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When it comes to belly fat, it is a goal for many to get rid of the belly fat. Therefore, a lot of focus is on ways to burn belly fat or find diets or solutions to reduce belly fat. While surprising, it’s actually important to know what leads to gaining belly fat. After all, if you know what leads you to gain belly fat, if you stop doing it then it will help you to lose belly fat also. In this article, we will cover the most common reasons for belly fat increase.
The body stores fat in different ways and that is why you will come across different words being used to describe belly fat.
There are two types of body fat and belly fat:
Studies show that visceral fat (the first type noted above) is more problematic and contributes to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
No matter where you carry body fat, being overweight or obese will increase your risk for health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. But if you carry excess visceral fat around your waistline, the risk could be greater.
The reason for this is that body fat does not sit quietly in your body, it is actively doing something.
In fact, body fat (adipose tissue) is considered an endocrine organ, which means that it produces several hormones that have an effect on how much food you eat, insulin sensitivity, inflammation and other metabolic processes. This is why having more fat can lead to more health problems.
There are many reasons for belly fat increasing. Some of them are things you can control – such as poor diet and lack of exercise. There are also things that you cannot control such as genetics or hormonal changes.
We will focus on the factors that you can control – diet & exercise.
A ‘poor diet’ or ‘excess calories’ is a very vague explanation and does not tell you what specific parts of your diet are causing it to be poor or excess in calories.
We will break this down and show you the different ways in which your diet causes belly fat increase. This will help you identify the habits you might have at the moment that are adding to belly fat.
The current Indian diet tends to be very heavy in carbs. Here is an example to show this.
Imagine a day where you eat the following:
The oats, rice, dal & rajma are all high in carbohydrates.
There is some protein in the dal/rajma but they have 3-4 times the amount of carbs. Similarly, millets like ragi are also marketed as being higher in protein than white rice. While this is true, millets also contain a fairly high amount of carbs as well.
We don’t realize it, but it’s likely that for many of us 70% or more of our daily diet is made up of carb-rich foods.
Even when we eat out or order in, carb-rich foods like rice, roti, biryani, noodles, pizza and pasta are the biggest portion of our order.
Recent surveys of the diet of Indians confirms this.
There’s nothing wrong with having carbs. But too much of it is a problem.
And that’s exactly what we see with most people. When you add up all the carbs in the day, it can be 70% or more of your daily diet. That is too much and results in eating excess calories. The excess energy is stored in the body as fat, including as belly fat.
The excess calories in a day might be small, but over a few years this results in accumulation of a lot of belly fat.
Excess carbs in the daily diet is one of the biggest reasons for belly fat increase among Indians.
The average Indian has about 10 spoons of sugar – in a single day!
You may think that this sounds too high but it’s certainly possible. Here is an example of how sugar intake can be this high in a realistic scenario:
As you can see, with sugar in so many foods around us it is certainly possible to have 10 spoons of sugar in our daily diet.
This is for a normal day. When festivals come this will increase a lot.
In this way, high sugar in the daily diet results in excess calories and belly fat.
Even small amounts a day will add up to a lot in a few years. High sugar in the daily diet of Indians is a big reason for belly fat and the high number of diabetics in India.
Also Read: 6 strategies to beat sugar craving naturally
This may come as a surprise to you but not getting enough sleep is a big contributor to gaining belly fat.
Poor sleep = weight gain.
It’s not hard to see why – the longer you are awake, the more you are likely to eat. That need for a late night snack is actually triggered by your body. This excess eating usually involves eating unhealthy food. This contributes to excess calories and accumulation of belly fat.
See the below image that explains the link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. (Note: Leptin & Ghrelin referred to below are hormones that manage hunger).
If you don’t sleep enough, you are more likely to gain belly fat and it will also be harder for you to lose that belly fat.
When we are stressed for a long period of time, it’s referred to as chronic stress. This type of stress can contribute to weight gain and belly fat increase. This is because of hormonal changes that happen when we are under stress, mainly the higher production of the stress hormone called cortisol.
There is another way in which stress causes belly fat gain.
When we are stressed we are more likely to crave comfort foods which are usually unhealthy and high-calorie foods.
These effects of stress contribute to belly fat and weight gain.
In today’s world, if we are not sleeping then it’s likely we are sitting. We move very little in a typical day and we need to make an effort to move by doing exercise.
This is what is referred to as a sedentary lifestyle.
Using or burning energy/calories is no longer a part of our typical lifestyle. We must make additional efforts for this. And if we do not, then we really burn nothing at all.
So if our typical day had a little excess calories but we used it via some exercise, then those excess calories do not get stored as body fat or belly fat.
But if we do not do any movement or exercise, then it means that the excess calories in our diet are never used and end up being stored as body fat and belly fat. This might be a little bit of excess calories each day but over a few years it adds up to a lot of belly fat accumulation.
Many different factors contribute to gaining belly fat. Look at the factors discussed in this article and see which of these apply to you. It is usually the daily habits that contribute to gaining belly fat over time.
Identifying these habits and taking steps to correct them is the right approach to losing belly fat and keeping it off.
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