How Does a Pot Belly Form?


Our Preoccupation With the Pot Belly

  • In some cultures, a pot belly is considered a sign of prosperity. In others, a hefty gut is seen as an indicator of poor health. No matter the social perspective or medical implications of an abundant abdomen, the facts behind the physiological phenomenon remain the same.

Genetic Predisposition Lays the Foundation for a Pot Belly

  • Heredity plays the largest role in determining where on the body person will store excess weight. If a person is predisposed to gaining weight in the belly area, there's no natural way to appreciably change that fat distribution pattern.

High Body Fat Builds the Pot Belly

  • Body fat in excess of what is required for basic body functions is partly stored under the skin as subcutaneous fat, and partly as deep belly fat. The abdominal muscles, like all muscles, are separate from fat tissue, so spot-reducing exercises don't work. Only reducing overall body fat will shrink a pot belly.

A Person's Sex Determines How Fat is Stored on the Body

  • On average, men are more likely to carry excess weight in the belly than are women. While it's possible for a woman to have a pot belly as big as any man's, it's not as common..

Deep Belly Fat Accounts for Some of the Bulk

  • The fat that's under the skin is only partly accounts for a pot belly. The fat inside the abdomen, surrounding the internal organs, makes up the rest. This visceral fat functions to store energy for time of famine. Deep belly fat poses a greater health risk than subcutaneous fat.

Hormones and Aging Cause Belly Fat to Change

Loss of Muscle Tone Changes the Belly

  • The size and firmness of the abdominal muscles don't affect the fat that's on top of them, but abdominal muscles that are weak may bulge outward, giving the apperance of a pot belly, or making a true pot belly look larger than it really is.

A Hernia Can Cause a Bulging Belly

  • Occasionally, a protruding abdomen is a sign of trouble. If there's a tear or gap in the abdominal muscle wall, the intestines may protrude through the hole. Hernias are common around the navel. Tenderness or the appearance of bruising are indicators that an ordinary pot belly is not the cause of abdominal bulging. In the case of possible hernia, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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  • Photo Credit Ysabel Doran
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