Is it Possible to Spot Reduce Fat or Lose Weight from a Certain Area?

woman with measuring tape around stomach to track weight loss

As personal trainers, the question of spot reduction is one we get all the time. Clients come into our gym and ask:

“How do I lose fat from my arms/legs/stomach/{insert nagging body part of choice here}?”

The first thing to understand about spot reduction is that it’s a completely normal desire. Sometimes you look at your body, and the only thing you’re really unhappy with is your arms or your thighs, or you’d really just like to lose your love handles.

Is it Possible to Spot Reduce Fat?

While the desire to tweak just one part of your body is totally common, it’s also not realistic or possible to achieve from a health standpoint. Yes, you heard us right, you can’t pick and choose where to spot reduce fat.

Foundation FIT’s co-owner Sylvia Darby puts it this way:

“Your body is like a car. A car uses gas for fuel and energy. And our body uses fat to create energy. We’d never ask our car to use fuel from the bottom left corner of the gas tank. And that’s essentially what you’re asking your body to do when you want to spot reduce. Your body works as a whole. So when you burn fat, you burn fat throughout your whole body.”

So if we can’t concentrate on making changes to just one part of our bodies, what are our options?

What to Do Instead of Spot Reduction

There are three main areas to focus on when it comes to body composition changes:

  1. Exercise
  2. Nutrition
  3. Mindset

Let’s dig into how each of these can help create healthy changes for your whole body.

Exercise

Exercise is probably the first thing you think of when you think about changing your body. And instead of asking questions like, “What’s the best exercise to lose fat on my arms?” we encourage our clients to start doing compound exercises that focus on large muscle groups.

Women performing compound movements with barbells instead of trying to spot reduce fat

The goal of exercise is to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. And that happens by raising your metabolism. When you do compound movements like squats, deadlifts, or pull-ups that work multiple muscle groups, you’re getting way more fat burn for your buck. And your metabolism is going to speed up during and after the workout as a result.

In addition to focusing on compound movements, you’ll want to raise your overall activity level. And that means incorporating more movement outside the gym too.

There are plenty of ways to get more movement in each day, like:

  • Going for a morning or evening walk with your pet, family, or neighbor.
  • Sitting less throughout the day and making a point to move at least once each hour.
  • Taking an exercise break between episodes of your latest Netflix binge (try doing 10 sit-ups and 10 air squats three times before your next episode!).
  • Moving while talking on the phone, even standing or pacing counts!

Any small lifestyle changes that create more activity will be beneficial to your overall health and may help you lose more weight over time.

Nutrition

Ever heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen?”. At FFIT, we believe it!

Nutrition plays a crucial role in body composition and can literally be the difference between your body efficiently burning fat or storing more of it.

When you assess your nutrition, pay specific attention to your macros. Macronutrients are the three key players in the make-up of your food: fat, carbs, and protein. When you track your macros, be sure you’re not leaning too heavily in any one area.

The general recommendations for macros are to keep carbs around 45-65%, fats around 20-35%, and protein around 10-35%. But if your goal is body recomposition, you’ll want to increase your protein intake while lowering your carbs.

In addition to balancing your macros, it’s also important to assess your overall caloric intake. The key question here is, “Am I taking in more calories than I’m burning?”

For a weight loss goal, the best spot to be from a calorie perspective is in a deficit. That means you’re burning slightly more calories than you’re consuming which will lead to weight loss over time.

Food is fuel for your body. So choosing high-quality food options that are nutritionally dense will keep you fuller longer and give your body the energy-producing power it needs to perform at the highest level.

Mindset

The reality of being human is that we have genetics at play with everything from our height to the way we carry fat. Just like you aren’t spontaneously going to grow 3 inches overnight, you’re not going to change the way your body has been made up your whole life overnight either.

Certain things can’t be changed, and you are who you are in those regards. And while genetics are a factor, they don’t influence everything. Through modifications to diet and exercise, you can help change the way your body stores, burns, and presents fat to the extent that genetics allow.

But what’s more important than outward appearances is your health. And embracing health is the most critical mindset shift you can possibly make.

The Last Word About Trying to Spot Reduce Fat

Health goes so far beyond how you look in a bikini. It considers factors like sleep quality, stress, mental health, relationships, and job satisfaction in addition to exercise and nutrition. And this image of health provides a complete picture of who you are and how satisfied you are with your life.

When you can embrace health and find true happiness in who you are, concerns about trying to spot reduce fat will slip away. And you’ll realize that how you feel underneath it all is what matters most.

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