11 Reasons You Can’t Get Rid of Belly Fat

You know you need to get rid of that belly flab for a better figure and better health. You know that dieting and exercise are the way to go, but abdominal fat is stubborn. You’ve done your best but just can’t seem to ditch the bulge. Maybe that’s because some of these common obstacles are holding you back from your goals.

1. Too Many Processed Foods

Easy, ready-made foods are tempting when you have a full schedule and no interest in cooking, but foods like white bread and packaged meals are filled with unhealthy fats, added sugars, and grains that have been stripped of nutrients. These refined carbs not only get stored as fat but trigger inflammation too, which makes it harder for you to work off that stomach fat.

You don’t have to give up all bread and sugar, though. Natural options like fruit and whole grains are easier on your body and loaded with nutrients that improve your health. Even better, the antioxidants they contain help your body fight inflammation.

2. The Wrong Fats

Not all fats are a problem when you’re trying to lose weight. You’re probably already avoiding trans fats, but what about the rest? High levels of saturated fat (found in meats and dairy products) can increase visceral fat. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats (from foods like avocados and olive oil) and some kinds of polyunsaturated fats (like omega-3s, found in walnuts, fatty fish, and certain seeds) have anti-inflammatory effects.

If eaten in the proper amounts, healthy fats can give you a boost in getting rid of belly flab. (Too much of a good thing is still too much, so be careful when switching out foods to improve your diet!)

3. Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol doesn’t just harm your liver and brain. Alcoholic beverages contain more calories than you might think, and that’s a problem when you realize that your body has to burn the alcoholic content first before it can burn calories. All those calories in your beverage usually end up stored as fat. Heavy drinking is, as a result, linked to obesity.

4. Sugary Beverages

Fruit juice might seem like a decent substitute for soda, but drinks packed with sugar lead to a buildup of abdominal fat and a host of metabolic problems. You should eliminate all beverages with added sweeteners, which include coffee drinks (e.g. lattes), bubble teas, sports drinks, vitamin waters, and even “diet” options—they trade sugar for artificial sweeteners, which are just as bad.

5. Late Night Snacks

It’s tempting to raid the fridge after a long day, but even if you track calories and stay in a good range for losing weight, late-night snacking can pad your waistline. Your metabolism slows down at night, which means you’ll store more calories as fat from midnight grazing than from snacks earlier in the day.

Eating before bed can also interfere with your sleeping patterns, which is its own problem.

6. Too Little Sleep

These days, it’s hard to sleep well, let alone get enough sleep. If you don’t get enough rest, you could be making it harder on yourself to drop pounds.

The National Institute of Health advises 7–8 hours of sleep for adults. A study following almost 70,000 women for sixteen years found that when women slept for five hours or less per day, they had a 32% greater chance of gaining at least 30 pounds compared to their counterparts who slept a full seven hours. This could be due in part to the fact that a lack of sleep increases your appetite.

7. Body Type and Age

Apple-shaped bodies have a genetic predisposition to put on pounds around the abdomen rather than the hips and thighs.

Even if your genes don’t put you at a disadvantage, as you get older your hormones to shift, your metabolic rate slows, and you need fewer calories. This makes it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it (especially for women after menopause, when fat tends to gather in the belly).

Body type and getting older are factors you can’t change, but once you’re aware of predispositions you might have, you can take countermeasures to trim that pesky belly fat.

8. The Wrong Workouts

Lots of people think that if they just build their abdominal muscles, they’ll kick their muffin tops. However, ab workouts aren’t any more effective at getting rid of belly fat than other muscle-building exercises are. Spot-reduction exercises are unfortunately a myth.

For the optimal fat-burning workout, combine different styles of exercise. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn, so build muscle with resistance training. When you kickstart your metabolism with cardiovascular training, your body will burn stored fat, not just the calories you consume every day.

9. Easy Workouts

It’s easy to get comfortable and coast through your workouts, but when your workouts aren’t challenging enough, your weight loss will plateau. If you commit to high-intensity workouts, you’ll burn more calories in less time and lose more fat. It’s exhausting, but you’ll see greater results the more you push yourself.

10. Too Much Stress

As if stressing out wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that stress can make your fat harder to get rid of—especially stomach fat. Stress-eating isn’t the only culprit. High cortisol (a stress hormone) encourages fat storage, so you’ll gain weight even if your diet doesn’t change.

Even if you can’t eliminate all of the things that contribute to high-stress levels, there are plenty of methods out there to bring your stress down to more manageable levels (hint: regular exercise is a good mood regulator).

11. Lack of Motivation and Consistency

Busy lifestyles and tempting desserts, not to mention the desire to just veg on the couch, can all undermine your efforts to improve your health and drop pounds. Consistency is key, however, in seeing results from dieting and exercise.

You need to find what truly motivates you for the long haul and make sure that you don’t aim unrealistically high when you plan your diets and exercise. Push yourself, but not so far that you lose the willpower to keep trying. You need to be consistent and determined ongoing. If you succeed in that, even stubborn belly fat will eventually disappear.