If you surf the net in search of weight loss tips, you’ll no doubt have seen dozens of ads and/or links for weight loss articles offering you ‘top tips to reduce belly fat!!’, or ‘5 ways to lose fat from your thighs!’. I’ve been more active on Pinterest lately and am seeing this ‘advice’ pop up a lot so I figured a reality check was called for.
Can you reduce belly fat?
Of course, but not in the way the headlines imply. These ‘top tips’ do you a real disservice with their over-simplifications and half-truths, so it’s time to be very clear about this:
It is impossible to ‘spot reduce’ fat, meaning, that you can’t pick and choose where on your body fat will be removed from (except through cosmetic surgery!).
When you diet, that is, you eat at a calorie deficit to lose weight, fat will come off all over your body. The rate of fat loss, and where it’s noticeable, depends largely on your genetics.
For women, it’s quite often the case that the areas of ‘stubborn’ fat, i.e. belly, buttocks and thighs, where hormones dictate we’re more likely to store it, are the places fat will come off last.
So when you’re offered a chance to ‘target stubborn belly fat’ for example, this is only likely to be effective for actually reducing fat from those areas if your overall body fat percentage is already quite low, and you might be almost at your weight loss goal.
As a very rough guiding principle, fat tends to visibly reduce from our extremities first, slowly moving in towards our torsos, and coming off the belly, hips, buttocks and thighs last, although of course we are all different and have different body shapes.
So, what then?
What you can do to target a particular area is to develop the muscle in that area so that you look more toned. Visible muscle definition reduces the appearance of body fat. You look leaner. But it is physically impossible for fat to convert in any way into muscle.
The secret to looking lean is to have well-toned muscle and minimal body fat. Stripping away the fat covering over your muscle is what creates the look that many people are actually seeking when they say they want to ‘lose weight’.
- You can’t ‘target’ a particular area for fat loss. Fat loss will occur at a steady rate, providing you are exercising and eating at a calorie deficit to burn your fat stores.
- Belly fat is one of those particular problem areas for women that, depending on your genetics and your hormones, is likely to be one of the last areas for fat to reduce from. This means being patient and accepting that overall fat loss is a marathon, not a sprint.
- At the same time as doing the ‘hard’ work with your diet, you can begin to look slimmer by developing muscle all over, and particularly in those areas you’re most troubled by. Strength training has myriad other benefits too, and no, you won’t ‘bulk up’.
- Fat cannot be ‘converted’ to muscle. The ‘secret’ to being lean is to develop muscle through exercise, and strip away the covering fat through diet.
You can do it!
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