Is Selective Fat Loss a Thing?
Raise your hand if you have ever looked at yourself and said something along the lines of “man, wouldn’t it be nice if I could just get rid of *this*” while simultaneously pinching, poking or prodding at said body part. If you haven’t, I commend you! But for the rest of us, maybe we’ve done this more than once. And while we are standing there squeezing or squishing whatever this unwanted portion of our body is, we might be thinking ‘I wonder what exercise will get rid of *this*.’
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but, that is just not a reality. There is no specific set of exercises that will torch whatever excess flab you have covering your abs, your thighs, your upper arms, etc. We do not have control over where our body deposits fat, just like we do not have control over what food gets turned to energy and what gets turned to body fat. What we do have control over, however, is the types of foods that we can feed to our body that will help to alter our body composition. Tweaking your nutritional intake will help you to reach whatever goal you may have, and usually more quickly than just exercise alone. Now the best bang for your buck is to provide your body with balanced macronutrients and exercise, at the same time. If you aren’t sure what types of foods to be eating or exercise to be doing - find someone qualified AND experienced, because literally anyone can become certified. If you have medical conditions or are currently under the care of a medical professional, seek a recommendation from them for a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist, not just someone with a nutrition certification.
A cool thing about our body [one of the many] is that we can use it as an indicator of what macronutrients [aka fats, carbohydrates and proteins] work best – or worst - for our particular body. If you are a person who carries most of their excess weight around their midsection [think apple figure], there is a very high chance that your body does not process carbohydrates in an efficient way. If you seem to gain weight in your chest or upper arms [think more inverted triangle], this can be an indicator of a testosterone imbalance. Maybe you have had a thick build your whole life (we call those endomorphs), or you have been naturally thin (ectomorphs) but fell victim to ‘skinny fat;’ no matter what, there is a way to eat for your body type that will help get you to where you want to be.
*One little tidbit of information: each and every one of us have a natural set point. What is that you ask? Our natural set point is that specific weight that we hover around without much effort. It's different for every person, and it may not be what you want or think it should be. Our bodies are very intelligent, and we tend to fight against them thinking that we know better (ex: the person who has had multiple kids and believes that they should weigh what they did in high school so for decades they continuously yo-yo diet with little to no results).
So, brief recap. Can you lose fat from a specific area via exercise? No. So stop with the thinking that doing thousands of crunches or sit-ups will get you a flat stomach, because it won't - like, ever. By doing that you are actually building muscle mass of those six-pack muscles, which, if you are of average body fat percentage or above, they will probably never actually show - so you've just increased the mass of your belly with no real pay off.
And, can you lose fat from a specific area via nutrition? Also no. But what you can do, is alter your body composition by promoting general fat loss. You even have the opportunity to continue building lean mass while you are burning fat, so that once the fat mass is reduced you have nice, strong muscle underneath ready to be displayed. Here is an oversimplification: resistance training (build or maintain muscles) + balanced eating + cardiovascular activity = general fat loss.
While it would be amazing to say "I want to lose these bingo wings" and magically they disappear after a couple sets of triceps extensions, our bodies don't work like that. You can choose to build muscle in specific areas, but we will never be able to naturally lose fat from a certain spot via exercise or nutrition.
If you aren't certain where to start when it comes to exercise - contact me for a consultation and if you would like to learn the basics about nutrition check out Nutrition in a Nutshell.