Diet and Nutrition: Worst Habits for Belly Fat

Reviewed on 8/26/2021

Eating While Distracted

Avoid distractions while you are eating to minimize the risk of overeating.

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.

Eating Too Fast

Eat slowly so you can feel when you are full and it'll help you take in fewer calories.

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.

Getting Poor Sleep

Sleeping for too many or too few hours may increase belly fat.

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.

Eating Late

Avoid eating late at night, which may be bad for your waistline.

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.

Eating White Bread

Processed grains and white bread raise blood sugar and may lead to weight gain.

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.

Drinking Diet Soda

Aspartame in diet sodas may increase belly fat.

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.

Skipping Meals

Skipping breakfast increases the likelihood of obesity.

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.

Eating ‘Low-Fat’ or ‘Fat-Free’ Food

Low-fat and fat-free foods may be high in sugar and carbs, which increase triglycerides.

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.


Smoking increases the chance of accumulating abdominal fat.

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.

Eating on a Big Plate

Eating food from a smaller plate makes you think you are eating more than you are.

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.

Not Moving Enough

Aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week to keep your waistline slim.

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.

Being Stressed Often

Stress increases the hormone, cortisol, which increases belly fat.

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.

Diet and Nutrition: Worst Habits for Belly Fat

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