If you have a pear shape, larger hips and a smaller midsection, be thankful. Women's tendency to deposit fat in the hips and thighs is protective against certain chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in a 2012 issue of the Biology of Sex Differences. Hip fat is subcutaneous, sitting right under the skin, and it's harder to lose than visceral fat, which is the deep-set fat commonly found in men's pudgy bellies. You can't directly target the hips for weight loss, but you can drop weight all over, which will help your hips reduce along with the rest of your body.
The Fallacy of Spot Reduction
The idea that you can decide from where you lose weight is myth, perpetrated by magazine articles and ads for fitness gadgets. You lose weight in the way it's distributed in the body. In certain areas, weight loss might be more evident -- such as the face or breasts, but that doesn't mean you aren't shrinking fat cells elsewhere too. If your genes have blessed you with a pear shape, when you lose weight, you'll remain a pear shape, but smaller.
Hormones make women likely to deposit fat around the hips to support childbirth and lactation. Countering nature and losing fat from the hips specifically is challenging.
If you are overweight, eating fewer calories than you burn will help your entire frame shrink. Use an online calculator or ask a dietitian to help you estimate your daily calorie burn. Then aim for a meal plan that has you consuming 500 to 1,000 calories less than you burn to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Never drop below 1,200 calories, which is usually the minimal amount required to meet nutritional needs for most women.
Aim for moderate portions of whole, unprocessed foods, such as lean proteins, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Keep your intake of sweets and sugary drinks to a minimum. Monitor your portion sizes using a food scale and measuring cups. A food diary helps you keep track of your daily intake and lets you know whether you're on target for overall weight loss.
Exercise to Lose Hip Fat
Many women can't create a 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit by restricting food alone without overly depriving themselves and dipping below 1,200 calories. Exercise is critical in helping women increase their daily calorie burn, so they can create a weight-loss deficit. For significant weight loss, aim for 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. This includes jogging, swimming, dancing or hiking.
A comprehensive strength-training routine performed a couple times per week helps you develop more lean muscle mass, which increases daily calorie burn too. While hip-directed exercises won't burn fat in the area, they will develop the muscles that exist underneath so that when you lose pounds, you look taut and lean. Lunges, lateral leg extensions, deadlifts and squats all help strength the muscles of the hips. Include these moves along with chest, back, arm, shoulder and abdominal exercises to promote a healthy physique.
Health Effects of Women's Hip Fat
While hip fat may affect your appearance in your skinny jeans, it affords you a physiological advantage when it comes to health. Belly fat is a metabolically active type of fat that increases your risk of developing chronic disease. Unlike belly fat, hip fat doesn't release hormone-like compounds into the blood, so it's not as insidious. Hip fat even affords certain biological advantages, especially as an emergency source of energy for women during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The higher amount of hip fat found in women associates with a lower risk of metabolic disorders.
You may not like the cosmetic side effects of hip fat, such as cellulite. No creams, injections, pills or fad-solutions can rid you of this subcutaneous fat, though.
- Ask the Dietitian: Overweight & Weight Loss
- American Council on Exercise: Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn
- Scientific American: Why Does Fat Deposit on the Hips and Thighs of Women and Around the Stomachs of Men?
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss
- Biology of Sex Differences: Sex Differences in Human Adipose Tissues – The Biology of Pear Shape
- CNN: When You're Losing Weight, Where Does the Fat Go?