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If Only We Could Spot Reduce

 By Anna Langston, Fitness Specialist

When I meet with members for a consultation, we go through a fitness assessment, body measurements and goals. And then comes the inevitable:  “Anna, I want this ______ to be smaller.” Or, “I’ve been doing crunches and this bulge won’t go away.”  This translates into, “I want to lose fat from this specific area of my body.”  The truth can be very frustrating, but we cannot spot reduce our body parts.

It is no great shock my members and clients believe this.  Every news stand in the country touts an advertisement for “reducing arm jiggle with these 3 simple moves” or “5 moves, 6 weeks, and good bye muffin top”.  The advertised exercises may be great for strengthening those areas.  But, if your goals are weight loss and fat loss, you will need more than 3 simple moves focused on one small region of your body.

Whenever someone expresses their desire for smaller thighs or love handles, I remind them of several things.  1.) It has been said, but we can’t spot reduce.  2.) In order to lose weight and body fat, we must reduce our caloric intake and increase our caloric expenditure (eating less and exercising more).  3.)  A well-balanced exercise plan includes cardiovascular conditioning, a whole body strength training program, and flexibility exercises.  4.) If we focus on one area or one group of muscles, we can create muscular imbalances which can lead to injury. 5.) And last, but not least, our genetic makeup is responsible for where we gain and lose weight first and last.

Number 5 on my list of reminders is explained very well by Richard Weil, MEd.  He elaborates on the biology of how fat is stored and burned and how we all have variations in the number of fat cells throughout the body.  Therefore, we cannot control where fat is lost in the thighs, abdominals, or any other body part for that matter.

As I type this, a couple of choice body parts come to mind.  I would much rather eat chocolate and point my magic wand at my inner thighs.  But, like all things, hard work and balance are required to see the results we crave.  More often than not, we look at healthy eating and exercise as an all or nothing approach.  Ask yourself what small step you can take today to improve you.  One healthy decision at a time and you may just lose that arm jiggle after all!