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The Worst Habits for Having Belly Fat

If you’ve tried ‘everything’ these small shifts in habit might make a real difference.


I think I am asked more questions about this than anything else, and there are some straightforward answers such as good hormone balance and a diet that helps deal with oestrogen dominance.

However, there are also some lifestyle factors that you might not have taken into account.

1. Eating when distracted

Instead of reading, watching tv or scrolling through your phone for messages while you eat, pay attention to your meals and enjoy the flavours.

The more mindful you can be while eating, the less likely you are to overeat. Notice your food, chew with care, and be present in your body as you eat. Your waist will thank you.

2. Eating too quickly

It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that it’s full. If you’re eating your food too quickly, you’ll keep eating past the point your body needs.

Slow eaters take in fewer calories — and prevent extra pounds.

3. Not enough sleep

In one study, adults under 40 who slept less than 5 hours a night gained more belly fat than those who got more sleep.

But if you’re sleep-deprived, don’t go overboard to correct it — sleeping more than 8 hours a night can have the same belly-expanding effect.

4. Eating late

Give your digestive system time to do the work of burning off your meal by eating earlier in the evening – preferably between 6-8pm.

The later you take in calories, the fewer hours your body has to use them up.

Eating late at night raises your risk of obesity by slowing your metabolism and making you hungrier the following day, a study by Harvard University researchers has shown that it also has a knock-on effect on the body the next day.

People who had their last meal at 10pm burned fewer calories the following day and had higher levels of hunger hormones compared to those who ate at 6pm.

They also had lower levels of chemicals in the body that make us feel full and satisfied after meals, and were more likely to put on weight.

Lead author of the study Dr Nina Vujović said we found that eating four hours later makes a significant difference for our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after we eat, and the way we store fat.’

5. Eating refined carbohydrates 

The refined grains in white bread, pasta and other processed foods are stripped of slow-digesting fibre, so your body digests it faster, raising your blood sugar.

Over time, this can lead to weight gain. Choose whole-grain carbohydrates instead.

6. Diet drinks

You may think  swapping full-sugar drinks for the diet version would keep your calorie count low and therefore curb weight gain.

But scientists say that’s not true at all: Aspartame, the artificial sweetener in many diet drinks and has a number of names, actually increases belly fat so cut them out and quench your thirst with water.

7. Skipping meals

Did you know opting out of breakfast makes you 4½ times more likely to be obese? Going without a meal slows down your metabolism, which makes it more probable you’ll overeat later on when you’re hungry.

It really is true that breakfast is a very important meal, it sets you up for the day and can curb the hunger pangs that lead to unhealthy snacking. Best taken within an hour of waking.

8. Focusing on a low or fat-free diet

It’s good to watch your fat intake, but foods that take out fat and sugar can often be higher in carbohydrates.

These can raise your triglycerides, increase your insulin sensitivity, and increase fat in your midsection.

Also a small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. It is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself. Fat helps the body absorb vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E.

9. Smoking

You already know smoking is bad for overall health, but one of the many bad effects of smoking is on your belly.

The more you smoke, the more fat you store in your stomach, as opposed to your hips and thighs.

10. Having too big a plate

Put your food on a smaller plate and using smaller cutlery also can help as you trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more than you are.

If you go for the big plate, you’re more likely to finish it all and eat more than you need.

11. Not moving enough

The science is certain: physical activity is the key to health.

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity movement every day, and your waistline will shrink (and your muscles will grow), even if your weight stays the same.

12. Being frequently stressed

Stress releases a hormone called cortisol into your body. Higher cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, especially the visceral weight you hold in your belly.

Practice regular relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, to help keep calm and curb stress levels.

Helpful information

A good place to start when dealing with bloating and increased belly fat is to check your hormone balance.

Oestrogen is produced in the fat cells of the belly once your ovaries have ceased production so diet that can help deal with any oestrogen dominance is a good place to start.