Blog > Body > Easy to Gain Yet Hard to Lose: How to Get Rid of Belly Fat

Easy to Gain Yet Hard to Lose: How to Get Rid of Belly Fat

Belly fat or abdominal fat is a concern faced by millions of people worldwide. It’s an underrated epidemic that affects not just one’s aesthetic appeal, but their general health and wellness as well.

Excessive belly fat contributes to a higher body mass index (BMI) and could be a developing sign of obesity1. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity tripled between 1975 and 2016, with around 13% of the world’s adult population qualifying as obese by 20162.

Excessive belly fat is often the first step towards obesity as people often don’t take preventative measures to avoid the progression from overweight to obese until it’s too late.

Understanding what it is and why abdominal fat is so difficult to lose is the first step to knowing how to effectively lose it3. In this article, we cover everything you ought to know when struggling with extra inches in your belly.

What Is Belly Fat?

Fat that accumulates in your abdominal region is considered belly fat and depending on which kind, it can pose health risks. This includes visceral and subcutaneous fat4.

2d diagram of subcutaneous, visceral fat and muscles on the belly
  • Visceral Fat. This is a more concerning type of fat that contributes to several health problems5. It refers to the fat that wraps around your organs and can prove to be a major health hazard leading to many chronic diseases.
  • Subcutaneous Fat. This refers to the layer of fat deposits that sit under your skin. These are more of an eyesore than a health hazard but when ignored it could escalate to health problems as well.

Belly fat can be prominent regardless of how active one might be, especially for middle-aged people. Just like any unwanted guest, it can also be extremely difficult to get rid of.

The next section covers the factors that lead to an accumulation of fat around your abdominal area. This might provide you with a clearer idea of why you might be struggling with it despite living a consistently healthy lifestyle.

The Science Behind Weight Gain and Fat Accumulation

On average, an individual gains around 0.5 to 1 kg per year from early adulthood to middle age6. Weight gain accelerates between the ages of 29 and 39 years with women gaining approximately 3 kg and men gaining 7 kg in the decade.

In addition, losing weight can become significantly more challenging past the age of 30. This is because the body begins to lose lean tissue and muscle mass, while fat continues to accumulate7.

The result is slower metabolism which means that the body’s ability to expend calories gradually declines.

Despite there being no change in an individual’s diet, they can be more prone to gaining weight. In the same way, the declining metabolism also makes it challenging to get rid of this newly gained weight.

To understand why this happens, we have to look at a few variables.

Decrease in Muscle Mass

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, an individual loses around 10% of their average muscle mass as they approach the age of 5011.

Muscles burn more energy when the body is at rest. This means that the calories one consumes are not immediately converted into fat.

Ultimately, a reduction in muscle mass can increase fat storage.

a guy doing a dumbbell workout

Changes in Lifestyle

The activity levels of people from their early 30s to 40s usually taper down. While getting older doesn’t automatically sideline you from being active, our energy tends to hit a decline. This decline tends to lead to more sedentary lifestyles.

With the declining metabolism rate, changes in lifestyle from active to more sedentary are often the primary cause of weight gain. This eventually leads to abdominal fat deposits.

F45 has also been classified as the same style of workout as HIIT. In some cases, high-intensity exercises can cause detrimental consequences and injuries.

Hormonal Changes

Women and men go through drastic biological changes after 50. Women undergo menopause at an average age of 51 years, which usually involves a decrease in estrogen8.

This can lead to fat accumulation around the abdomen, hips, and thighs. During this transition, women gain around 1 to 3 kg on average9. A decline in testosterone leads to muscle loss and a slower metabolism, resulting in weight gain.

In addition, hormones that regulate the appetite and satiety levels, namely ghrelin and leptin, begin fluctuating as well10. This can cause an individual to feel increasingly hungry and satisfy their cravings by eating more.

The result is a fluctuating appetite that makes it hard to follow a healthy, balanced diet.

pink flower petals with the work Hormones in the photo

Slower Metabolism

Muscle mass and metabolism are correlated in the sense that your muscle mass contributes to your overall consumption while active or resting. A decrease in muscle mass thus leads to an increase in fat.

Fluctuations in ghrelin and leptin levels affect appetite. When combined with a slow metabolism, your calorie intake can surpass your metabolism and ability to burn calories. This can create a vicious cycle of weight gain caused by a slower metabolism.

Diet and Alcohol Intake

Diet and alcohol intake are major factors affecting one’s physical health and can lead to weight gain.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that promote a feeling of calmness and happiness. They’re usually released by physical activity and junk food. Fat, sugar, and salt in these foods cause the same endorphin rush as physical activity.

Unfortunately, this is a leading cause of weight gain.

With age, one’s physical activity diminishes which makes the body crave endorphins from junk food. This results in higher calorie intake, causing weight gain and leading to subcutaneous fat deposits.

In addition, alcohol intake usually increases with age and high-calorie beverages add up. A single 12-ounce beer has about 153 calories while a 5-ounce glass of wine has around 125 calories.

alcoholic drink and diet intake

Stress

As a result of stress, weight gain can take place as a result of a hormonal and emotional reaction. Stress increases cortisol levels in the body, which tends to cling to fat cells, thus contributing to fat accumulation.

Researchers have long known that rises in the stress hormone cortisol can lead to weight gain.

Every time you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, and, as a result, glucose (your primary source of energy) is released into your bloodstream. All of this is done to give you the energy you need to escape from a risky situation (also known as the fight or flight response).

Once the threat has subsided, your adrenaline high wears off and your blood sugar spike drops. This is when cortisol kicks into high gear to eat to replenish your energy supply quickly.

Due to excessive stress, comfort eating may also result in the overconsumption of calories that increase the body’s weight by leading to an unhealthy diet.

Why Is Belly Fat So Hard to Get Rid Of?

Dieting and physical exertion can help you control your weight and remain fit and healthy, but they only go so far. Where losing weight is concerned, they have their limitations.

Studies have revealed that aerobic exercises and other moderate-intensity activities such as walking for 30 minutes a day are more appropriate for maintaining health and fitness levels and keeping weight gain in check12. There is little evidence to suggest that they will help you lose weight.

One might also assume that adding a healthy diet to the mix may yield better results. Unfortunately, this concept has since been refuted by research.

Studies have revealed that over 12 months, consistent exercise and dieting only resulted in an average weight loss of approximately 2 kg among participants13. Many other long terms studies show that weight loss to not sustained.

In order to see results from dieting and exercise, an average adult who weighs 65kg would require a minimum of 90 minutes of brisk walking or 30 minutes of running at a speed of 8 minutes per mile daily14.

Even these efforts may prove futile beyond a point, since the body tends to plateau, and the increased appetite from exercise may slow progress even further.

a women wearing a hoody holding her belly fat

If dieting and exercise, the two most seemingly common solutions for losing weight, are ineffective, then what works if you want a better shape? Targeted fat removal procedures become the only available alternative. The good news? They’re not as scary as they sound.

Non-Invasive Fat Removal Treatments

Non-invasive fat removing treatments have proven to be effective solutions for reducing stubborn fat pockets that are resistant to diet and exercise.

By removing the stubborn fat permanently, non-invasive fat removal treatments can help break the cycle of needless weight gain by permanently giving you the shape you desire. The two most popular US FDA-approved, non-invasive fat removal methods are:

  • Laser Thermolysis/Laser Lipolysis – SculpSure
  • Cryolipolysis – or CoolSculpting
photo of Sculpsure and Coolsculpting treatment

Laser Thermolysis/Laser Lipolysis

This method involves laser-induced heat that targets fat pockets across the body, especially in the abdomen. SculpSure uses lasers to break down the molecules of fat that are stored in the targeted area.

By inducing heat that reaches temperatures between 45°C to 47 °C, the targeted fat cells then go through cell apoptosis (cell death). The remnants of these fat cells are then eliminated naturally through the lymphatic system within 3 months.

These lasers are also able to penetrate the dermal layers of the skin to stimulate collagen production. This is, therefore, also an effective treatment for reducing the appearance of saggy and loose skin.

Cryolipolysis

CoolSculpting is the only FDA-approved machine designed to efficiently perform cryolipolysis. Cryolipolysis is defined as a technique that uses cold temperatures to break down fat cells.

Its applicators use temperatures that go as low as -10°C to -13°C to freeze fat cells without causing any damage to the surrounding tissues. The targeted fat cells then go through apoptosis (cell death) and are naturally passed out through the body’s lymphatic system within 3 months.

Conclusion

Belly fat is more than just unappealing to look at, it can also lead to an unhealthy cycle of weight gain as it slows down metabolism and makes you more lethargic. Dieting and exercise can only go so far, thus, non-invasive fat removal methods become efficient solutions for those looking to get rid of stubborn fat.