weight safely and sustainably. Learn more about the Challenge here.
3. Alcohol intake
Alcohol intake has a function on belly fat. After all, a beer belly didn’t get its name for anything!
The excess calories from alcohol consumption are stored as fat, and like sugar, alcohol slows down fat burning and metabolism.
Daily intake of three or more drinks or indulging drinking on four or more drinks regularly had the biggest risks.
4. Consuming ‘bad’ fats
Consuming fats. Have you heard the saying fat makes you fat?
It’s sort of true depending on the types of fats, as they are not created equal. The worst offender that everyone should avoid at all costs is TRANS FATS.
These are facts that have been messed with by adding hydrogen to them. It makes them more stable, so the junk food it is added to can stay on a shelf longer, but it also creates lots of inflammation in our bodies. It is linked to insulin resistance and belly fat.
Exercise and activity play a big part in getting belly fat off. This is why it makes sense that little to no exercise or activity is a big factor in putting it on.
People who watch more than 3 hours of TV per day double their risk of abdominal obesity than people who watch just one hour.
6. Modern convenience
Modern convenience reduces our need to be active, so it elevates our risk for weight gain.
Have you seen Wall-E? This is our future if we aren’t mindful and reduce our dependency on technology a bit… Take the stairs!
Aging plays a role. Even if you don’t gain weight on the scales, many women notice an accumulation of belly fat as they age, particularly around menopausal age.
This is due to hormonal shifts, when a decrease in estrogen impacts our fat distribution, making it belly-focused instead of hips and thighs.
Sleep affects our weight. Those of us who sleep poorly, five hours or less a night, are linked with weight gain.
Sleep-disordered breathing, such as sleep apnoea, is linked with higher amounts of belly fat.
Stress can cause belly fat! The body interprets any stress the same, whether it’s physical stress such as smoking, or perceived stress such as driving in rush hour.
When we are stressed, we produce cortisol to deal with the stress. Too much stress = too much cortisol. This can cause you to convert more energy into fat and gain more weight around your stomach.
Read here about how stress affects your metabolism and how to BEAT it.
10. Pregnancy and post-pregnancy
During pregnancy, fat is vital in the stomach area as it helps to cushion and protect the baby.
Post-pregnancy our belly changes shape. The uterus drops, and the abdominal muscles shift. It takes a while for the body to regain its muscular strength. With the subcutaneous layer of fat at the forefront until that occurs.
Check out these top tips to consider for getting started with postnatal exercise.
11. Gut bugs
Gut bugs play a part! If the balance of our gut flora is tipped to promote certain bad bacteria, they encourage us to gain weight and stimulate belly fat.
This can be due to bad choices in our diet, feeding bad bacteria causing SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth), resulting in bloating.
The bacteria can send signals to our brains, triggering cravings for carbohydrates and sugars that they want to feed off. Pretty clever, but not too great for our waistline.
Genes can be a major factor in belly fat and obesity.
They do actually have their part to play in how and where we gain weight and fat. Some people gain weight on their arms, while others gain weight around their tummy and others gain weight around the thighs. Each person gains weight and fat differently.
You know when people say, “Oh, it’s in the genes.. Aunty ‘So And So’ was fat… My mum was fat… My sister is, and so I am too”, there are actually genes that are markers for obesity.
A 2011 study found more than 40 known gene variants associated with obesity and fat distribution.
Epigenetic markers do not mean that you HAVE to be heaviest. It just elevates your risk and hopefully motivates you more to make better choices to avoid obesity.
13. What happened in the womb
Before we are born, we can be set up for obesity. If your mum smoked during pregnancy or had a really poor diet, you have a higher risk factor.
Babies born with really low birth weights or really high birth weights have a greater chance of being heavier later in life.
Women with PCOS have a higher amount of visceral fat than women who don’t have the disorder.
It’s unclear whether the mechanism of PCOS is from hormones promoting weight gain or weight gain promoting hormone dysfunction.
Here’s how to reduce belly fat if you suffer from PCOS, underactive thyroid & IBS.
Oestrogen has a lot to do with fat storage, too. During pregnancy, estrogen levels reduce, which can cause fat stores to be directed to the stomach area in preparation for breastfeeding. Oestrogen also causes fat to be stored around the hips and thighs, causing a “pear” shape.
As you can see, many factors can cause excess belly fat in women.
Ultimately they boil down to a few choices, how much you exercise, what your food choices are, and how you manage stress.
You can’t change your genes, and you can’t slow down aging, but you can control all the other factors that influence whether or not you are at greater risk for weight gain and belly fat.
Health benefits of reducing belly fat
There are many benefits to losing body fat around your midsection. From lowering your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, helping to prevent type 2 diabetes, and reducing your risk of heart disease.
The fat around your belly is known as visceral fat. It’s located around vital organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines. This abdominal fat is used to protect these organs, but having excess fat storage in this area can increase your risk of a range of health issues:
- Heightened blood pressure
- Increased blood sugar levels
- Increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Lower metabolic rate – this would hurt your ability for overall weight loss
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Impact your cortisol levels
Losing this visceral fat will help prevent these types of health issues and help get you that flat belly. Working towards a weight loss goal that focuses on your waistline will not only help you build your abdominal muscles but prevent longer-term health issues.
After having a baby, one of the main things that women tend to focus on is losing pregnancy weight from the stomach area.
All those months of stretching to make room for a baby often leave the tummy a lot softer than it was pre-baby, and conditions like ab separation can occur.
There are also hormones at play that can make the operation to shred belly fat quite tough.
The fat around your belly is known as visceral fat. It’s located around vital organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines. This type of fat is used to protect these organs, but it can also influence hormones in your body and increase your heart disease and type 2 diabetes risk.
Lowering your waist circumference will help lower your blood sugar and your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Working towards a weight loss goal that focuses on your waistline will not only help you build your core muscles but prevent longer-term health issues.
How to burn body fat
Challenge yourself during workouts.
To burn off fat, you need to challenge your muscles during workouts. If you don’t push yourself hard enough, you won’t shift the fat. You don’t need to push yourself to the point of exhaustion, but you do need to push yourself hard enough so that you feel slightly sweaty and out of breath during your workout.
Make your workout tough, but not tough enough that you can’t do it, and give yourself enough time to recover between your workouts. If you do weight training every day, you could damage your muscles, so have a rest day in between each weight training session.
Work the larger muscle groups rather than isolated muscle groups.
Working out the larger muscle groups is way more efficient than working out isolated muscles – it burns off more calories, and therefore fatter. It’s as simple as that – you can spend the same amount of time exercising. Still, you can burn off many more calories if you work the larger muscle groups compared to the smaller ones.
For example, a push-up is a great exercise that will work many of your upper body muscles, including the shoulders, chest, upper back, biceps, and triceps. However, a bicep curl will only work the biceps. A push-up burns many more calories than a bicep curl, it will burn off more fat. This is a similar idea to power walking versus regular walking – power walking helps you burn off more calories, which means that it will burn off more fat.
Work out your larger muscle groups to burn fat more quickly and efficiently. But remember to work out the smaller muscle groups, too – work out all muscles equally and for a similar amount of time to properly balance your muscles. Balanced muscles mean less chance of injury.
Work your core.
A stronger core means that you’ll have better overall body strength and improved posture. Pilates and yoga exercises are great for working your core.
11 hormones and enzymes that impact belly fat.
Hormones are chemical messengers that perform certain functions in our body, such as regulating our weight.
Leptin, insulin, sex hormones, and growth hormones help influence our appetite, metabolism, and body fat distribution.
When there are excess fat cells, the signaling can become confused, overstimulated, and fatigued.
Researchers say that the visceral fat on our abdomens (belly fat) is the most dangerous due to the results of what the fat cells are now telling our bodies.
Leptin controls our appetite by being released into the blood and telling our brain we are full.
People in higher-weight body/bodies have more leptin in their blood. Still, it appears as though their body ignores the message that they are full. So they continue to eat beyond their calorie intake requirements.
This is known as leptin resistance, and it’s unclear why this occurs. Leptin influences insulin and an increase in leptin can also induce insulin resistance.
In people with a healthy weight, adiponectin levels are quite high, but they drop dramatically in heavier people.
What adiponectin does in the body is important for weight control. It encourages the metabolism of fatty acids, lipids, and saccharides and prevents atherosclerosis from developing.
It also helps to control blood sugar levels and makes the body more sensitive to insulin. If you have smaller amounts of this released, then the metabolism of fats and sugars will be slowed.
It is unclear The exact role of resistins, but scientists think that the more resistin you have, the more inflammation you will have, as it’s linked with inflammatory markers.
Most of our bodies’ estrogen is produced in fat cells.
If we have excess fat cells, then we produce too much estrogen, leading to a condition known as estrogen dominance.
This is linked to conditions such as PCOS and obesity. Fat distribution linked with excess estrogen is accumulated around the belly- the ‘apple’ shape.
Aromatase is involved in sex hormone metabolism. It is an enzyme that helps convert testosterone to estrogen.
It can be found in many cells, not just fat cells, but having excessive fat cells stimulates more production.
This hormone is produced in the pancreas and tells our body to absorb glucose, and helps metabolize fats and carbohydrates.
In heavier body people, insulin signals get lost or ignored, known as insulin resistance, and our bodies do not absorb glucose as well as they should.
This is linked to metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.
Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone. It’s released in the stomach and tells our body we are hungry.
There’s a greater amount of this hormone in our body before we eat and the lowest after. It has more roles than that though, and it also inhibits insulin secretion and decreases thermogenesis to regulate energy expenditure.
Unexpectedly, Ghrelin levels are normally lower in heavier people, and scientists think they are more sensitive to it.
The angiotensin system possibly plays a role in body-fat accumulation and is also involved in blood pressure control.
Angiotensin also stimulates the release of a steroid hormone called aldosterone from the adrenal cortex to promote sodium retention by the kidneys.
9. Lipoprotein Lipase
Lipoprotein lipase is found mainly on the surface of cells within muscles and in fatty tissue.
This enzyme plays an important role in breaking down fat in the form of triglycerides, which are carried from various organs to the blood.
Apolipoprotein E is a protein that combines with fats (lipids) in the body to form molecules called lipoproteins.
Lipoproteins are responsible for carrying fats and cholesterol through the bloodstream.
11. Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1
Involved in blood clotting, which is one reason why heart disease and stroke are such high risks when heavier.
As you can see, being heavier triggers your hormones to support your being heavier by encouraging more fat cells!
The hormones that impact our appetite and fat metabolism act in reverse when we put on weight, leading us to higher risk factors for diseases like heart disease.
The good news, it is preventable and reversible through lifestyle and dietary management!
And our 28 Day Challenges have complete workouts to bust belly fat and get amazing results like 100,000’s mums on our Healthy Mummy programs
Check out our other article on, Stomach Liposuction | Your 6-Pack Abs Revealed the Result Continue Reading.
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