12 habits that pack on dangerous belly fat

All body fat isn’t created equal.

You may associate a “beer belly” with men who sit around watching football. But women, too, can develop belly fat — also known as visceral fat.

And visceral fat has a mind of its own.

It acts as an organ, disrupting the function of hormones like insulin, and increasing our risks for diabetes and heart disease.

It produces cytokines, which impair blood clotting. It’s even been associated with higher levels of “bad” cholesterol.

Not to mention how it can impact metabolic syndrome and your liver health.

Luckily, we know exactly how to avoid developing visceral fat.

Here are a dozen habits to kick if you want to keep a trim waistline and better long-term health.

12 habits to give up

1. Doing other things while you’re eating. Focusing just on your meal and not on your phone or laptop will help you pay attention to what you’re eating and savor the flavors and textures. The more mindful you are while eating, the less likely you are to overeat.

2. Eating too fast. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full, and if you’re eating too quickly, by that point you’ve already crammed in a lot of food your body really didn’t need. Slower eaters take in fewer calories.

3. Getting poor sleep. About 7 hours of sleep is ideal to prevent that spare tire. In one study, adults over 40 who slept less than five hours a night gained more belly fat than those who slept more. Just don’t go overboard — sleeping more than eight hours every night can also expand your waistline. The sleep sweet spot matters.

4. Eating late. Your digestive system needs time to burn off your meal. The later you eat your last calories of the day, the fewer hours your body has to burn them up.

5. Eating white bread. White bread and other processed foods don’t have the fiber necessary to slow down digestion. Your body digests white, processed foods faster, raising your blood sugar and leading to weight gain.

6. Drinking diet soda. Don’t be fooled — keeping your calorie count low by drinking diet sodas won’t keep you from gaining weight. Aspartame, the sweetener found in diet sodas, actually increases belly fat. Skip the soda and drink water instead.

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7. Skipping meals. Eating regularly is better for your waistline. Skipping meals slows down your metabolism, which only makes it more likely you’ll overeat later on when you’re hungry.

8. Eating low-fat or fat-free foods. Don’t be fooled by this one, either. Foods with fat and sugar removed are often higher in carbs. High-carb foods can raise triglycerides. This increases insulin sensitivity, which expands your midsection.

9. Smoking. You already know it’s bad for you, but you probably don’t know that the more you smoke, the more fat gets stored in your stomach, as opposed to your hips or thighs.

10. Eating on a big plate. Using a smaller plate can trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more than you are. If you eat from a huge platter, you’re more likely to finish it all and eat more than you need.

11. Not moving enough. Need we say more? Put in thirty minutes a day of moderate-intensity movement like walking, and watch your waistline shrink.

12. Being stressed all the time. Stress releases cortisol — and consistently elevated levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain, especially visceral weight (belly fat). Learn some relaxation techniques you can do any time, like deep breathing or meditation.

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Worst habits for belly fat — Web MD

Pot Belly Linked to Heavy Smoking — Web MD

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.