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Lifestyle Factors of Belly Fat Accumulation

Several lifestyle factors are contributing to this country’s ever-growing weights and waistlines. Schedules are getting busier, stress levels are getting higher, and folks aren’t taking the time to properly care for their bodies and minds.

Societal pressures affect belly fat accumulation

When the economy takes a dive, stress levels skyrocket. Those who are out of work suffer the stresses of trying to make ends meet, pay the bills with limited funds, and search for new employment. Those lucky enough to have work may be putting in longer hours with company cutbacks or struggling with long commutes, tight deadlines, and difficult bosses.

These daily work and financial stressors lead to the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline over and over, mobilizing more and more fat into the abdomen.

No matter what the economy is like, however, modern-day living is fast-paced. If you look around at your friends, family, or even your kids, you may notice that they’re always rushing to get from one place to the next because they’re constantly scheduled for the next work or social event, meeting, or sporting practice. It may feel as though you can never just sit and relax for a minute.

This overscheduling not only increases your stress levels, but it also leaves little time to properly care for yourself. You may find you have so much on your to-do list that you struggle to find the time to fit in any exercise or prepare nutritious food. These factors lead to a mostly sedentary lifestyle filled with quick convenience foods that may include belly-busting choices like fast food, frozen meals, or takeout.

Worst of all, these stress-inducing behaviors can start to impact your sleep schedule. Inadequate sleep not only causes an increased production of the stress hormones, but it can also start to slow your metabolism and even cause you to feel hungrier. These are all behaviors that can make attaining a flat belly quite difficult.

Poor food choices can increase belly fat

The food choices you make can either help or hurt your efforts to attain a flat stomach. By transitioning away from belly-bloating foods and instead consuming the majority of your meals and snacks from belly-flattening foods, you can get on track to a smaller waistline and a healthier life. Consider the following eating practices that are poor choices for your midsection:

  • Consuming refined carbohydrates: Grains, breads, pastas, and cereals are a common component to many meals, and depending on the variety you choose, you could be sabotaging your efforts to flatten your belly. Refined carbohydrates, such as white pasta and white bread, are quickly converted into glucose in your body, spiking insulin levels and setting off the insulin response that stores abdominal fat.

  • Opting for unhealthy fats: People often have a misconception that eating fats translates to getting fat. Luckily, the opposite is true! You just have to choose the right fats. Certain fats — especially monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in walnuts and fish) — have actually been shown to help reduce abdominal fat.

    However, less healthy choices, such as the saturated fat found in high-fat animal products, have been found to store themselves as fat deposits more than other forms of fat.

  • Downing too many fluid calories: Sure they may seem harmless, but fluid calories may have a serious impact on your belly. These calories come from drinks mainly made up of sugar (sodas or juices) or saturated fats (creamers in coffee and full-fat milk in specialty coffee drinks).

    Not only can these drinks trigger an increased insulin response, leading to increased fat storage, but they also leave you feeling unsatisfied. They don’t keep you full in the same way calories from solid foods do.

  • Skipping meals: Many people have the misconception that if they skip a meal, they consume fewer calories, and therefore lose weight. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Skipping a meal causes the following to happen:

    • You become increasingly hungry so when you finally do get the opportunity to eat, you end up eating too fast and too much. And you probably make the wrong choices because hunger leads to food cravings for sweets and fats.

    • Your body becomes confused. It doesn’t know when the next meal is coming, so instead of burning fat stores for energy, it begins storing more and more fat to stock up on energy in case the next meal never comes. In times of famine, you would be appreciative of your body for doing this, but when you’re trying to lose weight, this physiological override can be quite frustrating.

    As a result, the best strategy to lose weight and your belly is to eat small, frequent meals every three to four hours to help keep hunger and cravings at bay and your metabolism functioning at its peak.

The role exercise plays in belly fat

As you can probably imagine, exercise plays a large role in helping reduce belly fat. But the reasons may be different than you think. Exercise helps to burn calories, which in turn can help promote weight loss. However, exercise also does the following:

  • Plays a large role in stress reduction: Stress reduction impacts belly fat control by helping to reduce the stress response. Exercise also releases endorphins in the brain that help improve mood and decrease overall stress levels.

  • Helps reduce insulin resistance: By reducing insulin resistance, your body can better handle sugar, perhaps allowing your pancreas to produce less insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check.

  • Boosts your metabolism: Physical activity not only boosts metabolism while you’re moving, but it also affects your metabolism the rest of the day. When you strengthen and build muscle during exercise, especially during resistance exercise, you can rev up your metabolism all day long — even when you’re sleeping.

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