Lose the Muffin Top: The Truth about Spot Reducing

“How do I get rid of my muffin top (the abdominal fat hanging over the belt)?”, “…lose the fat on the back of my arms?”, “…get rid of the fat on my butt and thighs?”, “…get rid of my love handles?” These are questions I hear every day.

I’ve been a Personal Trainer for over 30 years and have known the secret to spot reducing for all of those years. Why is it a secret? Beats me. I’ve been preaching it as long as I can remember, but it just doesn’t seem to catch on. I’ll tell you it… are you ready? Wait for it… the secret to spot reducing is…you can’t! That’s it. That simple. There is no spot reducing. There is no triceps exercise that will get rid of the fat on your arms, no abdominal machine or gadget that will hit those love handles.

So here’s how it works:

First, while we have fat all over our bodies, there are more fat cells in certain areas.* Typically women carry more fat in the hip/thigh and shoulder girdle/arm areas. Men carry more around the mid-section. Think of the fat we carry as one big energy bank. When we do an exercise, there is a demand for energy. When we run out of what is immediately available, we go to the energy bank and make a withdrawal. This withdrawal comes out of the whole system, not from any one area. The muscle that does the work in an exercise and the fat lying over it, for the most part, do not interact with each other. So an exercise that works your abdominals burns a little fat from all over the body, not just the abdominal area.

Now back to the original question, how do you lose the fat in your “trouble areas”? The answer is that you need to burn enough calories to lose the fat all over your body. Where you have the most fat cells will appear to be the slowest responding, but they are diminishing at an equal rate as the others in your body, you just have more of them there. It takes proper diet, the right exercise program, and time to lose the muffin top. Be patient, if you’re doing it, you will reach your goals.

*Fat cells will only decrease in size. They don’t disappear. (unless you have them sucked out, of course)

Mark Nutting, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT-AR*D, National Strength and Conditioning Association’s 2009 Personal Trainer of the Year, holds 12 certifications in the field and has 30 years experience in personal training. A national presenter and an educator of Personal Trainers, Mark’s areas of expertise include weight loss, post-rehab conditioning, and brain fitness. Mark contributes regularly to the Guiding Stars Blog.