Does Sitting After Eating Make Your Belly Fat? The Surprising Truth

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 3 November 2022

A man sitting a light blue couch in a white colored room wearing a white and black striped shirt and black jeans is rubbing his round stomach and gazing at it showing an unpleased expression on his face as he asks himself "Does sitting after eating make your belly fat?".

Does sitting after eating make your belly fat?

The surprising truth is that sitting down after a meal can make your belly appear fatter due to the folding of the skin, and sitting too much can also result in weight gain.

However, neither of these facts explain whether or not gravity from an upright posture has an impact on the digestion of food, or if this could contribute towards weight gain so a deeper look is necessary. 

Does Sitting Down After a Meal Make Your Belly Fat? Does Gravity Impact Digestion?

Sitting down after eating only makes your belly appear to be more fat because it is not stretched or elongated the same way it is while standing. There is not actually a greater quantity of belly fat acquired from sitting down after eating. 

Even competitive bodybuilders, fitness models, and others with extremely low body fat percentages will appear to have more fat on their stomachs while sitting down. Is there actually more fat there? No. It is just an illusion because the skin and fat around the stomach area are compressed.

However, because getting rid of upper belly fat is a common concern for many, it is not recommended to stay seated for long after eating.

As far as gravity does, NASA has studied the effects of gravity on digestion and found that eating, swallowing, and digesting food is surprisingly similar in outer space to how it is here on Earth! Other experiments have been conducted to determine whether weightlessness has a big impact on digestion; the results remain fairly inconclusive.1,2

Can Lying Down After Eating Cause Belly Fat?

Now that we have addressed the question of “Does sitting after eating make your belly fat”, it’s time to shine a light on studies that show, contrary to popular belief, lying down after eating won’t cause belly fat either.3 In fact, there could even be some benefits to a post-meal supine position – at least compared to sitting after eating. Surprising, right?

Surprising indeed.

On the other hand, many people experience discomfort when they try to lie down immediately after eating. It is easier for the acids in the stomach to come up and reflux while lying down, and in the long-term, GORD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) may develop.

Sitting after eating is not the worst choice; however, it’s not the best, either. Many experts agree that sitting and/ or lying down after eating will slow down digestion but that doesn’t mean it’s going to add fat. 

Want to digest food and get rid of waste? It’s probably best to stand. The effect of body posture on gastric emptying shows that movement after eating leads to more rapid digestion.4 Standing also combats that sedentary lifestyle mentioned earlier: More and more, people are choosing to make small modifications to the way they eat, work,5 and live in order to stave off obesity. 

What’s the Best Way to Sit or Position Yourself After Eating to Avoid Belly Fat?

A man in a brightly lit room is sitting on a tan couch wearing a white shirt and jeans while tugging at his stomach fat with his left hand and face palming his face with his right hand with a shocked and confused facial expression.

The “best” way to sit or position yourself after eating to avoid belly fat is different for everyone. Some people feel tired and experience a “food coma” after they eat; these individuals prefer to lie down while they digest. As long as this feels okay, there have been no negative long-term effects found as a result of lying down after eating.

For others, lying down after eating can cause minor discomforts such as heartburn or acid reflux, and may not feel relaxing. If heartburn or indigestion is a concern, stay in a seated or standing position for at least 30 minutes after eating.

What about lifestyle and tradition? Many cultures consider mealtime to be family time and remain seated to share stories and fellowship while they digest. This is a great option if you’re worried about “does sitting after eating make your belly fat”, as it slows down the brain, keeps the focus on the experience of the meal, and allows for quality family time.

On the other hand, there are also individuals who lead busy lifestyles and don’t consider mealtime to be anything other than getting the necessary calories and nutrients in. Eating on the go may be the norm for these folks: A quick protein smoothie after a workout while getting ready for work, a snack bar in between meetings, eating dinner while planning the next day’s goals.

Are any of these different options wrong? Absolutely not. There is no one “right” way to position yourself after eating to avoid belly fat. Standing or walking after snacking may promote quicker digestion, but it doesn’t necessarily connect to weight loss (which also means sitting after eating doesn’t cause weight gain).

How Long Should I Stand Up or Walk After Eating in Order to Digest Food Quicker?

Digestion is different for everyone and as mentioned, some studies have shown that it is beneficial to go for a brisk 30-minute walk immediately after eating.6 With this in mind, most sources agree that standing upright or walking for a solid amount of time (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours) helps digest food quicker.

Heck, many workplaces realized how to get rid of upper belly fat by promoting movement or walking so they began constructing walking paths for employees which double as physical activity and socializing opportunities. 

Since everybody is different, the best thing to do is test various digestion strategies and see how the body responds. Does a brisk walk immediately after eating cause indigestion or heartburn? If so, try waiting a little longer to allow time for digestion before taking on movement.

The Impact of Posture and Digestion

Now that have looked at “Does sitting after eating make your belly fat” in addition to laying down and standing postures, it’s important to understand that proper posture is important in all things health and wellness, including building strength, mobility, and even proper digestion. 

There are many ill effects associated with poor posture, including slower digestion, heartburn, and even incontinence (the inability to hold your bowels).7 This is because poor posture (slouching) puts pressure on all of the stomach muscles as well as the bladder. 

This goes to say, sitting or laying down after eating may slow down digestion and this isn’t an issue, but it’s best to have good posture in either position to avoid slower digestion and a myriad of other issues. 

Depending on an individual’s needs, standing after eating could be the optimum choice in order to facilitate faster digestion. On the other hand, remaining seated after eating could feel more physically comfortable, and may prevent heartburn and acid reflux.

All in all, it is important to try different positions to see what feels best. 

Sitting’s Primary Role on Belly Fat

While someone’s posture or activity after eating has some impact, sitting for long periods of time promotes a sedentary lifestyle and the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” is a common grievance amongst health care professionals across the globe. 

In a society that worships fast food and instant gratification, an increasing number of adults spend the bulk of their day rushing from one seat in front of a computer to another seat behind a steering wheel. The dangers of sitting:8 Humans were made to move, and staying seated for too long can lead to mental problems like excessive stress and burnout, as well as physical problems like obesity and other chronic diseases.

What does sitting down all the time lead to? Many experts in the medical field have declared sedentary lifestyles to be a global epidemic.9 Studies show that the fewer activity people get, the more likely they are to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. 

As nice as it sounds to sit back and let an ice pack reduce belly fat, the truth is that nothing beats belly fat like healthy eating and regular exercise. Don’t want to sweat ‘til you drop? It is possible to create a calorie deficit without exercise and lose belly fat without spending hours at the gym.

Regardless, it is critical to remember that movement is medicine. Even incorporating small changes can add up to make a big difference.

There are additional options to add movement into regular day-to-day activities, including asking for a standing desk modification at work, opting for the stairs rather than the elevator, and choosing a parking spot that’s further away. 

So all in all, avoid sitting down for long periods of time to fight obesity, and each individual’s posture or activity after eating may differ and have no impact on weight gain or loss. So regarding the question “Does sitting after eating make your belly fat”, just remember that standing or walking after eating may promote faster digestion but even sitting or lying down won’t make your belly fatter in the long run. 

FAQ About Does Sitting After Eating Make Your Belly Fat?

Is It Bad to Sit Down After I Eat?

No. Sitting down after eating may actually be beneficial to the digestion process. Sitting after eating is preferred by those who suffer from indigestion, acid reflux, or heartburn after eating. 

Do I Have to Have to Wait 30 Minutes After a Meal Before I Exercise?

Not necessarily. While some people complain of cramps or discomfort if they attempt to exercise too soon after a meal, everybody is different. Different methods work out for different individuals. Try spacing out your post-meal exercise enough to allow your body to digest, and keep varying your time until you find what works best for you.

Why Does My Belly Look Fat When I Sit?

When you sit down, your belly compresses into a smaller amount of space than when standing upright. Though it is not actually fatter, it may appear to be fat because it is no longer being stretched and elongated the same way it is when you stand. Regardless of a person’s weight, almost everyone’s belly looks fatter when they sit down because the body is compacted.

It is also important to consider your posture, even when seated. Are you hunched over a computer screen or notepad? Is your stomach sticking out and your back curved? Challenge yourself to inhale deeply and, upon exhaling, straighten up as much as possible. Engage the core muscles and keep them taut as you roll your shoulders gently back. 

Try setting a timer or reminder on your phone. Start small: Being reminded once every few minutes may seem excessive at first, but with time you will see just how quickly the body wants to slouch back up again. Gradually your posture will improve – and an added bonus is that your belly will not look fat when you sit! 

Will My Stomach Get Bigger If I Sit All the Time?

No, your stomach will not get bigger merely from sitting – but it will appear larger in size due to being compressed down, rather than elongated and stretched the way it is when you are standing.

Though sitting in itself will not cause the stomach to grow, in the long run, if healthy habits like exercising regularly are not formed, a sedentary lifestyle will lead to obesity and long-term health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

While sitting is required for many jobs, it is important to incorporate physical activities and movement into your day. This will help you avoid obesity and chronic disease. Try setting a reminder on your phone every hour to stand up for a few minutes. Go for a walk with colleagues, take the long way to grab a cup of coffee, and make an excuse to get up, and get moving.


References

1NASA Space Nutrition Newsletter. August 2004. Artificial Gravity: Going for a Spin. Web page. 23 August 2022. <https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/pdf/511951main_vol3iss10.pdf>

2Yang, Jia-Qi et al. 7 November 2020. The Effects of Microgravity on the Digestive System and the New Insights it Brings to the Life Sciences. Web page. 23 August 2022. <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214552420300651?via%3Dihub>

3Hirota, Naoko, Sone, Yoshiaki, Tokura, Hiromi. 21 January 2002. Effect of Postprandial Posture on Digestion and Absorption of Dietary Carbohydrate. Web page. 23 August 2022. Web. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11938608/>

4Moore, JG, Datz, FL, Christian, PE, Greenberg, E, Alazraki, N. December 1988. Effect of Body Posture on Radionuclide Measurements of Gastric Emptying. Web page. 23 August 2022. Web. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3271002/>

5Watson, Stephanie. 19 August 2021. Standing Desks: How They Help You Beat Inactivity. Web page. 23 August 2022. Web. <https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/standing-desks-help-beat-inactivity>

6Hijikata, Yasuyo, Yamada, Seika. 9 June 2011. Walking Just After a Meal Seems to be More Effective for Weight Loss Than Waiting for One Hour to Walk After a Meal. Web page. 23 August 2022. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119587/>

7Harvard Health Publishing. 15 February 2021. 3 Surprising Risks of Poor Posture. Web page. 23 August 2022. <https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/3-surprising-risks-of-poor-posture>

8Better Health Channel. 7 April 2022. The Dangers of Sitting: Why Sitting is the New Smoking. Web page. 23 August 2022. Web. <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/the-dangers-of-sitting>

9Manson, JoAnn E. 9 February 2004. The Escalating Pandemics of Obesity and Sedentary Lifestyle. JAMA Network website. 23 August 2022. Web. <https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/216645>

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.