Not all bellies are created equal. Depending on what specific type of belly bulge you’ve got, you might be experiencing better results when you’re getting more rest, or perhaps when you’re toning down your exercise regime and switching your high-intensity workouts for something that involves less exertion. Read on to find out which belly bulge type you have, and how to combat it.
1. Stress Belly
Accompanying symptoms: Headaches, migraines, backache and general fatigue.
Are you constantly stuck in the office working overtime? Do you frequently skip meals, indulge in junk food, and consume several cups of coffee a day? Do you experience headaches or brain fog? If you’ve answered yes to the questions above, you’re likely to have a belly bulge that is induced by stress.
How does this work? When our bodies are stressed, we produce cortisol, which is a “fight or flight” hormone that releases sugar into our bloodstream for us to either fight, or flee to safety. But, what happens when we have all this cortisol in our bodies, but don’t do anything physical? The extra energy turns into fat reserves—and these are deposited at your lower abdomen (close to the liver), so that it can be quickly converted back into energy if/when necessary.
This particular type of belly bulge is easy to spot—you’re looking for weight which is not distributed evenly, but concentrated at the front of the midriff. To combat the adrenal stress belly bulge, make sure you get adequate sleep every night, and try deep breathing relaxation techniques to help you decrease your stress levels.
If possible, try to allocate sufficient time for meals as well, because eating in a hurry signals to your brain that you’re in danger, and prompts the release of cortisol.
2. Menopause Belly
Accompanying symptoms: Typical menopause symptoms such as mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness.
Before menopause, many women carry excess weight on their hips and thighs. But once “the change” happens, estrogen levels plummet, and even formerly pear-shaped women can develop round tummies. Meanwhile, testosterone drops, too. By losing testosterone, you lose muscle mass. And when you lose muscle mass, it slows down your metabolism. It becomes much harder to process simple carbohydrates, and that leads to fat storage.
Another reason menopause can lead to pudge? When your hormones change, your sleep changes, too. This causes your fat cells to trigger cortisol, a stress hormone that leads to belly fat storage.
To get flatter abs in your 50s and beyond, you should be burning calories through low-intensity exercises such as taking a walk while holding hand weights and keeping your heart rate between 90 to 110. This type of more moderate exercise will help you torch belly fat without kicking up the cortisol. Also, steer clear of intensive activities such as crossfit that will prompt your body to produce even more cortisol.
3. Post-Pregnancy Belly
When you’re pregnant, your tummy stretches to gigantic proportions—but unfortunately, you can’t just snap your fingers and have it return to pre-pregnancy shape once you’ve given birth.
Part of the reason is hormonal: Pregnancy causes insulin levels to spike, which can cause more fat to be stored in your midsection. But a far more common post-pregnancy issue is diastasis recti, a separation of the right and left abdominal wall muscles that occurs when the uterus stretches to accompany the growing fetus.
If diastatsis recti is your problem, “power Kegels” may help.
Yoga and breathing exercises can also be helpful. When you breathe deeply, you use your diaphragm. With yoga and breathing, you really work with your ab muscles, and then they’ll strengthen and come back together over time. If all else fails, you may need an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) to repair the rift.
If you don’t have diastasis recti (ask your doc if you’re not sure)—or if you had gestational diabetes—get your insulin checked to make sure that you haven’t become insulin resistant or prediabetic. If so, you might need a drug called metformin.
4. Classic Apple
If lots of women in your family have big bellies (rather than big hips or big butts), your DNA may be stacked against you. About 50 to 60% of belly fat and weight gain is based on genetics. Unfortunately, you can’t really change genes. But what you can do is modify their expression. Simply put, genetics may predispose a woman to gain weight in her midsection — but diet and exercise can influence how much weight stays on, and where.
The best thing to do to is to stay away from simple carbs while loading up on lean protein. When you do eat carbs, choose whole grains, which are high in filling fiber so you’ll eat less. Plenty of cardio helps, too.
5. Bloated Belly
The problem here is really gas or fluid retention rather than fat, and your diet is the likely cause. But what’s making your tummy puff up? It’s different for everyone. Some people are just bothered by certain foods. Others may have a food allergy or a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Barth often urges clients to limit their intake of animal protein while getting more fruits and vegetables, but it’s important to make the swap slowly and drink plenty of water; otherwise, the increase in fiber could temporarily cause you to become even more bloated. Other patients turn out to be intolerant or sensitive to gluten, so they may have to cut back on grains (or, if they have celiac disease, eliminate them entirely).
6. Food Allergies
Accompanying symptoms: Stomach discomfort, gas and bloating, feelings of nausea.
If your tummy starts off flat in the morning, but magically expands as you go about the course of your day, it’s highly likely that you’re bloating due to gas or indigestion. This can happen to women who are of normal weight or overweight, and the chief perpetrator is typically food allergies.
Many women find it difficult to diagnose themselves with this particular belly bulge type, because they assume that they don’t have any food allergies or intolerances.
However, the truth is that many adults develop an allergy to certain foods only later on in life—and there are also some who outgrow a food allergy in their teens, only to have it reappear later in adulthood.
What are some of the foods that you could be (unknowingly) allergic or intolerant to, then? The common culprits include wheat and gluten (which is found in bread, pasta, pizza, and cereals), yeast (found in bread and baked goods), and dairy products such as cheese, milk, and butter. In particular, gluten is known to inflame the bowel, and make your stomach look bigger and feel bloated.
In order to figure out which of the above foods is the one that’s causing all that havoc, go on an elimination diet, where you stop eating these potentially problematic foods and gradually re-introduce them, one at a time.
Your base diet should consist of fresh vegetables, meat, chicken and fish—eat only these items for at least a fortnight, and see whether your bloating reduces. If it does, start incorporating the “problematic” foods one at a time, to identify the specific food that you’re having trouble with.
7. Beer Belly
Accompanying symptoms: Back pain, craving sugary foods.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of settling onto your couch with an ice-cold beer (or glass of wine, or your alcoholic drink of choice!) after a long hard day at work. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re doing this so often that you get the dreaded beer belly, then you have a problem!
The beer belly is a classic pot belly which is spherical in shape. This is how it works — when you consume alcohol, this makes it difficult for your body to break food down properly. It also hinders your liver’s ability to burn fat, resulting in all that excess fat accumulating at your belly area.
Getting rid of your beer belly is simple enough (in theory, that is). Cut back on your alcohol, and try to eat clean, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Intermittent fasting is a tremendous help. Keep at it long enough, and you’ll find your belly starting to reduce in size.
8. Carbs and Sugar Belly
Accompanying symptoms include: Love eating, craving carbs.
You might be a teetotaller, but even that won’t save you from having a carbs belly. If you have the habit of indulging in carb-heavy dishes (such as pasta and pastries) or rich dairy food that result in you having a “food coma” after you eat, it’s highly likely that you have a belly bulge caused by a carbs or sugar overload.
Why are carbs bad for you? Most carbs have a high glycemic index — meaning that these are quickly converted into sugar in your body (and stored as fat, if you’re not working out and burning them).
You can’t completely eliminate carbs from your diet, of course, as that will bring about a whole host of problems — so the trick is to avoid non-complex carbs such as white bread, white rice and pasta. Instead, go for complex carbs such as multigrain bread, brown rice and low-sugar fruits — these will help you to stay full without causing your sugar levels to spike.
If you often crave carbs, there may be an underlying condition — you most likely have Candida (yeast) infection as yeast feeds off on sugar and this eating habit sets up a perfect environment for them to thrive.
The good news is for those who are able to lose their pooches through diet and exercise, there’s a little-known plan called 2 Week Diet that actually teaches you what to eat and when. This plan fires up your metabolism, allowing you to shed weight and shed it FAST. Those on the diet report losing 12-23 pounds and 2-4 inches in a matter of 2 weeks – all backed by science. Watch this video to learn more about how the 2-week diet works.