Guess what – insufficient sleep is one of the causes of stubborn belly flab. Find out about the other culprits behind your expanding waistline.
Exercising frequently but still can’t seem to lose belly fat? Other than not being able to wear your favourite crop tops, your belly bulge can potentially lead to health concerns like heart disease and diabetes. These seven factors are the ones making it hard to whittle your waistline.
1. You’re skimping on sleep
Believe it or not, sleep can play a part in helping you get rid of abdominal flab. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology conducted on more than 70,000 women over a period of 16 years revealed that women who slept five hours or less each night weighed 2.47kg more than women who slept at least seven hours. When you’re not getting enough shut-eye, your body produces more ghrelin, the hormone that triggers feelings of hunger, which may cause you to overeat.
2. You’re getting older
The sad truth is age always catches up with us. As you get older, your metabolic rate inevitably slows down, affecting how effectively your body burns calories. Women also go through hormonal changes due to menopause. During menopause, your estrogen levels fall and fat cells around your stomach hinder the process of fat removal from your bloodstream. As a result, the bulk of fat ends up going to your tummy. So don’t let age become an excuse to stop working out.
3. You’re overeating processed food
We get it, white bread and rice are essentials in our diets. But such processed foods make it even harder to cut down on your calorie intake because of their low satiety levels. These foods will not keep you full for long, and will cause you to eat more than you should. Try opting for whole grains instead. They are high in fibre and unlike processed grains, can keep you full for longer so you won’t be reaching for that midday snack.
4. You’re eating the wrong fats
Milk is nutrient-rich and serves as a great source of calcium and vitamin D, but full-fat milk contains a high amount of saturated fat that’s associated with high blood cholesterol and heart disease. Like dairy products, red meat also contains unhealthy fats, so it is crucial to have them in moderation. Include more healthy fats that come from foods like avocado, fish and nuts in your diet. Fats from these foods are way more nutritious and are lower in calories. But as always, don’t go overboard. Eating too much healthy fat can lead to excess calories as well.
5. You’re not doing the right exercises
You would think that cardio is the way to go to fry your belly fat. Indeed, exercises like running and cycling can help you burn calories but it might not be wise to rely solely on cardio. Workouts like HIIT or resistance training may be more effective as they give an afterburn effect (provided you go hard during the session), raising your metabolism for hours after you’re done with the workout. Also include strength exercises that target your abdominals to sculpt, tone and lose those love handles.
6. You’re stressed
One of the things we often battle with is stress. When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol that causes your blood sugar level to fall. That’s why you often crave sugary and fatty foods during crunch time. During those tough periods, your body also goes into flight-or-fight mode where your brain thinks that you have used up all your calories even though you haven’t. Even if you’re swamped at work, it is important to squeeze in some time to relax and unwind – it’ll do wonders for you mentally and physically.
7. You’re not exercising hard enough
When working out, try to achieve an intensity of 70 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate – at that level, you should find it hard to talk. In a study published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, postmenopausal women who did high-intensity workouts over 16 weeks lost more belly fat than those who did low-intensity exercise. Ultimately, burning fat requires a calorie deficit, and you will be able to achieve that more efficiently when you amp up your workout intensity.