Carrying extra weight in the abdomen is associated with increased risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Carrying weight near the abdomen is more harmful than carrying extra weight in the lower body because the excess fat around the abdomen can interact with the liver, pancreas, heart and other organs.
Everyone stores fat differently and can be genetically determined where fat is stored. Extra fat around the hips, often called love handles, can seem especially hard to get rid of. Even though carrying extra fat around the hips may not be as harmful as abdominal obesity, there can still be benefit to getting rid of love handles. While there is no definitive equation to lose fat in this area, here are some tips to get rid of love handles.
One of the biggest ways to target getting rid of fat is to clean up the diet. Eating and drinking too many calories can drastically increase the likelihood that the body is going to store extra fat. (see also: How many calories to lose weight)
Particularly, focus on cutting out extra sugar from your diet. Cut out sodas, even healthy sounding juices, baked goods, packaged snacks and candy. Other foods high in sugar can be condiments, canned soups, frozen dinners and take-out food.
Cutting back on sugar can help lower blood sugar levels after a meal which can lower the body’s release of insulin. Insulin takes glucose from the blood and brings it into body cells for energy or storage. Insulin also promotes fat storage, so limiting insulin release can help decrease fat accumulation in the body.
Increase fiber intake through produce, legumes and whole grains. Filling up on fibrous foods can keep you full longer on less calories while still leaving you satisfied. Make sure you have a lean protein source at every meal to also help stabilize blood sugar levels and increase satisfaction after a meal. Healthy protein choices include lean meats, dairy products, nuts, beans and soy products.
Another dietary change to help get rid of love handles is to watch your portion sizes. Eating a lot of food at one time, like eating sugary foods, can spike blood sugar levels. This will also promote a high insulin response leading to increased fat storage.
Exercises to get rid of love handles
People often think doing a lot of stomach exercises can help get rid of love handles. While it may help, primarily ab exercises work to strengthen the muscles underneath the fat layer not to burn the fat away.
There are many exercises you can do to strengthen the abdominal, hip and glute area. Remember to vary your exercises and strengthen the muscles all around your pelvic area. Examples of strengthening exercises include:
- Planks, front and side. Start with 30 seconds and work your way up to being able to do a plank for 60-90 seconds. Stay in a straight line from your head to your toes without dropping or raising hips. You can do a plank from your hands or forearms and your toes or knees.
- Bicycle and/or Russian twists to target obliques
- Hanging leg raises
There are many other beneficial strengthening exercises. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends strength training 2-3 times per week targeting all major muscle groups. The ACSM recommends 2-4 sets for each exercise and 8-15 repetitions per exercise, depending on age and exercise goals.
Strength training can increase muscle strength and cardiovascular exercise can increase fat loss. Both types of exercises are needed if you want to get rid of love handles, or any other excess fat on the body. Examples of cardiovascular exercises include walking, jogging, stair stepping, bike riding, swimming, etc.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days a week for general health, and weight loss may take even more exercise, up to 60-90 minutes per day. (see also: How many calories you can burn in 30 minutes)
Can’t spot reduce
Keep in mind, even if you follow a healthy diet, do strength training and cardiovascular exercise you can’t guarantee where you lose fat from. Fat storage and fat loss have a genetic component that leaves a lot of room for individual variance.
Increasing exercise generally means losing weight from the mid-section for most people. If you get frustrated by a halt in your exercise progress, don’t give up. If you still want to lose fat from love handles, stay consistent for best results.
There are general guidelines for losing fat mass wherever it is on the body: cleaning up the diet by reducing excess sugar intake, watching portion sizes and eating a balanced diet with fiber and healthy protein and fat sources. Exercise consistently with cardiovascular and strength training routines.
These steps can help get rid of love handles, but keep in mind you can’t spot reduce when trying to lose weight. Where your body loses fat mass from has a strong genetic component.