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Holiday Belly Fat: How to Avoid It

With the holidays coming up, everyone will be eating lots of rich foods often loaded with sugar, fat, salt. These are some of the main culprits of abdominal, or belly fat -- something we all dread. The waist line is usually the first place excess fat migrates to.
11/24/2015 05:50pm ET | Updated November 24, 2016
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With the holidays coming up, everyone will be eating lots of rich foods often loaded with sugar, fat, salt. These are some of the main culprits of abdominal, or belly fat -- something we all dread. The waist line is usually the first place excess fat migrates to. It is also one of the most difficult places to lose weight. Other than just being unpleasing to the eye, belly fat is actually one of the worst places to harbor excess fat on the body because it can increase your risk for serious health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and even colorectal cancer.

In order to maintain a healthy weight, you must find an adequate balance between the amount of calories you take in and how much you exercise. A common misconception among many people is that as long as you exercise, you can eat whatever you like. Or, as long as you eat healthy, you don't have to exercise. It is equally important to eat a healthy diet while getting a moderate amount of exercise in as a part of your regular routine and lifestyle.

It is true that there are additional factors such as genetics and hormones that can play a part in why some people have more belly fat than others, or why some people have a harder time getting rid of it. Our hormones can have a significant effect on how easy or difficult it is to lose weight. Did you know that our hormones actually control how we lose weight? That's right -- hormones have a say in where fat is stored, how hungry we feel, how much we consume, and in regards to our overall metabolism in general. Therefore, if there is an imbalance in our hormones, it can be much more difficult to lose weight.

There are eight essential fat loss hormones that must be balanced: ghrelin, leptin, adiponectin, insulin, glucagon, CCK, epinephrine, and growth hormone. If these hormones are imbalanced, you may have a tougher time losing weight.

Reasons why you may have excess belly fat

• Not getting enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep increases our cortisol levels, which as we know, increases belly fat. The average adult should get around 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.

• Drinking too much alcohol. The liver does not burn fat when processing alcohol. Alcohol contains empty calories and increases your appetite, causing you to eat more. When drinking, stick to a low calorie wine or liquor.

• Physical inactivity. Losing belly fat is not impossible without exercise, however, it is much more difficult.

• Not eating enough protein. Protein helps us feel fuller for longer. It also helps balance our blood sugar levels and maintain a strong metabolism. Grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, fish, and quinoa are all excellent sources of protein.

• Eating or drinking too much sugar. Avoid sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices and foods high in sugar. Drink water and eat naturally sweet fruits instead.

• Eating too much fat. Cut back on desserts, fried and processed foods, etc. Load up on healthy carbohydrates and protein instead. It will make you feel fuller for longer.

• Eating late at night. Our bodies don't process food as quickly or effectively when we sleep, which makes it more likely to turn into fat. People who eat late at night are more likely to eat fatty processed foods instead of healthy foods. Avoid eating anything at least two hours before bedtime.

In order to keep off that unwanted belly fat around the holiday season, there are five key things you can do to keep yourself in check:

1. Maintain a healthy, clean diet. It's okay to indulge every once in a while and treat yourself given it's the holiday season, but try to maintain a clean diet the majority of the time. However, keep in mind that the cleaner the diet, the less belly fat you'll have.

2. Get moderate to vigorous exercise at least 3-5 times a week. It is just as important to get adequate exercise in as it is to maintain a healthy diet.

3. Get enough sleep. Make sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep helps your metabolism and thus your weight.

4. Have self-control. Nothing is more powerful than practicing mindfulness and learning to have self-control. If you are determined enough to keep that belly fat off, you can and will do it.

5. Avoid stress. The holidays can be extremely stressful. Feeling more stressed can cause you to eat more, and usually not the healthy foods. Make sure to maintain a healthy balance among work and family. Have good time management and plan ahead to avoid all stress triggers.