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The Belly Fat Bottom Line: What Can You Do?

Your genes dictate, to some degree, whether your body will be apple- or pear-shaped. There is evidence that specific genes determine how many fat cells you have -- and where those fat cells will settle.

While genetics may mark you for belly fat, the story doesn't end there. "Most of this is related to lifestyle -- physical inactivity and too much caloric intake," says Kuller.

Exercise is the golden path to help you lose belly fat, he adds. "Liposuction doesn't do it... liposuction can't get rid of enough fat to eliminate the health risks. Bariatric [gastric bypass] surgery is more effective. It's not the ideal, but it does work to reduce risk factors."

Bottom line: If you've got a big waistline, you must lose weight, Eckel tells WebMD. Cutting calories is part of it. But physical activity is really the answer, he explains. "People who get more physical activity lose a greater percentage of intra-abdominal fat. That means getting 30-60 minutes most days of the week."

Some examples of exercise: walking, running, and biking. "Find an activity that you find enjoyable," Eckel advises. "It needs to be an activity you can do on a regular basis, where you will burn calories. If it's not enjoyable, you won't maintain it. And unless you persist at it, it won't help you lose weight."

Also, get a support group. "A recent study shows that persistent support from a group or activity for literally the rest of your life -- that's what works," Eckel tells WebMD.

There's Hope for All of Us

If you reduce calories and exercise more, you will lose weight everywhere -- including your belly, says Howard J. Eisenson, MD, medical director of Duke Diet & Fitness Center at Duke University Medical Center.

In fact, belly fat "tends to be fairly readily mobilized," Eisenson tells WebMD. "As we start to lose weight, we tend to lose total body fat including visceral [abdominal] fat. It comes off fairly easily, fairly quickly." If you reduce calories and exercise, says Eisenson, you will lose belly fat.

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