Many people yearn to lose fat from one specific part of their body. For example, you might wish you carried a fewer pounds in your midsection. Efforts to eliminate fat from an individual area are called “spot reduction.” While it would be nice if dropping the fat off specific body parts were possible, it is not.
The theory behind spot reduction is that when you exercise a set of muscles, fat is lost in that area. For example, if you perform abdominal exercises, you’ll drop stomach fat. While spot reduction might seem like simple common sense, the reality is different.
One example is the crunch, a popular abdominal exercise. When you perform a crunch, you strain your ab muscles. If you keep doing crunches regularly, your ab muscles will grow larger and stronger. At the same time, every body movement uses up energy.
When food is consumed, excess calories are transformed into stored, subcutaneous fat. This process is reversed in exercise, when calories are metabolised into fuel for the muscles. Since working out makes your body use up calories, any sort of exercise will help you drop the pounds.
This means working your abs will help you lose stomach fat - but no more than it will help you lose weight from the rest of your body. When the body resorts to burning fat stores, it doesn’t use the stores nearest the muscles being flexed. Instead, fat from the entire body is burned. Blasting a given muscle group may be valuable exercise — just don’t expect it to spot reduce fat.
Health science established long ago that targeting specific areas of fat was impossible. The myth has persisted largely because of the efforts of unscrupulous advertisers. Turn on a TV and you’ll probably find an infomercial selling a dubious, scientifically unsound weight-loss product. Many such products claim to spot reduce fat — for example, certain devices try to eliminate fat by electrically stimulating muscles. Don’t believe the hype. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is — especially when someone is trying to sell you something.
Fad exercises or fad diets never work. You’ll only set yourself up for disappointment if you believe in the myth of spot reduction. It’s simply impossible for a person to influence where their body draws the fat that is metabolised into energy. Each person’s body has a natural pattern of where fat is added or dropped — some people will lose fat from their stomachs first, while others get slimmer hips.
If you want to lose fat from one area, you’ll have to lose weight overall. That means living healthily. Exercise regularly (preferably daily, but at least three or four times a week) and consume a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and few high-fat, salty or processed products.
It would be great if spot reduction were possible. In such a world, you would be able to focus on improving the areas of your body that cause you the most distress. Looking good would be much easier. Sadly, that’s not the case. Don’t waste time attempting to lose fat by spot reduction.