What Causes That Extra Belly Fat In Women

Have you been searching how to get rid of belly fat or how to lose a big stomach in women? If so, then this article is perfect for you as I’m going to be covering everything you need to understand that extra and stubborn belly fat that just won’t go away.

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How it happens: Your stomach starts to bulge outward and gradually, you’ll realize it’s easy to lose weight in the ENTIRE body but it’s not so easy and hassle-free to get rid of belly fat.

So, let’s understand why.

Belly fat in women usually means in the main stomach and/or abdomen. While in men, it will just give the impression of having a large stomach, belly fat in women will lead to increased waist/hip sizes too.

Now, there are two types of belly fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that is just below the skin. It responds to exercise and diet and can be lost easily.

Visceral fat is the fat that is present deeper in our lower belly where it is placed around our organs to protect and cushion them.

However, too much visceral fat, as is the case in belly fat in women, will lead to diseases (stroke, heart diseases, diabetes, even sometimes dementia).

It is also not that easy to lose visceral fat.

While this may all seem like a hopeless cause to you, understanding the causes of belly fat in women will help you deal with it better.

Some brief points to know:

  • Aging will affect your belly fat.
  • Hormonal imbalance plays a role.
  • Stress and diet have a lot of effect on the belly fat in women.

We’ll be discussing these points more in the sub-headings below.

Calorie Imbalance And Diet:

This means that over time, you are consuming more calories than your body needs. So, you’re not properly burning them and they’re eventually being stored.

Those calories include:

Unhealthy Fats

These can include greasy, fatty foods and also trans fat which is added to junk and processed foods to increase their shelf life. And yes, it includes all that fast food. (Sorry!)

Lack of Enough Protein

When protein intake is not sufficient enough, blood sugar levels increase and insulin also rises in the body to reduce those levels which eventually slows down our metabolism (making our body store more fat), and that contributes greatly to the factor of belly fat in women. Studies also show that protein intake is inversely related to obesity.

Sugar and Fructose

As you probably should’ve guessed, all that sugar is also not good. Sugar is one of the most top causes of belly fat in women. Sugar and fructose, especially found in soft drinks, will be stored fast and have already been known to increase insulin resistance thus leading to weight gain in the belly area.

And for women whose metabolism is already slowing down due to the age factor, sugar will not be a friend to your belly.

Alcohol Intake

Alcohol in moderation can reduce the risk of heart diseases but the extra calories consumed from alcohol are stored as fat. Increased drinking has also shown to slow down fat burning and your daily dose, if more than 3 or more drinks, has been found to link to the most risk. Better put that beer or glass of wine back sooner than later, ladies.

Less Physical Activity

It’s not exactly a shocker that lazing around is also linked to belly fat because when we’re eating normally but moving around less, our body will store all those calories as fat. Our muscle fat is also another cause for belly fat in women, it helps us in physical activity and helps us burn more calories. But when we don’t move around or engage in any sort of exercise, our muscle fat eventually gives way to unhealthy stored fat.

Aging and Menopause.

Belly fat can get harder and harder to lose as women age. The body will store fat quickly and easily leading to the large stomach in women which is often complained about. As we age, our metabolism slows down, we are more prone to stress and our muscular mass, which helps in burning calories, also starts to reduce and fat takes its place.

 This can lead to calorie imbalance (explained above), less physical activity, and weaker metabolism rate, all of which are causes for belly fat in women. A study showed that the highest fat intake on average in women living in Japan was of those aged 30 to 50 years.

Menopause is another similar yet larger factor. Our hormones play a very important role in managing and balancing our bodies so when they start to change a lot during menopause, especially the drop in estrogen, that leads to belly fat in women. And it can even affect those who may only gain weight on their hips or thighs. 

There may be a question at this point which is: Why is menopause a bigger factor than the rest of the cause?

Well, menopause has a higher association with belly fat because, during menopause, our body gets rid of the hormone known as estrogen and eventually stops producing it when the menopausal period is over. So, what makes estrogen so important? Estrogen greatly balances our neurological and immune systems and it also counteracts the effects of the stress hormone cortisol.

Cortisol greatly increases the blood sugar in our body and at the same time attacks our insulin resistance. That leads to sugar cravings which eventually result in fat, concentrated on the belly. Before menopause, we have estrogen in our system to deal with this but when it’s removed completely, our body has a higher risk of obesity.

Effects of Stress

Here’s another piece of bad news, sadly. Stress has a direct link to obesity. If you can’t productively manage stress, it may lead to weight gain which will be concentrated on the stomach and lower belly area. To put it simply, stress releases a hormone called cortisol which puts the body in panic mode and starts preparing it.

For this, it raises the blood sugar levels to provide instant energy and starts storing fat around the vital organs, which are present in the belly and abdominal area. Additionally, this hormonal imbalance invokes cravings of high-fat and sugary foods which, as you have probably guessed at this point, is not a good thing.

Women who have larger stomachs or waists compared to their hips are most likely to produce excess cortisol. And so it becomes an ongoing cycle, if you’re under a lot of stress and you try to control it with sugar, it will lead to belly fat, and that in turn will lead to your body producing more cortisol for more belly fat.

This is unhealthy for another reason too. After menopause, estrogen is no longer produced but unfortunately, cortisol still is which means that due to menopause, women are more prone to stress and depression  and they produce more cortisol which will run wild in your body. Cortisol is usually high in the morning but when the body is under constant stress, it will remain increased and send that excess fat straight to your belly.

So, better to chill out a bit and focus on those high-protein snacks for cravings.

5 or fewer hours of sleep

Lack of proper sleep will slow down the body’s energy-storing and instead will force the body to focus on storing more fat for later since the body senses that it is already low on energy due to exhaustion and fatigue. Sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea has also been shown to link to belly fat in women.

Post Pregnancy

Post-pregnancy or postpartum is also one of the causes of belly fat in women. After the baby is born, your uterus drops a lot, and the abdominal muscles change and shift. Muscular fat strength is also hard to regain after pregnancy and so calorie intake can also increase.  

Genetics

Various types of genes do not necessarily mean you are going to get abdominal or stomach obesity but it may increase the risk and chances. A study conducted in 2014 discovered three new genes that were linked to abdominal weight gain and two of them were only reported to be found in women currently. The gene that regulates cortisol, the stress hormone, is also a factor.

PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, also known as PCOS, can be a great factor of belly fat in women. PCOS is present mildly in some women whereas in other women, it is present severely and it is known to affect reproductive, metabolic, and endocrine functions. One such example is also insulin resistance and obesity. It has a substantial effect on obesity, belly fat, and BMI in women. Several pieces of research have shown PCOS to be linked with obesity in the belly area of women. 

So now that you know why you have a big stomach and the causes for lower belly fat, you can prevent this and even try to lose belly fat naturally at home with various diet methods and care. Gaining belly fat all of a sudden may seem daunting and scary but the truth is, you can always control it by eating healthy and caring for your health and lifestyle more.

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Myra Hafeez

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