So you’ve read and learnt everything you can about belly fat, pot belly, excess weight, obesity and how they increase your risk of major health problems. You’ve taken drugs that promised to help you lose belly fat but, none worked.
You registered for a weight loss program with a trusted trainer on the internet weeks ago. You’ve been following the daily exercise routine and have stuck to the diet like it’s your destiny.
Now, the program is almost over. You’ve shed an impressive amount of kilogram. Your arms are slimmer. Feet are smaller. You feel lighter. You’ve seen a significant change since you started. You’re losing weight.
Your tummy remains as it ever was. Big. Protruding. Pot-like. It disgusts you. But more than the disgust is your bewilderment. You have many questions.
How can this be? How could this be happening?
But even more troubling than the ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’ is the ‘why’.
Why? You keep asking.
Why is the fat not leaving? Why is my tummy not reducing? You keep asking day and night. Then you decided to check the internet for answers. And now you’re here. Ready to know why you can’t lose belly fat.
Well, the answer is:
Your Tummy Likely Has More Than Excess Fat.
Yes, you read that right. Your tummy isn’t flattening because it likely contains more than excess fat.
Sure, it contains some of your internal organs but that’s not what I’m talking about.
Now, your scenario doesn’t necessarily need to be the same as the one above. If you’ve taken deliberate steps that have been proven to work towards losing weight and tummy size but your tummy remains the same or you lost just a fraction of it. The reason could be because you have more than fat in there.
There’s a lot of reasons why your tummy size may keep going up even when you exercise. While some of it may be your fault, although unintentional, some are completely out of your control.
Whether it’s out of your control or not. Take consolation in the fact that the solution exists. Albeit may require some patience on your part. Some may even require that you seek professional medical attention.
Table of Contents
12 Reasons Why You Can’t Lose Belly Fat and What To Do.
Note that the list below also applies to normal-weight people who have a high tummy-to-body ratio. If you haven’t attempted losing weight but are worried about your belly size, you might want to try losing weight first. A weight loss program will be of great help.
This article highlights 12 different reasons why you can’t lose belly fat and what you can do about them. While this article is not geared towards people who haven’t had a shot at weight loss, it does contain a few things you might have been overlooking as a person on a weight loss journey.
If you’re just thinking about fitness and weight loss, be sure to check the difference between fitness and body building.
1. Excessive Fruit Juice.
Naturally, your trainer or dietician will recommend that you eat certain fruits. However, he or she may not say a lot about fruit juices, or even about fruits altogether.
Because of this, many people tend to replace soda drinks with fruit juices. Thinking it’s a better choice. While fruits and fruit juices have their advantages, the disadvantages come in when consumed in excess.
As a person trying to lose weight, your primary (and most utilized) source of liquid and method of hydration should remain water. Clean water.
According to nutritional data, a large portion of the calories in an unsweetened apple juice come from sugars. In fact, a cup of this juice contains up to 24 grams of sugar.
Based on American Heart Association‘s guidelines, a man should not consume more than 38 g of sugar per day and a woman should not consume more than 25 g.
When you take 2 to 3 cups of fruit juice every day, added to sugar from other foods you eat, you might have been consuming up to 2- or 3-times your daily limit.
If you fall under this category, losing weight may prove difficult and a slim tummy may be out of your reach. Besides that, you’re at risk of other health issues.
2. Wrong Gut Bacteria.
Unlike good or beneficial bacteria which have numerous advantages to us as humans, bad bacteria are harmful and may cause minor to major health problems.
Research has it that the healthy good-to-bad bacteria ratio should be 85%:15%. It’s good to always make sure that the good guys dominate the bad guys.
Bad choices – and habits – in terms of food – even in your diet – can cause the proliferation of bad bacteria which may eventually lead to “overcrowded” bowels. This can cause bloating.
There are few things you can do to keep a healthy gut. They include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Chewing your food thoroughly
- Taking probiotic supplement
- Staying hydrated (water, not juice)
- Eating high-fibre foods
- Eating fermented foods.
These combined with your exercises and diet will help you lose belly fat fast.
While there’s still a lot of research that needs to be conducted in this area, researchers have found that genes have a hand in a person’s weight and size.
A study from 2011 made it known that there are more than 40 known gene variants that are linked with fat distribution.
Also, a recent research by PubMed in 2015 confirmed that abdominal obesity may be related to genes.
It basically means that your tummy is the first to “eat” fats when you gain weight and the last to give it up when you lose weight.
Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do if you are in this category. Just keep to your diet and exercises. Eventually, you’ll see changes and you’ll lose belly fat.
Explore other possible causes of persistently protruding tummy below.
Yay! It’s reproduction time.
This is an obvious fact but I couldn’t resist adding it.
When you’re pregnant, it’s not belly fat. It’s a human in your tummy and you can’t flatten it through exercise. Well, obviously.
Pregnancy, however, should not be a reason for reckless food consumption. You really do not have to literally eat for two. According to WebMD, a pregnant woman only needs to increase her daily intake by 300 calories. You need this to gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
For more information on your weight during pregnancy, talk to your doctor. You might actually need to gain more. But you’ll be placed on the right diet.
“But I exercise every day!”, you might exclaim. I have to remind you though that your early morning exercise only increases your daily activities and helps you burn extra calories from the previous day.
If after exercising in the morning, all you do for the rest of the day is sit, sleep and eat (while minding your diet) without any “real activity”. You might have a hard time losing belly fat.
I’ve heard that remote work makes some people fall into this trap. If you’re in this category, you’ll need to be more intentional about how you spend your days.
Your best bet will be to randomly include activities in your to-do list. Something like:
- Walk 300 to 500 steps
- Stretch for 5 minutes
- 15 push-ups
- Walk around the house; etc
6. PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
Polycystic ovary syndrome is particular to women. Men can skip this one and go to the next. Except if you’re searching on behalf of your wife, of course.
In mayoclinic’s words, “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels”.
While PCOS is known to manifest as early as puberty stage, it may develop later as a result of substantial weight gain.
Either way, one of the symptoms of PCOS is polycystic ovaries. A condition in which your ovaries become enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs.
Enlarged ovaries will give you a bump. Other complications associated with PCOS include heavy or irregular periods and infertility among others.
For this one, a doctor is what you need. Book an appointment with your doctor to discuss PCOS care. Before that though, read all about PCOS and its symptoms here.
Fibroid another culprit when it’s difficult to lose tummy fat. However, only women are prone to Fibroids. Since it’s connected to the uterus. Sorry men, you can keep scrolling.
Fibroids are tumours and they grow on or inside a woman’s uterus. Like everything that grows, they sometimes start small and then keep growing till they become large and cause abdominal pain.
Fibroids are known by many names but we’re not here for that. The cause or causes of fibroids are not yet known but, according to Women’s Health, up to 80% of women already have them by 50 years of age. However, most of them may never know if they show no symptoms.
Any woman above 30 years of age is at risk of fibroid development. They can grow slowly and make the tummy so big – mimicking a pregnancy. Women who have stopped giving birth may think it’s fat but it’s fibroid.
If you have a fibroid, trying to lose belly fat is nothing but a futile effort. They can be removed by surgery. Talk to your doctor for treatment options. Meanwhile, read more about fibroids here.
8. Enlarged Liver
According to Mayoclinic, an enlarged liver is a sign of an underlying problem rather than a disease. One of these problems is liver disease. This condition can be treated but only by a certified medical practitioner.
A larger than normal liver will definitely cause your belly to protrude a bit. Trying to lose belly fat WILL NOT reduce the enlarged liver.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, fatigue and jaundice. there are numerous causes of this condition which has to be attended to before you can have a flat tummy in the real sense of it.
For more information, read about enlarged liver on mayoclinic.
9. Enlarged Kidney
Enlarge kidney – like enlarged liver – is one of the extreme cause of a protruding belly. This condition is known as Hydronephrosis. You don’t need to memorise that.
An enlarged kidney is as a result of urine build-up in the kidney. Urine build-up happens when urine is blocked or obstructed from draining out into the bladder. As I’ve said, it’s extreme.
There are more than a single cause of hydronephrosis. They include Kidney stone, blood clot, urinary tract infection and tissue scarring among others.
There are not many symptoms of an enlarged kidney. The main one is pain (in the side and back, abdomen or groin). Others include pain while urinating, nausea and fever.
An enlarged kidney is not a condition one can keep for so long and should be treated promptly. Drinking lots of water is known to prevent kidney stone.
Talk to a doctor if you feel any of the symptoms above.
10. Enlarged Spleen
The spleen is an organ located somewhere under the left rib cage. Its job is to filter and destroy old and damaged blood cells, prevent infection by producing white blood cells as well as store red blood cells and platelets.
An enlarged spleen is caused by many conditions which include liver disease, infection and some cancers.
It usually doesn’t cause symptoms, so you may not know you have it. More often than not, it’s discovered during a routine physical exam.
If your spleen is enlarged, you need to get it treated before your tummy can be flattened.
If you do not fall under any of the categories listed in this article but still can’t lose belly fat, I suggest you go for a physical examination.
11. Maternal Smoking
Smoking during pregnancy affects not only the mother but also the baby in her womb. Asides the effects of tobacco on the mother who is a smoker, smoking affects the baby both during pregnancy and after.
A recent study has proposed that teenagers with smoking mothers have up to 26% more body fat and up to 33% more abdominal fat than teenagers with non-smoking mothers.
So, if your mother smoked or had unhealthy feeding habit during your gestation period, you might face difficulty losing belly fat.
12. Not Enough Sleep
If after exercising and following your diet, you discover that your abdominal obesity isn’t getting any better, you might want to reassess your sleeping hours.
Not getting enough sleep, 5 hours or less, has been linked with weight gain, which may include abdominal fat.
A new study on sleep extension showed that increased time in bed leads to a reduction in fat, carbohydrates and free sugars intake.
So, if you desire to lose belly fat, you should work towards increasing your sleeping hours and sleep quality.
The Take Away
Abdominal obesity is not a new phenomenon. There’s been a lot of studies geared towards the cause and what could be the best solution.
While some causes of gaining excess belly fat are out of your control, others depend mainly on your habits and lifestyle.
For each of the reasons listed above, have a self-assessment and adjust in any area you find yourself wanting. If you’re not doing anything wrong, it’ll be in your best interest to see a doctor as soon as you can.
For most causes of abdominal obesity, making healthy choices on what and what not eat and regular exercise is the solution. Do this and you’ll definitely lose belly fat.
Joseph Olu is an SEO copywriter for SaaS and Health and Wellness brands. He is a contributor to top publications like ThriveGlobal and Hackernoon. He has also written for natural health brands like Phd-organics.