Melting away stubborn fat

Amany Abdel-Moneim , Tuesday 27 Feb 2024

Recognising and addressing harmful eating and lifestyle habits as well as limiting some foods can significantly impact your journey to a slimmer waistline

 journey to a slimmer waistline
journey to a slimmer waistline


Struggling to shed unwanted belly fat? If the answer is yes, it could be time to consider cutting out some eating and lifestyle habits. Recognising and addressing these harmful eating habits as well as limiting some foods can significantly impact your journey to a slimmer waistline. 

Still, losing belly fat healthily and sustainably can take time and a holistic approach encompassing multiple lifestyle factors. And while exercise plays a crucial role in fat loss, achieving a leaner, flatter stomach pivots on a mindful approach to how and what you eat.

Here are some habits that could be hindering your progress and keeping that belly fat intact:

Eating while distracted:

Whether watching television, playing video games, or scrolling through your phone, you’re more likely to consume larger portions without realising it if you are doing so. Habits like this can lead to overeating and contribute to weight gain, particularly around the belly area.


Being stressed:

Stress releases a hormone called cortisol into your body. Higher cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, especially the visceral weight you hold in your belly. Practise regular relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, to help keep calm and curb stress levels.


Overeating high-calorie foods:

While nutritious foods are essential for a healthy diet, it’s crucial to be mindful of your portion sizes. For example, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil are wonderful sources of antioxidants, nutrients, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats but also high in calories.


Eating out too often:

Restaurant meals often contain added fats and sugars that can significantly contribute to belly fat. Consider cooking at home to give yourself more control over ingredients and portion sizes and reduce your calorie intake.


Skipping meals:

Skipping breakfast can disrupt your metabolism and lead to overeating later in the day. This imbalance can cause excessive snacking, especially late at night. 


Not eating enough fruit and vegetables:

Fruit and vegetables are essential for a healthy, well-balanced diet. They are rich in the fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help slow digestion, control hunger, and reduce chronic inflammation. Not consuming enough of these nutrient-packed foods can cause cravings for less nutritious options.


Eating too fast:

It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that it’s full. If you’re cramming food in too quickly, you’ll keep eating past the point your body needs. Slow eaters take in fewer calories and prevent the extra pounds.


Not eating enough protein:

Not only can protein cause an increased feeling of fullness, allowing you to eat less during meals, but it can also help maintain muscle mass. Increased muscle mass can translate into a faster metabolism, meaning you burn more calories at rest. Digesting protein also burns more calories than digesting carbohydrates or fat, and not consuming enough of it can spike cravings for unhealthy snacks that contribute to belly fat.


Getting poor sleep:

Not getting enough sleep can ruin your weight-loss efforts. A recent analysis by researchers in Tokyo found that men and women who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to gain weight than those who slept seven hours or more.


Not moving enough:

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity movement every day, and your waistline will shrink and your muscles will grow, even if your weight stays the same.


Eating low-fat or fat-free food:

Foods that increase fat can often be higher in carbohydrates. High-carb foods can raise your triglycerides, increase your insulin sensitivity, and increase the fat in your midsection.


Relying on supplements:

While food supplements can be beneficial, relying solely on them for nutrition is not a sustainable or practical approach. Instead, use them to supplement an existing healthy diet. Eating healthy food gives you the phytonutrients and fibre you can’t get from your daily supplements, and you need these components to control belly fat and inflammation levels.



One of the many bad effects of smoking centres on your belly. The more you light up, the more fat you store in your stomach, as opposed to your hips and thighs.


Being dehydrated: 

Staying hydrated can help you keep those hunger cues under control. Dehydration can sometimes be mistaken for hunger, leading to unnecessary snacking and overeating. Make it a habit to drink water throughout the day to support your body’s functions while keeping your appetite in check.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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