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.

Although your genes don’t automatically doom you to a large belly, they do play a significant role in fat distribution and storage, according to bariatric surgeon Michael Nusbaum, MD, founder of Nusbaum Medical Centers in New Jersey. 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—can be partly determined by genetics. “There are people who, no matter what, are going to basically be prone to having the same belly as their mom or dad,” Dr. Nusbaum says. Check out 23 tricks to lose belly fat without exercise.

You have food allergies or food sensitivities

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.” 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. Other common examples are celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

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