In someone with a large gut, will abdominal muscles undergo atrophy?

See below. When someone has a large belly the fat is on top of the belly muscles. The muscles may certainly become weak and atrophic from not exercising them. Often if someone with a large belly begins to exercise there abdominals the muscles will strengthen but there may not be visual effects because the muscle is buried under the fat. That is why changing the diet is just as important as exercise.