Is Sugar Making Your Belly Fat?

Gaining belly fat is one of the most frustrating things that happens as we get older. It seems to creep in overnight and then it stays, a silent stalker that makes us feel pretty crappy about ourselves.

We all know the major contributors to belly fat, right? Looking at it from a distance, it involves the Big 6:

  • Exercise (not enough)
  • Being active (not enough)
  • Diet (eating too much)
  • Stress (too much and)
  • Sleep (not enough)
  • Hormones (’nuff said)

But break it down and it’s a little different for all of us. Some of us might exercise, but our diets aren’t that great.

Or maybe some of us have more wine than we should every night.

Ahem.

But break it down further and there’s one thing we’re all probably guilty of:

Too Much Sugar.

And really, we’re not totally to blame for this because how the heck are we supposed to know how much added sugar we’re getting? Sure, you could control it if you made everything from scratch…yeah. Um, let’s get right on that, right?

Also, there are so many yummy processed foods out there – It’s impossible to avoid all of them, isn’t it? And then there’s eating out…it seems impossible. No we can’t get rid of all the sugar, but there is something we can do about it.

Sugar and Your Belly

What you need to know about added sugar is that it loves helping your body store extra belly fat.

First, let’s talk about insulin, which is basically the ‘belly fat hormone.’ The more insulin you have in your body, the more belly fat you’ll store. Eventually, having too much insulin makes you insulin-resistant which means, yep – Stubborn, won’t-go-away belly fat.

And? Now you’re at risk for diabetes.

So, when you eat too much added sugar, it contributes to that insulin-resistance. Plus, some types of sugar go right to your liver, which gets turned into fat.

So sugar = belly fat.

I know. Not fair.

How To Get Rid of Added Sugar

There are a few very basic ways to start lowering your sugar intake and I don’t think any of these will surprise you:

  1. Stop drinking stuff with sugar in it – Juice, sports drinks, Coke…you know what these are, right? And don’t forget that alcohol also has sugar in it, something my brain refuses to accept. Does not compute.
  2. Eat real food as much as you can – Meaning things like lean protein, salads, veggies while avoiding the chips, crackers and other starchy carbs that also love to go right to your belly.
  3. Exercise – Not only can exercise reduce cortisol (the other belly fat stress hormone), but it can actually lower your blood sugar levels so they stay more even and you don’t have as many cravings.
  4. Go for the unsweetened stuff – I know that blueberry yogurt is yummy, but stuff like that has a lot of sugar. If you’re into that on a daily basis, slowly start to add unsweetened yogurt by going half regular yogurt and half unsweetened. Do the same with your cereal or oatmeal – Get a lower sugar, higher fiber version and start mixing it in with your Fruity Pebbles (do they still make that?)
  5. Use unsweetened applesauce as a sub – I kind of find it amazing that you can use applesauce instead of sugar when you’re making all kinds of things. Not that I really bake, but if I did…

Okay – so those are some very simple things to think about, now let’s talk about how you can make things even easier.

Apps to Help You Monitor Your Sugar Intake

I’m not a fan of keeping track of numbers – who has time for that? I probably do, but I’d rather let someone else do that…which is why smartphones are an amazing tool for the whole sugar thing.

Below are just a few great apps that help you know what you’re eating and how to change it.

Sugar Rush

With this app, you can actually scan your food with the barcode, search for common foods or enter what you’re eating and it’ll tell you how much sugar is in there. Pretty handy.

Fooducate

This is more comprehensive, allowing you to track your eating and activities, but it also breaks down the sugar in your diet too.

Wholesome Healthy Eating

This neat little app lets you collect recipes from the web, track them and then the app gives you personal recommendations for making them healthier. You get points for good things like fruits and veggies and you lose points if you have too much sugar or salt.

And now here is the easiest, yummy, no-sugar recipe in the entire world. Even I made it and it’s good!

Banana Chia Crisps

The bottom line is, all you have to do is pick one way you can reduce your sugar. Maybe it’s a sugary breakfast you need to tackle or a late night sweet tooth. Pick one and just focus all your energy on that without worrying about the rest of your diet.

Once you’ve got that down, move on to the next. You may just find you not only lose more belly fat, but you just feel better.

Got a sugar tip? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Sources:

la Fleur SE, van Rozen AJ, et al. A free-choice high-fat high-sugar diet induces changes in arcuate neuropeptide expression that support hyperphagia. 2010 Mar;34(3):537-46. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.257. Epub 2009 Dec 22.

Schwarz JM, Clearfield M, Mulligan K. Conversion of Sugar to Fat: Is Hepatic de Novo Lipogenesis Leading to Metabolic Syndrome and Associated Chronic Diseases?   2017 Aug 1;117(8):520-527. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2017.102.

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