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Eating While Distracted

Instead of scrolling through your smartphone while you snack, pay attention to your meals and savor the flavors. The more mindful you can be while eating, the less likely you are to overeat. Notice your food, chew with care, and be present in your body as you nosh. Your waist will thank you.

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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 extra pounds.

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Getting Poor Sleep

In one study, adults under 40 who slept less than 5 hours a night gained more belly fat than those who got more ZZZs. But if you’re sleep-deprived, don’t go overboard to correct it -- sleeping more than 8 hours a night can have the same gut-expanding effect.

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Eating Late

Give your digestive system time to do the work of burning off your meal by eating on the earlier side of the evening. The later you take in calories, the fewer hours your body has to use them up.

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Eating White Bread

The refined grains in white bread and other processed foods are stripped of slow-digesting fiber, so your body digests it faster, raising your blood sugar. Over time, this can lead to weight gain. Choose whole-grain carbs instead.

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Drinking Diet Soda

You may think  swapping full-sugar soda for the diet version would keep your calorie count low and therefore curb weight gain. But scientists say that’s not true at all: Aspartame, the artificial sweetener in many diet sodas, actually increases belly fat. Skip soda altogether and quench your thirst with water.

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Skipping Meals

Did you know opting out of breakfast makes you 4½ times more likely to be obese? Going without a meal slows down your metabolism, which makes it more probable you’ll overeat later on when you’re hungry.

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Eating ‘Low-Fat’ or ‘Fat-Free’ Food

It’s good to watch your fat intake, but foods that take out fat and sugar can often be higher in carbs. High-carb foods can raise your triglycerides, increase your insulin sensitivity, and increase fat in your midsection.

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You already know smoking is terrible for health, but one of the many bad effects of smoking centers on your belly. The more you light up, the more fat you store in your stomach, as opposed to your hips and thighs.

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Eating on a Big Plate

Yep, it’s that simple: Put your food on a smaller plate (and use smaller utensils!) and trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more than you are. If you go for the huge platter, you’re more likely to finish it all and eat more than you need.

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Not Moving Enough

The science is certain: Physical activity is the key to health. 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.

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Being Stressed Often

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. Practice regular relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, to help keep calm and curb stress levels.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 08/26/2021 Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 26, 2021


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PLOS One: “Association between Mindfulness and Weight Status in a General Population from the NutriNet-Santé Study.”

Journal of the American Dietetic Association: “Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women.”

Harvard Medical School: “Taking aim at belly fat,” “Abdominal fat and what to do about it.”

Nutrition Reviews: “High-glycemic index foods, hunger, and obesity: is there a connection?”

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society: “Diet Soda Intake Is Associated with Long-Term Increases in Waist Circumference in a Biethnic Cohort of Older Adults: The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging.”

American Journal of Epidemiology: “Energy Intake at Breakfast and Weight Change: Prospective Study of 6,764 Middle-aged Men and Women.”

University of Chicago Medical Center: “Is full-fat food better for you than low-fat or fat-free food?”

The Journal of Nutrition: “A Lower-Carbohydrate, Higher-Fat Diet Reduces Abdominal and Intermuscular Fat and Increases Insulin Sensitivity in Adults at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.”

Obesity: “Eating Behavior and Obesity at Chinese Buffets.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Want to Lose the Belly Fat?”

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 26, 2021

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.