Belly fat is maligned for its way of tampering with any outfit that doesn’t involve a muumuu, but really there’s something way worse about the stuff: When white fat expands in your abdomen, nestling deep among your organs, it sets you up for some serious health trouble. In fact, research has shown that waist size is a bigger risk factor for serious diseases than your overall fat percentage.
We now know that this type of fat, called visceral fat, is metabolically active and churns out stress hormones like cortisol and inflammatory substances called cytokines that affect the body’s production of insulin. The result: It’s worse than just being generally overweight; you’re looking at increased risks of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and even dementia.
Unfortunately, some women are just more prone to carrying weight in their middle instead of their hips and thighs, and there are plenty of. Sometimes, it’s genetics—maybe your mother or grandmother was more apple-shaped. Belly fat can also increase around menopause, or for women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Even certain lifestyle habits, from sleep to stress, can make your belly grow. Speaking with a doctor will help you understand what other factors may be affecting your weight gain, but at the end of the day, nothing sheds belly fat like diet,, and everyday changes to your lifestyle.