Sometimes it feels like no matter what you do, you just can’t reduce the size of that muffin top. A lot of people think of this as the stomach area, so they turn to core exercises.
It can be easy to rely on things like crunches or oblique work, but those actually are not the best way to target the side fat area.
Today we’re sharing some easy tips on how to cut back on that unwanted fat in the love handle area.
What Are Love Handles?
As you may already know, love handles are the areas of excess fat that extend outwards from the hips. They become more noticeable when combined with tight clothing, which can cause what we call a muffin top at the top of your jeans. However, side fat is not caused only by wearing tight clothing.
In general, side fat is caused by extra fat storage. A diet high in sugar, fat, and processed food can cause excess weight, especially when combined with taking in more calories than you burn for a long amount of time.
The accumulation of body fat in the hip and abdomen area can be caused by a few different factors.
What Causes Love Handles?
As I mentioned above, side fat and excess fat in the hip area are really caused by the accumulation of body fat. The storage of fat cells can happen anywhere in the body with a diet high in calories and carbs and low in physical activity.
Over time, these fat cells can become noticeable as they accumulate in certain areas, such as around your waist and hips.
The accumulation of these fat pockets in the hip and belly area can be caused by a number of factors. The first is hormones, especially too much cortisol.
Cortisol is the stress hormone, so it is present in higher quantities when you’re feeling stressed.
It actually breaks down lean muscle mass and increases the placement of fat around the belly and hips. Age can also play a role in where your fat cells are stored.
This actually relates back to hormones as well. Lower amounts of estrogen in women and testosterone in men can cause increased body fat, especially around the midsection.
Plus as we age our metabolism tends to slow down, making it more likely for us to consume excess calories if we continue eating the same way.
Another factor that relates back to hormones is sleep. Sleep actually gives your body a chance to restore hormone levels, including leptin, which is known as the satiety hormone.
If your leptin levels are low (because of sleep deprivation), ghrelin levels go up, increasing your appetite. This will likely cause you to consume more, leading to more storage of fat cells.
Lack of Physical Activity and Poor Eating Habits
Lack of physical activity and diet play a big role in the development of side fat as well. A diet high in sugars, fat, and processed foods that are high in calories makes it more likely that you are consuming more calories than you are burning, leading to excess body fat in general.
Naturally, some of that will settle in the hip area. Genetics can also play a big role in where your fat cells tend to settle. Lack of physical activity also means you are not burning many of the calories you consume. Plus you may not have the lean muscle that helps increase your metabolism.
It is also possible for love handles to be caused by undiagnosed or untreated conditions that slow your metabolism.
For example, hypothyroidism is a condition that makes it difficult to burn off extra calories. If you think this may be the case for you, we definitely recommend speaking to your doctor.
The Reasons to Get Rid of Love Handles
While love handles themselves don’t pose a health risk, they could be a sign there may be other health concerns present. Here are a few health conditions to look out for:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- heart disease
- Sleep apnea or other breathing issues (especially if you find you are having trouble sleeping)
- Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or insulin resistance
- Cancer, especially breast or colon cancer
- Liver disease
Preventing love handles and working on fat reduction can improve your overall health, including your risk for the above conditions.
How to Get Rid of Love Handles: 14 Proven Steps
Many people try to target this specific area with endless side crunches and other abdominal moves that target the obliques, muscles that run down the sides of the torso. However, this is not an effective way to lose love handles.
In order to get rid of love handles for good, you’re going to need to make dietary, exercise, and lifestyle changes. In this article, I’ll share some simple, but effective tips that will help you to naturally get rid of love handles.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
An overall healthy diet is key to fat reduction, and therefore reduction of muffin tops. Reducing processed foods like pasta, sweets, or fried foods and replacing them with nutrient-rich foods and healthy meals can make a huge difference in your waist size, and your overall health.
As a nutritionist, I recommend adding healthy foods like veggies, lean protein (like chicken, turkey, and egg whites), and complex carbs (whole grains).
Focus on healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, fish, and nuts.
Generally, consuming fewer calories and more whole foods are good things to focus on that will naturally help you reduce your simple carbohydrates and fatty food intake.
Plus, it has been shown that the more healthy foods you eat, the less food cravings for unhealthy options you experience.
2. Eat Anti-Inflammation Foods
Including foods that reduce inflammation can also be extremely helpful when trying to reduce flab in the hip area. By cutting out high sugar, high fat, and processed foods, you will likely naturally include more foods that fight inflammation.
These include vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, onions, and salad greens. Fruit and complex carbohydrates can also help reduce inflammation. You can also add certain spices, like cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, and ginger to your meals to boost their anti-inflammatory power.
3. Focus on Healthy Fats
Another nutrient that aids in the reduction of inflammation in the body is healthy fat. Healthy fats are generally considered polyunsaturated fatty acids.
These can be found in tons of different foods including olive oil, avocado, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, nuts, as well as coconut or coconut oil. If you’d rather supplement with healthy fats, look for an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, such as fish oil.
4. Up Fiber Intake
Fiber is an important nutrient for overall health, and will also help keep you full longer, which results in eating fewer calories throughout the day. Fiber comes from several sources, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and complex carbs.
Focus on veggies like spinach, kale, broccoli, peppers, and sweet potato. Fruits such as berries (raspberries are highest), apples, and avocado also pack a fiber punch.
Healthy complex carbs are also some of the highest-fiber food options out there. Whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and even things like whole-grain bread or whole-grain pasta contain some serious fiber.
Legumes are also another major fiber source. Not only are they a great source of fiber, but lean protein and healthy fats as well. Legumes include things like chickpeas, lentils, black beans, and peas.
5. Eat Lean Protein
Lean sources of protein will not only help keep you full and eat fewer calories but also help build muscle mass when combined with physical activity.
Make sure to include things like chicken breast, turkey breast, plant-based protein like chickpeas, beans, and tofu, and eggs (whole egg or egg whites). If you’d like to add some extra protein to supplement, try whey protein powder or a plant-based protein powder.
6. Cut Back Liquid Calories
Sugary beverages are a major hidden source of excess calories. Often you don’t even think about the amount of calories you’re consuming when you’re drinking them instead of eating them. Frappucinos, soda, hot chocolate, and even store-bought smoothies are full of things that can add inches to your waistline and elevate your blood sugar levels.
One easy tactic to cut unnecessary sugar is to switch your drinks to lower sugar options.
Water is always my number one recommendation, but black coffee, unsweetened green tea, and lemon water are also healthy options that will help you cut back on the flab.
Next time you’re craving a sugary drink, try drinking plenty of water, a cup of coffee, or a cup of green tea to curb that craving. You can try a drink with zero calories and artificial sweeteners, just keep in mind that drinking too many could cause an increase in your cravings for sweets.
7. Reduce Your Calorie Intake
The result of all of these things combined is to generally eat fewer calories. As you focus on more whole foods and foods that will keep you full longer, rather than those with empty calories, you can naturally cut back on quite a lot of calories.
Reducing calories will lead to weight loss and a general reduction in the fatty area around your hips and abdomen.
8. Get Enough Sleep
Many studies have shown that short sleep times and sleep deprivation lead to greater fat deposits, especially belly fat.
One study showed that participants with shorter sleep duration were less likely to lose weight, and those who were asked to reduce their sleep actually gained weight. Another study found that reduced sleep was correlated with a higher BMI as well.
One of my best tips for getting enough sleep is to reduce your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine later in the day can make it more difficult to fall asleep, and reduce the quality of your sleep as well.
If you feel like you do need an energy boost, try going for something like green tea, which is slightly lower in caffeine than a cup of coffee.
9. Add Strength Training
Strength training is important for many reasons, but most of all, it helps to build muscle, which will help increase your metabolism over time. There is no one correct way to do strength training, so the best exercise is one that you enjoy and can make part of your routine.
A few that we love are resistance training, kettlebells, body weight exercises like squats, and weight training using other equipment like dumbbells, barbells, and a medicine ball.
If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend looking up some love handle workouts, or even hiring a personal trainer to work on a plan that is totally personalized for you.
These exercises can help you build lean muscle mass and reduce overall fat storage.
10. Focus on Whole Body Workouts
While it may feel logical to work on spot treating the problem area, whole-body workouts are actually the way to go when getting rid of stubborn fat. In order to reduce fat in the problem area, it’s important to reduce overall body fat.
By focusing on whole-body workouts, you can build overall lean muscle mass and slim down in general, which will naturally help reduce your love handles.
Whole-body options like the strength training exercises above, as well as different forms of cardio, can help you start to reduce body fat.
That doesn’t mean that things like planks, crunches, and oblique work are not good to have in your exercise routine, it just means that we need to focus on the rest of your body as well.
11. Do Aerobic Exercise
Just like strength training, it is important to include aerobic exercise as part of your exercise routine. Cardiovascular training helps you increase your heart rate, build endurance, and burn calories more efficiently.
Cardio workouts include running on the treadmill, biking, dancing, or even just walking. As I mentioned above, the best exercise is one that you enjoy and can make a regular part of your routine.
12. Try HIIT Workout
HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a cardiovascular exercise taken to the next level. Not only does it increase your heart rate, but it also helps you build muscle and burn fat at the same time. The combination of cardio and strength training makes this the perfect workout to shed the extra pounds.
13. Do Ab Exercises
While you can’t directly target the stubborn love handles with specific moves, you can engage your obliques with different ab workouts. Some of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your abs and midsection are:
Get down into a plank position, supporting your body with your forearms and toes. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest and repeat 2-3 times. Depending on your fitness level.
hold a sit-up position with your feet off the ground. Slowly rotate your torso from side to side while holding this position. To make this exercise a little more intense, hold a medicine ball while twisting.
Get into a plank position and slowly bend your elbows to lower down until your chest is grazing the floor. Push back up to plank position and repeat.
Start on your side with your feet outstretched (like you would in the plank position) and one forearm directly below your shoulder. Contract your core and dig your elbow and forearm into the ground, raising your body until you’re in a straight line.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and torso facing forward. Bend to your right side (while still facing forward) as far as feels comfortable. Rise back up and switch sides. This can also be done with a dumbbell or kettlebell in the hand of the side you are bending towards (so if you are bending towards your right side, hold the equipment in your right hand).
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your torso facing forward. Slowly bend your knees and push your buttocks back into a sitting position. Rise back to standing and repeat.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step back with your left leg and bend the front leg until it is at a 90-degree angle. Switch sides and repeat with your right leg.
Adding these moves to your exercise programs will not only help you to engage your abdominal muscles and oblique muscles but will also help strengthen your core and build muscle in general.
Also, check out these 12 love handle workouts
14. Putting It All Together
The best results really come down to creating a healthy daily routine. Eating healthy foods, avoiding unnecessary snacks, getting enough sleep, and increasing physical activity is the best way to help reduce your love handles. Remember that focusing on a specific area of your body will likely not give you the results you’re looking for.
Instead, focus on a whole-body approach that helps you improve your health, increase muscle mass, and reduce overall body fat.
Do other methods like liposuction and coolsculpting work?
Liposuction can be an effective method of targeting a specific area of your body, however, it can be quite an invasive procedure, likely requiring a trip to see a plastic surgeon. This procedure requires anesthesia and a recovery period of two to five weeks.
It is also very common for fat distribution to change after getting liposuction. So, while that target area may have lower fat deposits, the fat will likely deposit somewhere else over time.
Coolsculpting is definitely a less invasive option than liposuction. You will likely feel some tenderness and swelling afterward, but it is nowhere near the recovery that liposuction requires. While it can be effective and reducing fat cells, it is best for people who don’t have much fat to lose.
Coolsculpting is not a treatment for obesity or overall body fat loss, but more for someone who may already be slim and is looking to reduce stubborn fat in a certain area of your body (most commonly the thighs, buttocks, and belly areas).
How long does it take to lose love handles?
The amount of time it takes to lose that side fat is totally dependent on the person. As I said, the reduction of stubborn fat in the hip area really comes down to a reduction in overall fat stores.
So the amount of time it takes for that stubborn fat to go away will correlate to how much fat you have to lose.
Will Love Handles Go Away?
Hopefully, this article has shown you that you can get a handle on your love handles! The best way to do it is to focus on overall fat loss and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
While they may not be gone the next day after doing some crunches, it’s totally possible to lose them over time with healthy habits, good sleep, and physical activity.
Like many stubborn fat areas, getting rid of extra fat around the hip area and abdomen requires a focus on overall fat loss. Unfortunately specifically targeting that area is not as effective as we once thought.
However, adapting healthy eating habits and a regular exercise routine can help you not only lose that stubborn fat but increase your overall health as well!
- Hairston, Kristen G, Michael Bryer-Ash, Jill M Norris, Steven Haffner, Donald W Bowden, and Lynne E Wagenknecht. “Sleep Duration and Five-year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study.” Mar. 2010. Web. 11 Nov. 2020.
- St-Onge, Marie-Pierre, and Ari Shechter. “Sleep Disturbances, Body Fat Distribution, Food Intake And/or Energy Expenditure: Pathophysiological Aspects.” Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2020.
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