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10 Belly Fat Triggers

A little bit of abdominal fat isn’t such a bad thing. It helps to protect your vital organs.

It’s a fine balancing act though, as storing too much fat around your abdomen can be dangerous and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.


Avoid Belly Fat Triggers

Some of the culprits are fairly obvious, especially if you’re eating a lot of processed foods and not doing much exercise. There can be some surprising reasons behind belly fat though and these can come into play even if you think you’re living a healthy lifestyle.


Here are 10 belly fat triggers that can make you more likely to store fat in your abdominal area. If you are ready to trade in your pony keg for a 6-pack, you will need to address all 10.


1. Sugar and Trans Fats

If you eat a diet that is high in sugar, you’ll probably be struggling to shed belly fat. According to studies, there is a definite link between the two. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to 37 grams (9 teaspoons) for men and 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for women.


Trans fats are another big no-no if you want to avoid belly fat. These are pretty much the worst type of fat you can eat as they promote inflammation and according to studies on animals, they also encourage more fat to be stored on and around your abdomen. Avoid fried food, baked goods, chips (potato and corn) vegetable shortening, margarine, coffee creamer and microwave popcorn.


2. Alcohol

You’ve no doubt heard of a “beer belly” or a “pony keg” and this is something that can affect women too. Depending on how much you drink, it could be the culprit for stubborn belly fat.1 Some studies have shown that alcohol’s high sugar content can make it harder to burn fat and makes it more likely to store on and around the abdomen.


3. Low Protein Diet

If you want to stay trim, it’s really important to get enough protein in your diet. Protein helps you to feel more sated and provides essential amino acids for growth and repair of your cells and tissues. Low protein diets are also more likely to result in belly fat, according to studies. People who eat ample protein tend to have very little belly fat.2 A good guideline is to consume between 40-50 grams of quality protein per day.


4. Fiber

If your diet is low in fiber, you can be more likely to store belly fat. Observational studies show that getting plenty of soluble fiber reduces the chances of this. In one particular study that involved over 1,100 men and women, every extra 10g of soluble fiber led to a 3.7% decrease in how much belly fat was stored.3 Brussels sprouts, flax seeds, sweet potatoes and legumes are rich in soluble fiber. Aim to consume 25-30 grams of soluble fiber per day.


5. Dietary Fat

Fat has developed a bad reputation over the years. Fortunately, by digging deeper into the conversation, good fats can help you to lose weight and keep belly fat to a minimum. Avocado, coconut, olives, nuts and wild Alaskan salmon are great sources of good fats.

Monounsaturated fats are one of the good fats and are important for satiety. They’ll help you to feel fuller for longer so you’re less likely to make unhealthy food choices that increase your potential for storing belly fat.


6. Unhealthy Gut

According to research, an imbalance of gut bacteria can have an effect on your weight and how much fat you store on your abdomen. If you’re overweight, you’re more likely to have the type of bacteria that supports obesity.4


7. Stress

Under a lot of stress? It could be one of the reasons why you’re storing belly fat. The stress hormone, cortisol, can lead to weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. Rather than accumulating on your body across the board, cortisol often encourages extra fat to be stored around the midsection.


8. Sleep

If you spend a lot of time tossing and turning in the average night, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll store belly fat. Poor sleep is linked to weight gain in general and according to some studies, it also predisposes you to abdominal weight gain in particular. A large-scale study of more than 68,000 women found that those who were sleeping less than 5 hours per night gained a lot more weight compared to those who slept 7 hours or more.5


9. Magnesium

Getting enough magnesium in your diet can lower your blood sugar and insulin levels. That’s not too surprising when you consider that this mighty mineral is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in your body! Some of these reactions have an effect on your body’s ability to burn fat so it can have an indirect impact on your weight.


10. Exercise

Not all exercise is equal when it comes to busting belly fat and keeping it off, especially if your workouts aren’t intense enough. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a good option. Mastering the Health Continuum contains a great do-at-home HIIT sequence.



1. Paolo M. Suter & Angelo Tremblay (2005) IS ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION A RISK FACTOR FOR WEIGHT GAIN AND OBESITY?, Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 42:3, 197-227, DOI: 10.1080/10408360590913542

2. Loenneke, J.P., Wilson, J.M., Manninen, A.H. et al. Quality protein intake is inversely related with abdominal fat. Nutr Metab (Lond) 9, 5 (2012) doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-5

3. Hairston, K.G., Vitolins, M.Z., Norris, J.M., Anderson, A.M., Hanley, A.J. and Wagenknecht, L.E. (2012), Lifestyle Factors and 5‐Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study. Obesity, 20: 421-427. doi:10.1038/oby.2011.171

4. Ley, R., Turnbaugh, P., Klein, S. et al. Human gut microbes associated with obesity.Nature 444, 1022–1023 (2006) doi:10.1038/4441022a

5. Sanjay R. Patel, Atul Malhotra, David P. White, Daniel J. Gottlieb, Frank B. Hu, Association between Reduced Sleep and Weight Gain in Women, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 164, Issue 10, 15 November 2006, Pages 947–954, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwj280

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© 2019 Dr Nancy Miggins

A special thank you to @catherineabegg.com for her amazing photos.

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