So you want to lose fat from one area in particular – get rid of your belly fat, lose your arm flab, or shrink your thighs.
But how to do it? Is that thigh master, flat belly tea, butt zapping pill or endless bicep curls going to do the trick?
The short answer is no. You can’t lose fat from one area in particular. But don’t despair – there is a path to transforming those trouble spots into a body part you love. Here are 5 things you need to know.
Losing Fat From a Particular Area Fact #1: Spot Reduction Is A Myth
Despite what numerous fitness and weight loss products on the market would have you believe, you cannot spot reduce fat.
It’s so tempting to want to believe it can be done, though, right?
I mean, we all have body parts we wish we could just change.
It can get so frustrating when you have that one body part which seems to ignore attempts to change it.
I mean, if flat belly tea actually worked (without giving you explosive diarrhoea) I’d honestly keep cases of it.
And if calf raises alone would give me Cameron Diaz’s legs I’d do them religiously.
And that’s what a lot of people end up doing – focusing on and prioritising that one body part in their training and trying a whole bunch of weird shit to try and zap the fat from one particular spot, which honestly does you a disservice in the long run, for a number of reasons.
Not the least of which is because that’s just not how fat loss works. Let me explain.
How fat loss happens
Your body’s cells stores fat (in the form of triglycerides) to use for energy.
When your body needs energy, it breaks these triglycerides down into free fatty acids and glycerol so they can enter the bloodstream.
These fats can be broken down from anywhere in the body – not just the place you’re exercising.
Science backs this with various studies that show spot reduction just isn’t a thing.
They did one study of 24 people who did nothing but ab workouts for six weeks and lost no belly fat. Bummer.
Another study got a group of 104 people together over 12 weeks and gave them a training program which worked only their non-dominant arms. Whilst these people did lose some fat, it wasn’t localised – they lost fat from all over the body.
Losing Fat From a Particular Area Fact #2: Overall Fat Loss and Increased Muscle Mass Is Your Best Bet
Even though it’s not possible to lose fat from a particular area, there IS a way to increase muscle definition.
Ok so you can't do anything to spot reduce but you CAN increase muscle mass and lose fat from your body in general which over time will give you that toned appearance in your "trouble" spot.
(I say that tongue in cheek, because I don’t love the expression “trouble spot”, honestly.)
Now, there’s no one exercise that’s going to magically transform that spot. All you CAN do is working on building lean muscle mass and reducing overall body fat, which will cause your newly built muscle mass to be more visible.
When you do an exercise, like for example a tummy crunch or tricep kickbacks, it works by putting strain on the muscle, which causes tiny fibres in the muscle belly to break.
When these grow back, they grow in thicker and stronger to help the muscle cope and adapt to that movement – which increases muscle size.
If you have a lot of fat in that area too, that fat will sit on top of any existing muscle mass you’ve grown, so it won’t show through.
And if you don’t have a lot of lean muscle mass to begin with, even if you did lose fat from that area, you’re still probably not going to get that toned look you’re after.
(And P.S. – I always feel like I have to say when I write stuff like this ... there’s nothing wrong with not being toned, but if you’re here I’m guessing it’s because you want to be and ... well ... I can help with that.)
So whilst stomach crunches all by themselves won’t give you a six pack in 28 days, if you build more muscle in that area AND lose fat (overall), with time and patience you’ll make your muscle more visible.
How soon this happens is completely dependent on how much fat you have to lose, how fast you lose weight (and P.S. – faster isn’t better), how consistent you are with your training and how much existing muscle mass you already have in that area (muscle takes time to grow).
Just remember – your body is going to lose fat from all over, and there’s no telling where it will come off first.
Anecdotally, I have to say the place I start storing fat first (my belly) is usually the last place I lose it. I don’t know if that’s a “thing” but it’s definitely true for me.
I start losing weight from my arms first, then my tits, then my ass, then my feet (weirdly) and FINALLY, towards the end, my abs and thighs join the party. That’s how it works regardless of whether I focus on my core or do a bunch of full body workouts.
In short = you can’t spot reduce fat BUT you CAN focus on whole body strength workouts, good nutrition, and regular moderate cardio and with TIME you’ll start to see results.
Losing Fat From a Particular Area Fact #3: Just Forget About Those Isolation Exercises
Tricep kickbacks are cute and everything but they burn VERY little calories. Stomach crunches? Yeah ... same thing. Sorry.
Listen ... if you want to lose fat and look more “toned” you need to remember this equation:
Now, unless you reduce your calories down to virtually nothing (which I absolutely NEVER recommend), the best way to increase the amount of calories you burn is to get plenty of exercise.
When you’re exercising, you’re burning calories, and if your body doesn’t have ample calories from the food you’re eating, it will start pulling energy from your fat stores.
Of course, most of us have a very limited amount of time to exercise in a day, so it makes sense to get the most bang for our buck when it comes to torching calories.
We also want to focus on building as much muscle as we can (or at least minimising muscle loss) because the more lean muscle we have on our bodies, the more calories we burn even at rest.
So it makes little sense to just focus on doing things like tricep kickbacks or stomach crunches because those activities:
Burn a small amount of calories
Only grow muscle in a very small area
To increase your caloric burn, and the amount of muscle mass you grow, you want to be focusing on what are called compound movements: exercises which target several different muscle groups and as such, they burn more calories.
If you swapped out your tricep kickbacks for, say, push ups, you’re still going to work those triceps but you’re also going to work your:
Glutes (if you do them on your toes)
That wingy bit under your armpit (which is technically called the serratus anterior)
A tricep kickback burns about 4 calories a minute (depending on various factors). A push up, on the other hand, burns at least 7 calories a minute (almost double).
Some great examples of compound exercises include:
Pull ups (if you can), or deadlifts
Simple, but hugely effective! If your training program was centred around these four moves, I guarantee you’ll be seeing results in no time!
From there, you can sprinkle in some isolations if you want to, just stop making them the star of the show.
Losing Fat From a Particular Area Fact #4: Yes ... Those Creams, Teas, Pills and Infomercial Gadgets are a TOTAL waste of money
I know those infomercials make that Tricep Toner 2000 look like the miracle you’ve been waiting your whole life for.
But it doesn’t work.
And neither does that Detox Tea that all those “fitfluencers” promote on Instagram.
Detox Tea literally just cleans out all the old poo from your colon and makes you pee a lot.
With a nutritious, high fibre diet, drinking enough water, and plenty of regular exercise you’ll be able to achieve the same thing (in a far less explosive, damaging and uncomfortable way).
The weight loss industry is worth $72 billion a year and growing, and MOST of the products it markets prey upon the physical insecurities unnecessarily thrust on society (particularly women) by the media, seducing you, guilting you and manipulating you into turning over fistfuls of your hard earned cash for useless (and sometimes even dangerous) products that DON’T. WORK.
And the reason we find them so sexy is because they promise it’s as easy as a pill, or a shake, or a tea, or a waist trainer.
We get to bypass the hard stuff like going for lots of walks, and working out, and just eating better and treating ourselves well.
It’s a lot harder to choke down a thick leafy salad than it is to swallow a pill promising to do the same thing.
Except it doesn’t work (because it’s bullshit), and then we blame OURSELVES.
How fucked up is that?
Please, if you do one thing after reading this post, do one thing for me.
Save your money. Don’t buy the diet pills. Don’t buy the detox tea. Don’t buy that expensive, toxic preworkout garbage.
Go out and spend that money on something far more effective:
Nutritious food (healthy fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and lean protein)
Some good running shoes and a robust sports bra
A few basic pieces of home gym equipment (it doesn’t have to cost a lot of space or money)
I absolutely PROMISE you it’s money better spent.
Losing Fat From a Particular Area Fact #5: Changing How You Feel About a Body Part Is As Easy & Difficult as Changing Your Perspective
This one is tough.
Self acceptance something I’m still working on, with varying degrees of success.
So I’ve saved it for last.
I need to promise you something: if you aren’t doing the work to love yourself, as you are now, then NOTHING you change about your physical body will change that.
Yes, exercising and taking good care of your body WILL make a difference in your confidence and self esteem, I don’t care what anyone says.
When you look after yourself, and treat your body like a temple, you will just honestly feel better in it.
Since I started this fitness journey, my self confidence and self esteem has magnified by 200%. I can’t deny that.
But it ALL BEGAN from a place of self love and self acceptance.
A willingness to just do the right thing by my physical health, even if the way I looked never changed.
And along the way, admittedly, it’s been tough to stick with that, especially because the weight hardcore plateaued about five weeks in, and it’s taken me the better part of a month to progress again.
And it's only the foundation of self love and health first approach that has kept me going.
But I promise you, it’s a worthwhile journey to start. It ALL begins with self love and self acceptance.
We all have areas we’re insecure about. Even people who have the body you consider to be #fitnessgoals.
The more you can accept your body how it is, as it is, the better your relationship with it will be, and the freer you’ll feel.
And the cool part about it is, when you drop the resistance and the insecurity and the struggle, everything shifts.
When you decide you’re awesome, and sexy, and healthy, and fitness goals, the exterior will start catching up.
And I know that it sounds contradictory but it’s true: we absolutely CAN accept our bodies, even when we want to change them.
1. Be good to your body
Treat it with respect. Feed it with nutritious food (most of the time). Move it often, the way it was designed to be used. Get lots of sleep. Drink lots of water. Celebrate it. Wear clothes to accentuate your favourite features. Look at it as art and decide that it’s your masterpiece.
2. Be patient with your progress
Looking back, you’ll realise that the journey was everything. Lasting progress doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a slow burn. Rather than focusing on all the ways you’re not “there” yet, focus on the daily tiny wins: you drank your water target, you got in 10,000 steps, you worked out, you ate well. Each tiny victory is PROGRESS.
3. Got a body part you don’t like? Focus on all the wonderful things it actually does for you.
You might not like the shape of your nose, but here it is, helping you breathe life giving oxygen into your lungs, protecting your body from germs, smelling fresh baked donuts and bouquets of flowers.
Or maybe you’re not a fan of your tummy, but it’s digesting your food, keeping all your vital organs protected, and providing you with energy to live your life.
Once I started learning about anatomy, I never looked at my body the same way. It’s such an INCREDIBLE piece of machinery.
Really get down and dirty with anatomy – there’s LOADS of great videos on YouTube – and begin understanding just how incredible your body is.
The way you look is LITERALLY just the decorating, baby. It's totally okay to repaint the walls if you don't like the colour - just don't start tearing them down.
You know what I mean?
4. Use affirmations to change your language around your body
Affirmations are single handedly the most useful tool I’ve used to change my relationship to my body. I listen to them every morning as I get ready for the day.
You don’t have to start at the extreme with “I love my body and I feel sexy.”
You might start with:
Every day in every way my body grows healthier and stronger.
Every day in every way I accept my body more and more.
It’s okay and safe to be in my body.
It’s safe for me to love the skin I’m in.
Those little language tweaks can make affirmations SO much more believable if you’re not used to talking about your body that way.
And affirmations only work if you can say them with belief and feeling.
When I first started, saying things like “I am one sexy bitch” felt ridiculous, because I wasn’t there yet. But with time I was able to level up my self talk.
P.S. If you’re having a hard time getting started with affirmations, I have a pressie just for you ... an .mp3 audio of self love affirmations (totally relaxing and zen) that you can listen to before bed or first thing in the morning (just not while you’re driving ... kay?) It’s part of my free bundle of fitness journey resources, which you can access HERE or via the banner below.
Whilst there’s no “magic pill” that will help you lose fat from one particular area, it can be done with time. With a little patience, strategic training, and a healthy lifestyle, which will reduce overall body fat and increase muscle mass, you’re sure to see the results you want.
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