Updated on July 7th, 2023 at 08:26 pm

Whether it’s after that big family BBQ where you had one too many sausages, or following your Christmas dinner, you’re bound to feel bloated from time to time. It is a common experience, and you are certainly not alone!

After you have eaten a big meal, your belly might feel swollen, and you might have to undo that top button on your jeans to allow for some extra room.image of bloating vs fat - Extra Large Living

It is easy to mistake this for belly fat but bloating and fat are not the same thing. As such, they should be treated differently from each other.

What Is Bloating?

Bloating is a feeling of fullness, pressure, or tightness of the abdomen. This occurs when your gastrointestinal tract gets filled with gas and fluids and becomes larger.  Bloating differs depending on what you eat and how much you have eaten. Some foods are harder to digest than others and will cause the bloating to last longer.

Although uncomfortable, bloating is usually harmless. However, you should seek medical assistance if you experience abdominal bloating alongside abdominal pain, a suddenly distended belly, heartburn, vomiting, nausea, weight loss, or difficulty breathing.

What Causes Bloating?

There are a few things that contribute to bloating. These include:

  • Eating too much can cause bloating.
  • Eating too fast.
  • Eating high-fiber foods. For example, eating dairy products, beans and certain fruit and vegetables can cause you to bloat more than eating other foods. These vegetables that cause bloating include Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and onions.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Bloating can be a sign of IBS. It can also indicate lactose intolerance or other food allergies. If you suspect this, you should see the doctor for guidance.
  • Consuming too much salt leads to excess water retention
  • SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can cause bloating alongside other digestive issues.
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

What Is Belly Fat?

Belly fat is something that develops over time and can only be reduced by eating healthily and exercising regularly to burn off excess fat. Fat accumulation and weight gain occur when you are burning fewer calories than your caloric intake.

It is extremely dangerous to have too much excess belly fat as it can lead to health issues such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, poor digestion, and high blood pressure.

It is important to lead a healthy lifestyle and try to keep your belly fat to a minimum. Provided you indulge in regular physical activity and eat healthily, you should be good to go. Eating healthy calls for avoiding sugary foods that slow down your metabolism and alcohol consumption.

However, you should be aware not to be so obsessed with weight loss that you develop eating disorders. Also, losing a lot of weight quickly is bad for your body and can cause you to have excess skin and loose skin vs fat is a whole different discussion. You should lose your belly fat slowly and in a healthy way. And as your body changes you may even notice your feet shrinking from weight loss.

Note: There are two types of belly fat including visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is fat around your abdominal organs and subcutaneous fat is under the skin.

What Are The Differences Between Bloating And Belly Fat?

It’s easy to differentiate between being bloated and belly fat. When you are suffering from temporary bloating, your stomach will expand throughout the day.

Another distinct difference is duration. If you have belly fat, this will remain the same, only growing or reducing over long periods of time. On the other hand, bloating happens in spurts causing your belly’s shape to change throughout the day.

Another way to tell the difference is that you can hold on to belly fat with your hand if you grab it. You can’t hold on to a bloated stomach in this way. Also, excess belly fat doesn’t cause physical discomfort like excess gas accumulation.

How To Assess If It’s Bloating Or Belly Fat

There are a few things that will help you to determine whether you are dealing with body fat accumulation or bloating.

Check In The Morning

Having a quick peek in the mirror in the morning is a great way to tell if you are experiencing bloating or belly fat.

Check first thing in the morning, before you have had anything to eat or drink. The state in which we wake up is a state where we have been fasting for a while.

After the food has been digested, which will happen during our sleep, you will not experience any bloating. Whatever is on your belly in the morning is most likely belly fat.

Think About Your Bathroom Habits

When you are constipated, you will weigh more until you can release it. This can cause your stomach to bloat out and expand.

This is not necessarily belly fat, but a form of bloating. If you are having problems in the bathroom, see a doctor to get some advice on this!

Periods, IBS, stress, and changes to your sleep can worsen bloating.


If you are dehydrated, you are likely to experience bloating. When you are dehydrated, your body will hold on to any water that it can get – meaning you will bloat.

Menstrual Cycle

You should consider your menstrual cycle when assessing if you are dealing with belly fat or bloating. During your menstrual cycle, your body releases female sex hormones such as estrogen. When this happens, you can experience water retention which will look like fat around your belly but is, in fact, temporary.

Evaluate After Meals

Check your stomach before and after eating. Does it look smaller before and bigger afterward? This is likely to be caused by bloating.

Consider How It Feels

Bloating will feel hard and tight around your abdomen, whereas fat will feel soft and won’t feel tight or pressing.

How To Avoid Being Bloated

image of how to assess if it’s bloating or belly fat - Extra Large LivingOften, changing a few things in your healthy diet is all you need to prevent yourself from feeling bloated. For instance, you should avoid fibrous foods like broccoli, cabbage, beans, cauliflower, and oats.

It also helps if you monitor your bowel movements to determine your bloating triggers.

Foods that are rich in protein or those that have complex carbs in them really help to prevent bloating. You should stay hydrated and don’t drink any carbonated drinks.

It is also very useful to ensure that you are not eating too much. It is better to eat smaller meals more often in order to prevent bloating. You should also make sure that you eat slowly.

Other ways to avoid or remedy stomach bloating include:

  • Drink herbal tea, including chamomile, lemon balm, cinnamon, ginger, and peppermint.
  • Take peppermint oil supplements to improve bloating symptoms
  • Eat fermented or probiotic-containing foods like yogurt, kanji, kefir, kombucha helps to improve levels of healthy bacteria and reduce gas production
  • Take walks after meals to stimulate gas passage through the digestive tract
  • Get an abdominal massage to release gas, cramping, and tightness

Final Thoughts

It is very important to understand how bloating and fat differentiate. This will allow you to understand the causes of your problems and the best way for you to handle this.

This article will help you to understand the differences and similarities between the two and how to distinguish between them!

In summary, bloating is a temporary experience that is caused by the way you are eating, what you are eating or your lifestyle.

It can also be influenced by a medical condition such as IBS. Fat is the result of your diet and a lack of exercise.

It can lead to medical complications and so it is important to try and reduce this fat if possible.

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