While it’s common to think that cutting back on calories or doing some extra crunches means you’ll be targeting that pesky stomach fat in particular, our bodies don’t exactly work that way. Now, some research does suggest that certain people are more likely to lose abdominal body fat more quickly, but most of us lose weight throughout our body fairly evenly. To better understand how and why our body sheds kilos all over and not just in those areas we call “problems,” we can look at how weight loss works.
When we talk about “weight loss,” we usually mean the loss of body fat. Body fat is the body’s storage system: When we consume more calories than we burn, our body’s fat cells take on that extra energy. When this happens, these storage cells expand, and body fat starts to grow. Conversely, if we consume fewer calories than we burn over time, the body calls upon this fat storage, and our fat cells release stored energy into our blood stream. As fat storage cells shrink and release their energy stores, our bodies shed weight.
Now, though it may seem like you carry fat in one specific part of your body, fat storage tissue is found under our skin all around our body (subcutaneous fat), as well as in our abdominal area around our organs (visceral fat). So, while you may prefer that the fat cells in your thighs, arms, or some other area be the first to downsize, our body doesn’t tend to pick favourites.
However, though we do lose fat “evenly” from all our fat storage cells, it may seem like some areas are thinning out more quickly than others. This is because there is naturally less fat storage tissue in some areas of the body and more fat in others. For example: men tend to carry more fat around their abdominal area, while women carry more fat around their buttocks and thighs. Because there is more fat in these areas—compared to, say, your face—as the body begins to lose weight, it may appear as though it’s only thinning out in some places. In reality, it may just take more time for certain spots to become noticeably slimmer because they simply have more fat cells.
Does that mean doing extra crunches and pull-ups to build muscle won’t help with fat loss? Not exactly. While there is very little evidence that shows you can directly burn off fat from specific areas by targeting certain muscles, there are still plenty of benefits to exercise! First, exercise burns calories, and we all know that if you burn more calories than you eat, that leads to weight loss. Second, having more muscle mass means your body burns more calories naturally throughout the day, even when you’re at rest.
Maybe you’ll find it frustrating that you can’t pick and choose exactly where your body will shed weight. The good news though, is if you’re sticking to a healthy diet, proper portions, and an active lifestyle, you’ll lose weight evenly and in a healthy, sustainable way. The best way to tackle “spot reduction” is to lose a healthy amount of weight overall. If you happen to notice that some areas of your body are starting to look slimmer, you know you’re on your way to your weight loss goals.