Whether you're getting ready for bikini season, preparing for a special event or just trying to drop pounds for your health, slimming down to a healthy weight can boost your well-being and your self-confidence. However, you can't lose fat from a specific area of your body, like your thighs, and trying to slim down too quickly can leave you feeling deprived. Instead of trying to trim your thighs as quickly as possible, jump-start your weight loss with a diet and exercise routine designed to give long-lasting results.
Set Realistic Goals for Smaller Thighs
Make sure you set realistic goals so that you lose weight at a healthy rate and are more likely to be satisfied with the end result. While a reduced-calorie diet will help you lose fat all over your body, it won't specifically target fat on your thighs. And depending on your genetics, and whether you generally carry excess weight in your hips and thighs, your thighs might be one of the last places to lose fat. Your bone structure can affect how your hips look, too; narrow hips can mean that even thin thighs touch, so you might not achieve a "thigh gap" even at a low body weight.
Instead of striving for fast weight loss on your thighs, aim for a weight loss between 1 to 2 pounds weekly to help you look fit all over. Understand that, while a good exercise routine can make your thighs appear toned and healthy, they might not resemble those of a runway model unless you already have that body type. Weight loss can be a long, sometimes frustrating promise, so setting achievable goals and focusing on how much healthier you feel will keep you motivated to maintain your active lifestyle.
Start Creating a Calorie Deficit
To trim down your thighs along with the rest of your body, you'll need to create a calorie deficit, which means you'll be eating and drinking fewer calories than you burn, which forces your body to start burning fat for energy. Aim for a deficit of 500 to 1,000 for slow, sustainable weight loss at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds weekly.
Exactly how many calories you need depends on several factors -- how active you are, your age, weight, height and gender. Use an online calculator to estimate how many calories you need, so you have a starting point to create your deficit. For example, a sedentary 25-year-old woman who is 5 foot, 5 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds needs approximately 1,974 calories per day. She could create a 500-calorie deficit by cutting her daily calorie intake to 1,474 calories daily and lose 1 pound per week, or create a 1,000-calorie deficit by eating 1,200 calories per day and burning an extra 225 calories daily through exercise to lose 2 pounds per week.
Don't consume fewer than 1,200 calories daily, or 1,800 calories daily if you're a man. While you might think cutting calories more will make you slim down faster, it actually slows your metabolism to make it harder to lose weight.
Get More Weight-Loss Friendly Nutrients
While, technically, any calorie deficit will make you lose weight, it's best to create your calorie-restricted meal plan using nutritious, unprocessed foods so you don't feel deprived on your diet. A few key nutrients boost satiety, or fullness, so they can help you stick to your diet plan.
Include a source of protein at every meal. Protein digests relatively slowly, so it boosts your feelings of fullness after a meal, which cuts down on your need for extra snacking. Make sure you're getting at least 15 percent of your daily calories from protein -- that's 45 grams of protein on a 1,200-calorie diet or 56 grams in a 1,500-calorie diet. Chicken and turkey breast, salmon, tuna, nuts, tofu and tempeh, beans, legumes and dairy all boost your protein intake.
You'll also want to focus on fiber, a carbohydrate found in whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, legumes and nuts. Like protein, fiber increases feelings of fullness, and adjusting your diet to include 30 grams of fiber daily is enough to trigger weight loss, a 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported. Include whole grains like amaranth, oatmeal, quinoa, and whole-wheat breads and pastas in your diet, along with plenty of produce at each meal.
As a bonus, fruits and veggies are loaded with water, which makes them low energy-density foods -- low in calories per gram. Making these foods staples in your diet promotes weight loss, notes Penn State University.
Avoid Fast Food and Salty Fare
Getting slim thighs isn't all about deprivation, but you'll want to limit your intake of processed foods. These foods tend to be loaded with calories and fat. For example, one commercially available fast food burger from a popular franchise has 563 calories per serving, while a large order of fries at another leading fast food franchise has 448 calories. Chicken fast food sandwiches don't fare much better -- a home-style chicken sandwich from a leading fast food chain has 492 calories. And if you're pairing your meal with a sugary soda or milkshake, you'll be taking in even more calories.
Despite their high calorie count, fast and processed foods typically aren't very filling -- in fact, fast foods and processed foods are often designed to make you want to eat more. Eating fast food, for example, can mean you meet your entire daily calorie intake in one meal, which means you'll either go hungry for the rest of the day, or you'll overeat and sabotage your weight loss results. They're also loaded with sodium, which triggers water retention that can make you look bloated, and can make your thighs appear bigger. The fast food burger, for instance, has almost half your daily sodium intake in a single serving.
Plan ahead so you don't hit the vending machine or the drive-thru. Keep an ounce of almonds in your bag to eat instead of a bag of chips, for example, and pack healthy meals you can eat on-the-go, like a breakfast smoothie made from Greek yogurt, fruits and vegetables, or a turkey and vegetable wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla.
Burn Fat With Cardiovascular Exercise
You can slim down your thighs more quickly by including cardiovascular exercise in your routine. Cardio burns calories, so it helps create a larger calorie deficit to trigger more fat loss. You don't need to spend endless hours on the treadmill to get your cardio in -- try mixing it up with a brisk walk or bike ride, a weekend day spent hiking, a sweat session on the rowing machine or an intense boot-camp-style fitness class. A 140-pound woman will burn roughly 477 calories in a 45-minute rowing session, or 636 calories in a vigorous 1-hour cycling session.
Choose cardio exercises that work all your thigh muscles, including your inner and outer thighs, to help make your thighs look slimmer and more toned. Workouts that move your legs laterally, like roller-blading, cross-country skiing or the skating machine at your gym all target the muscles on the inside and outside of your thighs, in addition to burning calories. Upping the resistance on your exercise machine can get your heart rate up, and also makes your thighs work harder, which can tone your muscles. Step aerobics, Zumba and other aerobic dance classes incorporate movements that work your inner and outer thighs, too.
Slim Your Thighs With Strength Training
While you can't spot reduce fat from your thighs, you can spot-train your muscles. Resistance training boosts your strength -- which can up your confidence level -- and it also helps you retain muscle as you lose weight, which keeps your metabolism revving.
Tone up your thighs with lower body exercises that work your butt, thighs and calves. These include squats, lunges, deadlifts and kettlebell swings. Because these moves work so many muscles, they'll get your heart rate up to help you burn calories, and they'll also help your thighs look tight and defined.
Modify lower body exercises so they target the inside and outside of your thighs to slim down. For example, place your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, and point your toes out during squats and deadlifts to tone your inner and outer thighs. Perform side lunges or curtsy lunges -- variations that include lateral movement -- in addition to typical front lunges. Perform glute bridges -- an effective exercise for your glutes and hamstrings -- while you hold a pillow or medicine ball between your knees. That way, you'll be toning your inner thighs as well as the back of your thighs.
Perform strength training workouts two to three times weekly on nonconsecutive days so that your muscles have a chance to rest and repair themselves. Make sure you work other muscle groups, too -- use planks and woodchops to strengthen and tone your core, as well as pushups and rows to tone your arms, chest, shoulders and back.
Watch Out for Overtraining
When you're trying to slim your thighs, you might feel tempted to target them with exercise every day to speed up your results. Don't do it; your muscles need downtime to repair and grow. Working out your thighs every single day can actually damage the muscle and keep you from seeing results, and over-training can make you feel tired and unmotivated, so you're more likely to ditch your diet and exercise program. It might also cause headaches, insomnia and joint pain and disrupt your menstrual cycle.
Give your thighs a break by performing your thigh-toning cardio -- like a high-resistance workout on the skating machine -- on the same day you do your strength training workouts; then choose other forms of cardio on the other days. Take at least one day a week as a complete rest day to allow your muscles to repair themselves. If you want to stay active, even on your rest day, limit yourself to a leisurely walk or a gentle yin yoga class to prevent over-training.
- McKinley Health Center: Breaking Down Your Metabolism
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator
- Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center: Calorie Burn Calculator
- Harvard Medical School: Extra Protein is a Decent Dietary Choice, But Don’t Overdo It
- Harvard Medical School: Making One Change — Getting More Fiber — Can Help with Weight Loss
- Penn State University: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Burger, Chicken Sandwich, Fries)
- University of New Mexico: Overtraining: Undermining Success?