14 different causes of excess belly fat in women

Dreaded, stubborn belly fat. Oh my.

A wobbly tummy is a problem for many of us mums and it can feel like a daunting experience.

The good news is blasting belly fat is possible, even after kids. You can attack your belly bulge with core exercises, healthy eating and joining The Healthy Mummy’s 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge.

While the tools and plans to attack belly fat once and for all may seem relatively straightforward, the causes of excess belly fat are less so for many women.

In this article, with the help of Healthy Mummy nutritionist Cheree Sheldon, we identify 14 difference causes of excess belly fat in women.


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2. Food choices

Food choices are a major impact for accumulation of belly fat. Sugar, in particular fructose, has been linked to abdominal obesity, especially when people drink soft drinks. Whether this is due to an excess of kilojoules consumed, or because the fructose slows down metabolism and fat burning doesn’t really matter, the bottom line is too much sugar is stored as fat!

When following a healthy eating plan such as the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge, you can be confident in the fact that what you are eating is helping you reduce your waistline as opposed to adding to it. The 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge is a weekly meal plan, which consists of 3 snacks and 3 main meals a day. These recipes and meals are designed to help you lose weight safely and sustainably.

3. Alcohol intake

Alcohol intake plays a role in belly fat, after all a beer belly didn’t get its name for nothing! The excess calories from consumption of alcohol is stored as fat, and like sugar, alcohol slows down fat burning and metabolism. Daily intake of three or more drinks, or binge drinking on four or more drinks regularly had the biggest risks.

4. Consuming ‘bad’ fats

Consuming fats. Have you heard the saying fat makes you fat?? It’s sort of true depending on the types of fats, as they are not created equal. The worst offender which everyone should avoid at all costs is TRANS FATS. These are fats that have been messed with by adding hydrogen to them. It makes them more stable so the junk food it is added to can stay on a shelf longer, but it also creates lots of inflammation in our bodies, and is linked to insulin resistance, and belly fat.

Source: iStock

5. Inactivity

Exercise and activity plays a big part in getting belly fat off, so it makes sense that little to no exercise or activity is a big factor in putting it on. People who watch more than 3 hours of TV per day double their risk of abdominal obesity than people who watch just one hour.

6. Modern convenience

Modern convenience reduce our need to be active, so it elevates our risk for weight gain. Have you seen Wall’E?? This is our future if we aren’t mindful and reduce our dependency on technology a bit…Take the stairs!!

7. Ageing

Ageing plays a role. Even if they don’t gain weight on the scales, many women notice an accumulation of belly fat as they age, particularly around menopausal age. This is due to hormonal shifts, when a decrease in oestrogen impacts our fat distribution, making it belly focused instead of hips and thighs.

8. Sleep

Sleep affects our weight. For those of us who sleep poorly, five hours or less a night is linked with weight gain. Sleep disordered breathing such as sleep apnoea, is linked with higher amounts of belly fat.

Living With Kids May Mean Less Sleep For Women, But Not For Men

9. Stress

Stress can cause belly fat! The body interprets any stress the same, whether it is physical stress such as smoking, or perceived stress such as driving in rush hour. The bottom line for stress in the body is the production of the hormone cortisol, and cortisol, unfortunately encourages the body to deposit more fat at our bellies.

10. Post pregnancy

Post pregnancy our belly changes shape. The uterus drops and the abdominal muscles shift, so it takes a while for the body to regain its muscular strength, with the subcutaneous layer of fat at the fore front until that occurs.

11. Gut bugs

Gut bugs play a part! If the balance of our gut flora is tipped to promote certain bad bacteria, they encourage us to gain weight and stimulate belly fat. This can be due to bad choices in our diet feeding bad bacteria causing SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth), resulting in bloating. The bacteria can send signals to our brains triggering cravings for carbohydrates and sugars that they want to feed off. Pretty clever, but not too great for our waist line.

12. Genes

Genes can be a major factor in belly fat and obesity. You know when people say, “oh its in the genes, Aunty So And So was fat, My mum was fat, my sister is, and so I am too”, there is actually genes that are markers for obesity.

A 2011 study states there are more than 40 known gene variants that are associated with obesity and fat distribution. Epigenetic markers do not mean that you “HAVE” to be overweight, it just elevates your risk, and hopefully motivates you more to make better choices to avoid obesity.

Portrait of happy grandmother embracing her little granddaughter with a woman talking to baby girl.

13. What happened in the womb

Before we are born we can be set up for obesity. If your mum smoked during pregnancy or had a really poor diet, then you have a higher risk factor. Babies that are born with really low birth weights or really high birth weights have a greater chance of being overweight or obese later in life.

14. PCOS

Women with PCOS have a higher amount of visceral fat than women who don’t have the disorder. It is unclear whether the mechanism of PCOS is from hormones promoting weight gain or weight gain promoting hormone dysfunction.

As you can see, there are many many factors that can cause excess belly fat in women.

Ultimately they boil down to a few choices, how much you exercise, what your food choices are, and how you manage stress. You can’t change your genes, you can’t slow down aging, but you can be in control of all the other factors that influence whether or not you are at greater risk for weight gain and belly fat. 

Are you ready to kick-start your weight loss?


Want to shift your baby weight but feel like you have NO TIME in your day to exercise and eat healthily? That’s where the Healthy Mummy’s 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge can help.

Our Challenge entails: 

  • 28 days of at home exercise routines (no gym needed) – with video instruction
  • Customisable and breastfeeding friendly meal plans
  • Time-efficient exercises for busy mums – under 30 mins
  • Challenge combines Pilates exercises with interval and circuit training (HIIT)
  • Suitable for basic to advanced fitness levels.
  • Home to thousands of EASY-TO-MAKE recipes.

To find out more about joining the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge for £1 click here.

PLUS – connect with THOUSANDS of other mums on the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge by joining our free support community here.

written by:

The Healthy Mummy

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