Fat around the stomach area is proven to be the hardest to shift, but it can also be the most dangerous.

Excess fat in that area can lead to a greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even certain kinds of cancer.

So how can you give your body a fighting chance, and lose those stubborn pounds? As with any fat burning measures, becoming more aware of your diet and exercise routine is key, but even with a revamped diet and regular gym sessions you may still find that fat lingers in that area.

Here are a few surprising reasons why your stomach fat refuses to budge…

1. You're doing the wrong kinds of exercise
Any kind of exercise is great for the body, but be sure to combine different types for best results. Cardio workouts (eg. running, spinning) alone won't burn much fat, but if you combine them with strength training you'll see much better results. The more muscle you have, the more fat you'll burn.

2. You're not working hard enough at the gym
If you're not pushing yourself in every workout, your body won't respond as it should. Burn more calories and fat in less time by switching up your routine and going for three high-intensity workouts a week.

3. You're eating too much processed food
Just because a microwave meal says it's "low fat" doesn't mean it's the best choice for you. Belly fat is often linked to inflammation in the body, and processed foods like white bread, crisps, convenience meals and soft drinks can all increase that inflammation. Go for fresh produce and wholegrains as much as you can.

4. You're stressed
Even if you're not a stress eater, anxiety can cause the body to hold onto extra weight. The stress hormone cortisol, produced by the body when we're feeling the strain of a busy day, is thought to enlarge fat cells and increase the amount of fat your body holds onto. 

5. You're not getting enough sleep
Lack of sleep has been proven to be one of the biggest obstacles to losing weight. If you're getting by on only four or five hours a night, you'll not only be more likely to reach for sugary foods, but your metabolism will also be slow and sluggish.