While the term «love handles» implies affection, there’s no woman on earth — at least, not one I’ve ever met — who loves her love handles. Also known as «muffin tops» (because instead of sitting flush with the waist of the pants, they hang over them like a muffin top), love handles are common among women – especially as we age, and more particularly, when we enter menopause. Although completely natural, they can make us feel conscious of our size and figure. While we’re all perfect the way we’re made, there’s no denying that losing weight — especially reducing body fat and belly fat — has health benefits. Thus, the search for how 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 routine of regular strength-training exercises and fat-burning moves can go a long way in reducing and even eliminating love handles. . Here’s what you need to know.
What are love handles?
Before tackling stubborn love handles, it helps to understand what they are and why they develop. Love handles occur when the body stores excess fat—usually the result of excess calorie consumption—in the midsection. (Because many of our vital organs are near the hips and waist, the body deposits excess fat there to protect them.)
A common myth that persists around love handles is that they can be targeted. While it is true that certain parts of our body may respond more quickly to certain exercises, localized reduction – in which visceral fat is only reduced in one area of the body – is actually not possible. On the contrary, love handles should be reduced over time by increasing muscle mass and strengthening the whole body.
That said, people’s body composition varies and everyone’s weight loss journeys are different, which is 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 clothes, and being overweight is a risk factor for several chronic diseases. 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 abdominal fat loss around the midsection, requires a healthy diet. Since love handles cannot be targeted on their own, the goal is to lose weight overall (as this will simultaneously reduce love handles and other hot spots).
To get started, find a plan that meets your needs; punitive or restrictive diets often lead to fat retention because the body perceives that it is 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 them with foods that build abdominal muscles like protein and healthy fats, and replace sweets with fruit.
A healthy diet is one that meets your needs, so adjust and adapt the ingredients as you go. It should be noted that a weight loss of one pound per week is equivalent to a deficit of 3,500 calories per week (or 500 calories per day). A healthy diet provides enough calories, but it draws those calories from the foods that nourish the body.
2. Stay active
Many of us have sedentary jobs that keep us tied to a chair all day. Adding regular movement to our routine can therefore have a big impact on our body, including how we maintain our weight. A workout routine complete with cardio, squats, and lunges is, of course, ideal. But even simple moves, like yoga, stretching, biking, and walking, can trigger weight loss. These small changes can also help reduce the risk of developing chronic obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes. To start, create a practical routine that works with the rhythm of your life. It’s called a «success environment,» and it dramatically increases the likelihood that you’ll stick to your weight loss goals. Why? Because a practical and accessible program is easier to maintain in the long term.
3. Focus on Strength Building
There are, of course, benefits to more intense workout routines, such as weight training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and core-focused exercises. Resistance training and strength exercises like crunches, obliques, and reps with dumbbells can help your body burn fat at rest. (That means the weight-loss effects of your workout continue even after you get off the treadmill.) That said, it’s important to listen to your body when you exercise, especially when performing weight training exercises. upper body strength training such as 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 increased physical activity. This, in turn, means increased water intake, both to stay hydrated and to boost weight loss. Water helps suppress appetite, so we eat only the amount we need and only when we need it. It also makes us happy, active, and full of energy, making us less likely to sit on the couch eating chocolate. Keep a bottle of water at your desk and practice having a glass of water instead of a snack throughout the day.
5. Find stress management techniques
Stress can have a big impact on weight gain and weight loss, so it’s a good idea to find coping techniques for things that invoke it. Simply put, stress causes the body to produce cortisol, which is the stress hormone that provides bursts of energy. Often referred to as the fight or flight hormone, it functions as a trigger alerting us to danger. The world today, however, does not present the same dangers as in the past – when we might, for example, need to flee from a lion or avoid approaching marauders – so when cortisol levels increase due to stress at work or school, we lack an outlet to get rid of excess energy.
The result is a rapid and dramatic drop in energy levels, which, along with a drop in blood sugar, causes cravings for sugary foods and snacks. Long-term high cortisol levels have also been shown to increase your belly fat, so reducing stress will also help reduce your love handles.
6. Sleep more
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. Also, when we are tired during the day, we have sweet snacks to give us energy. Lack of sleep has also been directly correlated with overeating. It comes from both 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. There are many benefits to fighting love handles and fat accumulation in a sustainable, long-term way, including increased energy and reduced risk of chronic disease. Simple changes to lose your love handles include dietary changes that reduce sugar and alcohol intake and increase hydration and your activity level, low impact or high impact. Also, be sure to get enough sleep and manage your stress, as both can cause hormonal changes that lead to weight gain. Ultimately, losing your love handles is more about feel-good than «looking good.» You are already beautiful – and don’t forget it!