8 Reasons You Don’t Have a Flat Belly—That Aren’t Diet and Exercise

Having a flat stomach isn’t always about just dieting and exercising. Learn the other factors that could be working against you.

Your genetics prefer storing fat in your stomach area

Woman touching her fat belly, woman's hand holding excessive belly fat.Boyloso/Shutterstock

Although genetics don’t automatically doom you to a large belly, they do play a significant role in fat distribution and storage, according to Michael Nusbaum, MD, a bariatric surgeon, and the founder of Healthy Weight Loss Centers. Visceral fat—the type of fat the body stores in your abdomen and around your intestines and is mostly responsible for keeping people from a flat belly—is partly to blame because of genetics, Dr. Nusbaum explains. “There are people who, no matter what, are going to basically be prone to having the same belly as their mom or dad,” he says. Check out 23 tricks to lose belly fat without a lick of exercise.

You have food allergies or food sensitivities

Glass of ColaTomophafan/Shutterstock

Genetics also play a role in food allergies and food sensitivities, according to Dr. Nusbaum. These food issues could also be to blame for excess belly fat and bloat. For example, he says, “If you are African American and your genetics are purely from sub-Saharan Africa, where [your ancestors] didn’t have corn, and you love your sodas and are drinking tons of high-fructose corn syrup, you’re going to store that away as fat because your body can’t metabolize it preferentially.” So not all food allergies result in hives or breakouts; some trigger things like inflammation and abdominal distention, or expansion of the stomach and waist, making the belly less flat. Another common example is gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

Your gut microbiome is off-balance

 Woman suffer from stomach pain leungchopan/Shutterstock

If your gut microbiome is off-balance, you’ll end up with gas, bloating, and a not-so-flat stomach, Dr. Nusbaum says. Pamela Merino, MD, an internist in Miami, Florida, says, however, that more research is necessary into how gut health affects fat storage specifically. Dr. Merino points to research showing that stool transplants from thin people to overweight people result in weight loss—and the only explanation is that thin people’s microbiomes are better at burning fat. Healthline also reports that gut bacteria may have an impact on how the body digests different foods and nutrients. For example, a specific kind of gut bacteria digests fiber, which may lead to weight loss, according to Healthline. Gut bacteria also controls whether or not you feel hungry or full, which can affect your weight. Think about adjusting your diet to include these 15 foods that are proven to flatten your belly.

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