Where you store fat determines whether or not you're at a higher risk for metabolic and heart diseases. Too much belly fat -- the kind that spills over your waistband -- is the type to avoid. Love handles and hip-bone fat aren't only an aesthetic problem -- they're a health problem. Luckily, this spare tire is responsive to exercise and a lower calorie diet.
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The Problem With Belly Fat
Love handles and the fat above your hip bone are a result of visceral, or belly, fat. Visceral fat is different from the subcutaneous fat that sits on the lower hips, thighs and arms. Visceral fat is metabolically active and secretes compounds that have been linked to type 2 diabetes, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer in women.
You lose visceral fat the same way you reduce weight anywhere on your body -- by eating less and moving more. While you can't target these areas directly, your belly is one of the first places to reduce when you adopt traditional weight-loss techniques.
Calorie Changes to Lose the Love Handles
Calorie reduction yields weight loss when you eat less than you burn per day. Most people can prompt weight loss by having a caloric deficit of between 250 and 1,000 calories per day, to result in 1/2 to 2 pounds of fat lost per week.
A combination of diet and physical activity creates the deficit; trimming a large number of calories isn't always possible, however. You don't want to eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day because this strategy often backfires. You're overly hungry, your metabolism stalls and you lose a considerable amount of valuable, lean tissue.
Estimate your average calorie burn daily using an online calculator, then subtract 250 to 500 calories to find your goal intake for weight loss. Add 250- to 500-calories' worth of exercise to increase the burn rate, and therefore the deficit; or, settle for a lower loss rate per week.
Eating to Lose Hip and Love Handle Fat
Sugary beverages, such as soda and energy drinks, contain a lot of calories that contribute to visceral fat gain. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that regularly consuming fructose sweetened drinks, which includes soda, correlates with increased visceral fat. Eliminate these as well as other sources of sugar, including baked goods and candy.
Whole grains, vegetables and lean proteins should make up the bulk of your meals. Replace white bread and pasta with options such as brown rice or barley. Watery, green vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, peppers and broccoli, offer few calories but have a wealth of nutrients. Whole grains and vegetables also have a lot of fiber, which helps fill you up and also cleans out your digestive tract. Proteins from meat and poultry that are low in saturated fat, include flank steak and white-meat chicken or turkey. Fish, eggs and tofu are other quality sources of protein that support weight loss.
Observe your portion sizes at meals. Too much of any food can erase your deficit and keep you from losing your love handles and hip fat.
Exercise to Reduce Your Waist
Crunching, side bending and rotating your torso may make you feel like your whittling away your love handles and hip fat, but they're not the most effective exercises. You can't work fat away from specific areas; you can only lose fat all over your body. A comprehensive physical fitness program that makes your body burn more calories overall is a better way to address your visceral fat. The Rush University Medical Center notes that a physically active lifestyle is your best defense against belly fat.
This means that you should get the requisite 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio -- or 30 minutes five times a week -- as well as engage in strength training all your major muscle groups, with a minimum of one set of eight to 12 repetitions twice a week. Increasing moderate-intensity cardio to 60 minutes a day may make it easier to lose belly fat. To accomplish burning 250 to 500 calories, a 180-pound person can pedal an elliptical trainer for 30 minutes to burn 400 calories; walk for 60 minutes at 4 mph to burn 400 calories or jog for 30 minutes to burn just over 250 calories.