I carry most of my weight in my stomach and thighs. Is there such a thing as “spot reducing”?

The way fat is distributed in the body is determined by genetics. It’s also affected by hormones, including chronic exposure to the “stress hormone” cortisol. Individuals who are chronically stressed tend to deposit more fat in the tummy area above the waist (called the abdominal area).

Numerous studies have shown that it’s not possible to “spot reduce,” or lose weight just in one particular problem area. One interesting study of men trying to flatten their stomachs compared three groups – one that primarily did sit-ups, a second group that did aerobic exercise, and a third group that dieted. The dieting group lost the most inches around the waist, followed by the aerobic group, with the sit-up group in last. We recommend a combination of all with particular emphasis on dietary changes.

Fat and muscle are two different kinds of tissue. Exercise will not change fat into muscle or the lack of exercise change muscle into fat. Physical exercise can only tone or increase muscle tissue. To reduce the amount of unwanted fat in certain areas of your body, you must reduce the size of the existing fat cells in these areas. When exercising, fat is released from various fat storage cells throughout the body, not just one area, and converted into energy used by the muscles.

Fat patterning is also a genetic component of fat storage in the body. This means that your body will draw fat for fuel from a genetic pattern. For example, you may do stomach curls to achieve flat abdominal muscles, but due to fat patterning your efforts may lead to fat reduction in another area of your body. In fact, most women tend to have a small amount of extra fat around their abdominal muscles.

What can you do if you have too much fat on your thighs, stomach, hips, or upper arms? A comprehensive fitness and nutrition program can help you lower your body fat and tone the muscles. To get the results you desire in losing fat from certain parts of your body, losing weight overall is still the best way.