A spare tire around your middle that forms a muffin top above your waistband may make you self-conscious when you're in and out of clothes. You desperately want to slim this area down, but the way your body gains and loses weight is a set pattern -- you can't target certain places for loss. When you embark on a total-body weight-loss routine, however, your love handles and lower back fat will reduce as you lose weight all over. A diet that emphasizes moderate portions of whole, unprocessed foods and total-body cardiovascular and strength-training exercise is your best way to fight this stubborn extra fat.
About Lower Back Fat and Love Handles
This pinchable fat of your love handles and lower back is likely subcutaneous fat that sits just under the skin and can be notoriously stubborn to lose. Subcutaneous fat may be unsightly and annoying, but it's far less dangerous than the firmer visceral fat that expands your middle.
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Your love handles and low back fat may have become more noticeable lately as visceral fat widens your waistband. This fat weaves in and around your internal organs and releases inflammatory compounds that increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A good indication that you have too much dangerous visceral fat is if your waistband measures greater than 40 inches as a man or 35 inches as a woman.
Comprehensive Weight-Loss Diet
The only way to lose either type of fat is through a comprehensive weight-loss strategy. No single plan can specifically target love handles or lower back fat, though. Fat loss happens when you create a calorie deficit – meaning you're taking in fewer calories than you burn. Your body converts stored fat to usable energy and you lose weight – but from all over, not a specific area. If you have a wide waistband, visceral fat will be some of the first fat you lose because it's more metabolically active and the soft, flabby love handles and back fat will come off in time.
Almost any diet will help you lose weight, but you want one that helps you keep the weight off and targets fat loss. Avoid fad diets that dramatically decrease your calorie intake below 1,200 calories for a woman or 1,800 calories for a man or prohibit entire food groups. They can be hard to sustain more than a day or two, leave you nutritionally deficient, stall your metabolism and burn off valuable muscle mass.
Choose a Sensible Diet Plan
Choose a diet plan that focuses on whole, unprocessed foods. Include lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and unsaturated fats. You may cut back on serving sizes of these foods, but avoid cutting them out altogether. Ultimately, you want to eat fewer calories than you burn every day – a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day allows for 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week because a pound of fat equals 3,500 calories.
Make sure your specific diet provides you with enough protein to help you feel full and prevent the loss of muscle mass that often happens when you reduce calories. Research published in the British Journal of Medicine in 2012 determined that people trying to lose weight benefit from at least 0.6 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.
An easy way to control portions and calorie intake is to fill half of your plate with watery, fibrous vegetables or fruit, a quarter with whole grains and the last quarter with a lean protein. Don't become overly concerned with the exact ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates you consume, though. A study published in a 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the weight-loss benefits of diets that emphasized different macronutrients, such as high protein or low fat. The results showed no significant difference in the effects of any one diet on body composition or abdominal fat after six months -- all participants lost similar amounts of subcutaneous and visceral fat.
Exercise for Fat Loss
No specific exercise, such as side bends or twists, burns off lower back fat or love handles. You're better off burning calories through cardiovascular exercise to contribute to your calorie deficit and lose pounds. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise weekly to lose significant weight. Cardio exercise is especially helpful in reducing visceral fat initially, but with continued efforts, you can burn fat from your lower back and love handles as well.
If you already exercise regularly, substitute high-intensity interval training for one or two steady-state sessions. HIIT involves alternating very intense bouts of all-out effort, such as sprinting, with bouts of easier effort, like walking. HIIT helps your body more effectively burn fat, according to a 2011 paper published in the Journal of Obesity.
Although there aren't any strength exercises to target your love handles or lower back fat, a total-body strength-training strategy helps you build more muscle overall. Being more muscular can boost your metabolism, because muscle demands more energy to sustain than fat. You'll also look leaner and tauter with a more muscular frame. Train all the major muscle groups a minimum of two times per week with at least one set of eight to 12 repetitions using resistance that feels heavy by the final repetitions.
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- Yale Scientific: Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality?
- National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism Is Modifiable With the Right Lifestyle Changes
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of 4 Weight-Loss Diets Differing in Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrate on Fat Mass, Lean Mass, Visceral Adipose Tissue, and Hepatic Fat
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
- British Journal of Nutrition: Dietary Protein - Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health
- American Council on Exercise: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss