You’ve been doing crunches. A lot of them. Running for endless miles on the treadmill. Drinking green shakes. Yet, despite your efforts, your stomach is still looking bigger than ever, and it’s driving you crazy! It may not be your fault. Unknowingly, your daily habits and patterns, along with some food that you eat, can actually make your belly look bigger. Here are 10 reasons why your waist isn’t whittling away, even though the rest of you is.
1. Tight Hip Flexors Ab exercises like crunches and sit-ups can shorten flexors, which can tilt your hips forward and make you look like you have a belly. Exercising your core with planks and Pilates-based moves is better because these work your abs without the strain on your hip flexors.
2. Chewing Sugar-Free Gum There’s double trouble here in regards to your belly. When you swallow air while you chew gum, it becomes trapped in your stomach and small intestines and causes bloating. If the gum that you chew is sugarless (which your dentist recommends) your bloating increases because artificial sweeteners aren’t digested by your body.
3. Too Much Stress When your stress levels are high, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. Studies have shown that this hormone trips your body to take fat from healthier areas, like your butt and hips, and move it to your abdomen. This is called visceral fat and it not only looks bad but is also pretty bad for you because it surrounds your vital organs.
4. Not Enough Sleep Adults are supposed to sleep seven to nine hours every night. Not getting enough sleep increases the cortisol in your body and your blood sugar levels, giving you a double whammy. The cortisol makes you store fat in your belly, and the crazy sugar levels make you crave carbs and junk food, which wreak havoc on the size of your middle.
5. Too Much Fiber/Sugar Kale, broccoli, cabbage, and legumes like lentils and peas contain a sugar called raffinose. Your body doesn’t have the ability to digest it properly, so bacteria take the lead and feast on them, which causes gas and bloating. This combined with fiber can make your belly look big and full.
6. Gluten Intolerance About 15 percent of the population has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and 99 percent of people go undiagnosed. Be aware when you eat foods containing gluten (bread, pasta, cereal), and take note of how your body reacts. Bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation are all signs that you may have a problem digesting the protein in grain.
7. Acid Reflux In addition to your belly ballooning, do you often feel sick or nauseated after a normal meal? Do you burp a lot or feel burning in your belly or throat within an hour or so of eating? Acid reflux (or indigestion) may be to blame! Certain foods, like tomato sauce, orange juice, and fatty meats, can increase the acid in your belly and cause it to bloat and swell.
8. Constipation The truth is…when you have more in your belly and intestines, it’s going to look bigger. So if you haven’t gone to the bathroom in days, you’ll feel it. Normal intestinal gas gets trapped behind slow-moving bowels and builds up, causing your belly to distend.
9. Dairy Intolerance If you feel gassy and uncomfortable after eating ice cream or cheese, you may be lactose intolerant, which means your body doesn’t have the enzymes to break down lactose (the sugar found in dairy products). This can irritate your belly and cause gas to form, making your belly bloated.
10. Too Much Sodium Eating foods that contain a lot of salt can cause your body to retain water and make your stomach look bigger. The sodium/potassium pumps in your body help regulate water retention. When they’re not in balance and you eat too much salt, it triggers your body to store water. About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.