Fat deposits are a common occurrence that cannot always be eliminated through diet and exercise alone. But how do these areas of so-called stubborn fat form and what causes them? And more importantly, how can you shrink them or get rid of them altogether?
How Fat Deposits Form
As you consume food, cells begin to build glycogen from glucose, fats from fatty acids and proteins from amino acids, according to Michele S. Green, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City.
"The fatty acids are absorbed from the blood into fat cells," she says. "In these cells, fatty acids are made into fat molecules and stored as fat droplets."
Adipose tissue, otherwise known as fat, is generally found beneath the skin. Dr. Green says that stubborn fat deposits can accumulate throughout the body, but areas where stubborn fat deposits often collect include:
- Inner thighs.
- Outer thighs.
- Flanks (sides).
According to Dr. Green, improper estrogen levels are a common cause of stubborn fat. "Having a rise in estrogen levels can cause the body to store more fat than the body actually needs, leading to stubborn fat deposits," she says. "Other factors that can contribute to stubborn fat are consuming processed foods, your body's natural metabolism and not being able to process the foods you eat."
Read more: How to Get Rid of Fat Deposits & Tone Outer Thighs
Getting Rid of Fat Deposits
Regardless of the cause, Dr. Green explains that when fat deposits accumulate, diet and exercise often don't do the trick, and this can be frustrating. But there are several ways to remove fat deposits, some more invasive than others.
Perhaps the most well-known is liposuction, also known as lipectomy, a surgical procedure that involves the removal of fat cells from an area of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Because everyone has a set number of fat cells that expand and contract as you gain and lose weight, removing these fat cells is permanent, Mayo says.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), almost any area of the body that contains fat cells can be reshaped by removing the cells. A popular procedure used to accomplish this is a type of liposuction called tumescent liposuction. It's often used for the following purposes, according to the AAD:
- Slim the hips.
- Minimize saddlebags.
- Flatten the abdominal area.
- Create a more defined jaw line.
- Give the neck a more youthful look.
- Decrease the size of the upper arms.
- Improve the appearance of the back.
- Reduce love handles.
- Contour the waist.
- Reduce the buttocks.
- Reduce the inner thighs and knees.
the appearance of the ankles.
Dr. Green says there are also less-invasive ways than liposuction to eliminate fat deposits, including CoolSculpting, Kybella (for the area beneath the chin) and even fat-dissolving drinks.
"CoolSculpting is a noninvasive medical procedure that works by removing extra fat cells located beneath the skin," Dr. Green explains. "It uses a technique known as cryolipolysis — freezing the fat cells. The frozen, dead fat cells are then excreted out through the body's normal digestive system."
CoolSculpting can be used on various areas of the body, she says, including the arms, neck, buttocks, abdomen, thighs and flanks. "Once the fat cells are killed, they do not come back unless you gain weight after receiving your CoolSculpting treatment," she says.
If you're concerned about how the area beneath your chin looks, a nonsurgical procedure called Kybella may be helpful, according to Dr. Green. Fat in this area is typically genetic and hard to get rid of, she says.
"Kybella is an injectable form of deoxycholic acid (DA) that's administered by your dermatologist," Dr. Green says. "Once DA is injected under the chin, it'll react with the excess fat cells, eliminating their ability to hold fat."
Lastly, Dr. Green says that there are a few fat-dissolving drinks that may help shrink fat deposits.
"Green tea is on the top of the list," she says. "It's packed with antioxidants such as catechins that are said to help fight stubborn fat. These antioxidants also promote faster release of fat from fat cells located in the abdomen, resulting in a slimmer belly. Celery juice, peppermint tea, drinks that contain ginger, lemon, cucumber ... can all help increase your metabolism, resulting in fat loss."