While the term “love handles” implies affection, there isn’t a woman on earth—at least not one I’ve ever met—who loves her love handles. Also known as “muffin top” (because instead of being flush with the waist of the pants, they hang over them like a muffin top), love handles are very common in women – especially as we age, and especially when we go through menopause come. While completely natural, they can make us feel self-conscious about our size and silhouette. While we’re all perfect the way we’re made, there’s no denying that weight loss—particularly the reduction of body fat and belly fat—has health benefits. Thus, the quest to get rid of love handles continues.
The good news is that a healthy diet rich in protein, vegetables, and healthy fats combined with a regular exercise routine of strength training and fat-burning moves can go a long way toward reducing or even getting rid of love handles. Here’s what you need to know.
What are Love Handles?
Before you go after stubborn love handles, it’s helpful to understand what they are and why they develop. Love handles occur when the body stores excess fat — usually due to excess calorie consumption — in the abdomen. (Since many of our vital organs are located near the hips and waist, the body stores excess fat there to protect them.)
A common myth that persists around love handles is that they can be targeted. While it’s true that some parts of our body respond more quickly to certain exercises, spot reduction — reducing visceral fat in only one part of the body — isn’t actually possible. On the contrary, love handles should be reduced over time by increasing muscle mass and strengthening the entire body.
That said, people’s body composition varies and weight loss trajectories look different for everyone, which explains why some people develop pronounced love handles and others don’t.
How to get rid of love handles
Love handles can be uncomfortable, especially in tight-fitting clothing, and being overweight is a risk factor for several chronic conditions. Here are steps you can take to reduce the appearance of love handles and improve your overall health.
1. Adjust your diet
Fat loss, especially losing the belly fat around the belly, requires a healthy diet. Since love handles cannot be targeted on their own, losing weight is generally the goal (as this will shrink love handles and other trouble spots at the same time).
To get started, find a diet that suits your needs; Punitive or restrictive diets often lead to fat retention as the body perceives it to be in starvation mode. Instead, make small changes like cutting back on sugar, alcohol, and processed foods, all of which cause weight gain and inflammation. Replace these with foods that build abs, such as protein and healthy fats, and swap sugary candies for fruit.
A healthy diet is one that works for your needs, so adjust the ingredients as you go. It’s worth noting that a weight loss of one pound per week equates to a deficit of 3,500 calories per week (or 500 calories per day). A healthy diet provides enough calories, but gets those calories from foods that nourish the body.
2. Stay active
Many of us have sedentary jobs that keep us glued to a chair all day. So adding regular exercise to our routine can have a big impact on our bodies, including how we hold our weight. Ideal is of course an extensive training routine with cardio, squats and lunges. But even simple movements, such as yoga, stretching, cycling, and walking, can lead to weight loss. These small changes can also help reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions related to obesity, such as diabetes. To start, create a practical routine that works with the rhythm of your life. This is what is known as a “success environment,” and it greatly increases the likelihood that you will stick to your weight loss goals. Why? Because a program that is convenient and accessible is easier to maintain in the long run.
3. Focus on strength building
There are, of course, benefits to more intense workout routines, such as strength training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and core-focused exercises. Resistance training and strength training such as crunches, obliques, and dumbbell reps can help your body burn fat at rest. (This means that the weight loss effects of your workout will continue even after you step off the treadmill.) That said, it’s important to listen to your body when you exercise, especially when performing upper-body strength-training exercises like push -ups and pull-ups, as there is a risk of injury. Start small and increase the intensity of your workouts over time.
4. Stay hydrated
Reducing love handles requires more physical activity. This, in turn, means increased water intake, both to stay hydrated and to encourage weight loss. Water helps suppress appetite, so we only eat as much as we need and only when we need it. It also keeps us happy, active and energized, making us less likely to eat chocolate on the couch. Keep a water bottle on your desk and practice reaching for a glass of water instead of a snack throughout the day.
5. Find stress management techniques
Stress can have a major impact on weight gain and loss, so it’s a good idea to find management techniques for the things that cause stress. In simple terms, stress causes the body to produce cortisol, the stress hormone that provides bursts of energy. Often referred to as the fight or flight hormone, it functions as a trigger that alerts us to danger. However, today’s world doesn’t present the same dangers as in the past – when we need to flee from a lion or avoid approaching marauders, for example – so when cortisol levels rise due to stress at work or school, we have no outlet to help ourselves. get rid of the excess energy.
The result is a rapid and dramatic drop in energy levels, which — along with a drop in blood sugar — triggers cravings for sugary foods and snacks. Long-term elevated cortisol levels have also been shown to increase your belly fat, so reducing stress will also help you reduce your love handles.
6. Get more sleep
Sleep is another important piece of the weight loss puzzle. For starters, when we don’t get enough sleep, it can increase our stress levels and cause overeating. Moreover, when we are tired during the day, we reach for sugary snacks to give us energy. Lack of sleep is also directly correlated with overeating. This is due to both the pressure to stay energized and chemical changes in hormones. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep, if possible.
A little excess fat around the waist and lower back is relatively common and affects women of all ages. Tackling love handles and fat accumulation in a sustainable and long-term way has many benefits, including increased energy and a reduced risk of chronic conditions. Simple changes to get rid of your love handles include dietary changes that reduce sugar and alcohol intake and increase hydration and your activity level, whether low-impact or high-impact. Also, make sure you get enough sleep and manage stress, as both can cause hormone changes that lead to weight gain. At the end of the day, losing your love handles is more about feeling good than looking good. You’re already gorgeous – and don’t forget that!