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Why You Can’t Spot-Reduce Fat

Posted on May 28 2018



As upsetting and frustrating as it is, you can’t just reduce fat in an area of your body that you’re not happy with - *shakes fists with fury* - no matter that the Instagram life leads us to believe.


This doesn't mean that it's not possible to achieve a superb body composition, it's just that every individual will have a broad physical 'type' – whether you call it ectomorph and endomorph, or pear and apple. It isn't possible to suddenly take on the genes of another body type – but it is possible to look amazing with the genetic cards you've been dealt!


So Why Doesn't Fat Spot-Reduction Work?

When you eat too much and don't exercise sufficiently, your body will turn excess calories into fat and distribute it all over your body, focusing on the areas in which you are genetically predisposed to store fat. In the same way, when you start your healthy eating plan and begin working out regularly to create a calorie deficit, your body will start to release that fat, allowing you to become smaller and leaner all over.


Now, many people find that when they start to 'diet', they begin to lose weight from the places that they are quite happy with, while their ‘problem’ areas remain resolutely the same size. It does seem to be the case that the human body will hold on to that 'preferred' area of fat allocation and be reluctant to lose it initially. So, it's important to be consistent and steady with your approach. Crash diets simply don't work and invariably lead to further weight gain when hunger kicks in. Even worse, regular crash dieting can stress the body into thinking that food scarcity is a very real threat and it will hold on to fat in the very areas that you are trying to lose it from, as a biological defence mechanism.




A Sustainable, Healthy Approach

A far better approach is to embrace healthy eating and a regular programme of structured exercise, daily activity and working out with sports and leisure activities that you really enjoy. This tactic will allow you to reduce calories sustainably, in a way that doesn't stress the body and which still provides sufficient nutrients to build lean muscle mass. Let's look at why this is so important.


The Role of Lean Muscle Mass in Fat Loss

Say you want to reduce the size of your thighs. You are following a healthy eating programme and faithfully doing your cardio several times a week. Continue this and you will most likely end up looking like a smaller version of yourself now, with the same shape and overall fat distribution. If you want to lean out your thighs, you need to focus on strength work to build lean muscle mass. Muscle is heavy, but it is dense – and, as an active tissue, it also requires calories simply to sustain itself. Muscle tackles problem areas and it also helps to develop areas of your body that are currently smaller or less strong, creating visual balance. So, in the example above, by working out your shoulders and chest, you would start to create a more balanced shape that looked leaner and stronger overall.


How to Get Your Workouts Right for Ideal Body Composition

Everyone has different body-composition goals. Some people will want to bulk out and others will want to get lean and drop some body fat. A combination of strength training with some cardio and flexibility work is your best bet. Work with a trainer to get the balance right for your physique and goals or focus on a training programme such as CrossFit, or a combination of classes and sports that give you a good mix of all fitness modalities. Remember, if you are a woman, that lifting weights will not make you bulky. It is incredibly hard to bulk up and to look like figure competitors or bodybuilders. Just know that strength training will make you leaner, sleeker and more defined – with less body fat overall and a very feminine shape.


Don't listen to a trainer or coach who tells you that their regime, diet or workout programme will allow you to spot-reduce fat. It simply won't. But with the right exercise and workout programmes, combined with good nutrition and adequate rest and recovery, you can create the physique that you have always dreamed of – one that is healthy, defined and strong, with the right amount of body fat for your goals. One that respects your genetic heritage too, but which optimises it by creating the absolute best version of yourself. Now that's something to aspire to!


For more help, advice and top tips on how to manage your weight in a healthy way, increase your fitness and, of course, look good in the gym, check out our blog.


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