Can You Burn Fat In Just One Area?

You can't. You can't lose fat in just one area. Wait! Don't leave. Keep reading. There are strategies to burn fat deposits that really DO work. Let's separate the fact from the fiction.

We hear this request A LOT: "How can I burn the fat off my [insert body part here]?"

You'll find tons of misleading fitness information out there (not just on this topic, by the way...) and it can be hard to know whom to believe. You might find trainers, websites and programs that advertise their ability to "blast tummy fat" or "shrink your hips!" 

Hang on, mama. It's not quite that simple.

I am compelled to tell the truth, not just because it's my job to explain this stuff but because I just despise the way the fitness industry manipulates & lies to women about all the amazing, incredible (impossible) results they can get if they just do this one exercise, use this one protein powder or buy this one piece of equipment.

Like these hacks, I'd be lying if I told you I could do anything about your body type. You are who you are. When you lose fat, you lose it from every fatty part of your body almost equally. In the areas that you have little fat - like your shoulders or your face - you'll notice that fat loss more quickly because there is less to lose and the underlying muscle will show through more quickly. In the areas where you are genetically predisposed to store fat - like your bum and thighs - you will notice the loss more slowly because an ounce of fat lost here or there will be just a drop in the bucket.

We're simplifying slightly, but the point is accurate. You have to lose a substantial amount of weight in order to really slim down your natural fat deposits.

A couple of other points, without getting too technical:

  • For those of us who carry abdominal fat (rather than the typical female "pear shape" deposits), hormonal fluctuations related to stress, sleep, and carbohydrate consumption will particularly influence our ability to store or burn fat.
  • For those of us who carry lower body fat (the typical female butt, hip & thigh fat), hormonal fluctuations in pregnancy & postpartum will influence our tendency to store fat in order to provide sustenance for baby and balance our body's centre of gravity.

Many genetic, hormonal and lifestyle factors come into play here. So simply doing a few -- or a thousand -- squats or situps (please don't do sit-ups, while we're on the topic) really won't affect where fat is stored on the body. 

This is not the answer the average mama likes to hear. She wants to hear: "Yes, of course! Just do this exercise for 8 weeks and you'll have Serena Williams' abs."

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I'll just give you a minute to stare. 

OK, back to the matter at hand.

What can you control?

We at BB encourage you to think critically about beauty & fitness culture, and to realize that your unique shape is a part of your individuality and not a failing.

But say you do want to change your body. The sometimes frustrating truth is that you are born with a shape. You might be the typical female pear—lean upper body and curvy hips and thighs. You might be a bit more square or apple-shaped with fat distributed more equally around the body and perhaps a bit of a belly. Whatever your unique shape, you must try to embrace it. You can improve your fitness, grow more muscle, lose or gain fat, but never change your overall proportions. 

You might be carrying too much weight and eating unhealthily. A year from now, with the help of a trainer, some new healthy eating habits and a lust for life, you might look more like Serena Williams than you do now. But you will never look exactly like her. She has her own limitations and advantages. She has her own areas that don't respond well to training. She has her own pockets of fat. Yours are where yours are and hers are where hers are.

Developing muscle is different from "burning fat."

You can, on the other hand, train and focus on growing muscles in just one part of the body or another.

A well-designed fitness program will include all of the muscles of the body and not just the ones that you see when you look in the mirror. If, however, you are determined to have "more toned arms" --  a comment we hear often at BB -- you can spend more time each week strength training your upper body muscles and begin to see the fruits of your labour within a couple of months, usually.

That's why rowers, who train their upper bodies a great deal, show more muscle mass there than, say, soccer players, whose sport emphasizes lower body strength.

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But you must also consider that the muscles with more fat covering them will be less obvious. If you have a significant amount of abdominal fat, no amount of plank work will give you a flat stomach. You might have a six-pack underneath that tummy. But you, like most people, will probably never see your six pack.

The way our bodies are built doesn't always conform to society's standards of beauty. Nature doesn't build you a "bikini body," it builds you a machine based on thousands of years of evolution, and every part of you is completely, 100% on purpose. Nature rarely screws up.. Fat location & hormones are genetic and largely pre-determined. You might just wonder why your best friend's fat is on her chest and her ass and yours is all spilling out over top of your jeans.

Thank your mom and dad. You probably inherited it. And it's been put there for a reason.

What if you really, really want to lose fat?

You can make some changes to your body. You can exercise and eat well and allow your body to stabilize comfortably, at the weight and size it lands at when you are active and healthy. You can lose fat by controlling your food intake and, if you continue to lose fat, eventually you will notice a decrease in even your largest genetic fat deposits.

If you've been exercising and minding your diet but aren't seeing change, you can enlist a trainer and/or dietitian/nutritionist to help you figure out where you might be going wrong.

As you continue to exercise and eat well over the months and years, you'll accumulate more and more benefits, compounding on one another like interest: a bit more muscle in your shoulders & arms, a bit of a rounder, higher bum, a heart that keeps ticking like the Energizer bunny, and so on. Remember, it's a long game. Try to stay focused on the goal of constant improvement rather than fixating on a certain size, weight or celebrity physique.

Try to remember that those who have eliminated their natural fat deposits (such as body builders & bikini figure competitors) are using extreme measures and only maintain their low level of body fat as long as they maintain their severely restricted diets and marathon workout schedules. That means, if you really think that inch you can pinch on your thighs is the enemy, you'd better be prepared to live without wine, Sunday brunch, popcorn at the movies or even just a bit of mashed potatoes at dinner... or the fat will return to those natural places.

Exercise for confidence, for strength, and for mobility. Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet without obsessing, but with mindfulness and a goal of living a long, healthy, active life. (So, maybe pancakes at brunch with the girls and not every morning...you see what I mean?)

Your weight will stabilize if you can find this balance for yourself, and I'll bet you'll be pleasantly surprised with YOUR version of a fit, well-nourished body. Plus, you'll still be able to enjoy a glass of wine after the littles are in bed.

What it comes down to, in my opinion, is this. Do you want to enjoy life in a size 10 or hate life in a size 6? 

 

xo

-D.