Love handles are certainly not a reference to your heart when it’s gripped by love. Nor a special handle on Cupid’s bow!
Most people who complain about love handles are in fact talking about the pockets of fat they possess around their hips. Even devoted gym-goers often struggle to shed these seemingly stubborn pockets of fat, no matter how many workouts they do.
So, what exactly are love handles, and why are they so difficult to get rid of? Why is it that despite counting every calorie that we consume or sweating it out at the gym, why do they refuse to go away?
But fret not. Though love handles may be stubborn, they are not invincible. Here’s what you need to know about how you can finally defeat the dreaded love handles.
What are love handles?
Love handles are the excess pockets of fat that extend outwards from the hips. They sit on the sides of your hips and hang from the top of the waistband of your pants. Also known as muffin top or flanks, this fat can be a challenge to lose.
Many people try to target this specific area with endless side crunches and other abdominal moves, but that is not an effective way to lose love handles. To better understand what love handles are, let’s begin by understanding the anatomy of the body in that area.
The oblique muscles are core abdominal muscles that extend from the lower half of the ribs down to the hips. These muscles support the trunk and the abdominal wall and help us rotate our bodies sideways. Love handles are the body fats that sit on top of oblique muscles.
Love handles are not dangerous. In some cases, they may however indicate underlying health disorders or pose a risk for the development of one.
Why does fat pool in that area of the body?
The main reason for fat accumulation anywhere in the body is a lack of exercise coupled with consuming excess calories.
If the body cannot burn the extra calories, it stores them in the form of fat. With time, they begin to accumulate in different parts of the body and become noticeable.
Love handles are due to fat pooling in the hips. While fat can accumulate in any part of the body; however, the abdominal area, hips, and lower back are particularly prone to it.
Many factors contribute to fat deposits in that area of the body. Apart from a high-calorie diet consisting of sugar and fats, elevated levels of cortisol in the body and sleep deprivation also account for the occurrence of love handles.
Age, lack of physical activity, and untreated or undiagnosed medical issues like an underactive thyroid can also cause fat deposits around the hips and waist.
Are love handles more common in men or women?
There are many things that make men and women different physiologically, so the fact that we carry and metabolize fat differently is no surprise. Although these differences can be frustrating and puzzling for some, no gender has the upper hand.
Women are naturally designed to hold more body fat than men. According to the American Council of Exercise, an active woman will have 21% to 24% body fat, whereas a man will have 14% to 17%. This is because women’s bodies must be able to care for a growing baby, and the fat reserves help a mother to do that.
Women also store fat differently than men. While fat distribution varies between people and depends mostly on genetic factors, women tend to be pear-shaped, while men are more likely to be apple-shaped. This means that women usually store fat in their buttocks, hips, lower abdomen, and thighs.
Men are more likely to store fat in their midsection. There are more fat cells in this area, making it easy for the body to dump triglycerides, the storage form of fat. But as far as love handles are concerned, it is an area that affects both men and women.
How to get rid of love handles?
No matter how many side crunches you do, you won’t get rid of love handles without a consistent calorie deficit. Losing body fat is a numbers game – a simple game of calories in, calories out.
As with any abdominal fat-loss goal, here are three areas you have to focus on to firm up your mid-section:
- Healthy Diet (to build energy and burn fat)
- Cardiovascular and resistance training (to burn fat and build muscle)
- Targeted abdominal exercises (to help tone the muscles under the fatty area)
A healthy diet
The importance of a healthy well-balanced diet for staying fit cannot be emphasized enough. The same applies to losing abdominal fat.
Start by cutting out sugar, and we don’t just mean in your coffee and tea. Sugar is found in many packaged food and beverages like sodas and cookies. Fructose, a form of sugar found in sweetened beverages, is linked to an increase in tummy fat1.
Opt for foods that are rich in soluble fibers like oats, nuts, and beans. It decreases the feeling of hunger by making you feel full for a long time.
Replace less nutrient-dense foods with healthy fats from avocado, fatty fish, and olive oil. Avocado consumption has been associated with weight loss and decreased amounts of belly fat3.
Add high-quality protein to your diet like eggs, fish, dairy, and meat. These reduce your urge to snack by keeping you full between meals. A 2009 study found that a high protein diet decreased abdominal fat as compared to diets with low protein4.
Opt to replace refined carbohydrates like white rice and bread and pasta with complex carbs like brown rice, oats, and sweet potatoes. This is because complex carbs are loaded with fibers that are digested slowly. They have also been linked to weight loss and slimmed-down love handles5.
Staying hydrated is the key to maintaining optimum health. Swap sweetened beverages like juice and energy drinks with plain or sparkling water. Sugar-sweetened drinks tend to increase weight, especially in the abdominal area by providing excess calories6.
A consistent cardiovascular and resistance training program can help you speed up your metabolism and lose love handles.
Cardiovascular exercises like running, swimming, walking, cycling, and aerobics burn calories that enhance weight loss and slim down love handles7. 20 to 25 minutes of cardio exercise, done 4 to 5 times a week can significantly benefit your physical and mental health.
Incorporate exercises like side planks, Russian twists, mountain climbers, and bicycle crunches, which can target body fat reduction around the waistline.
These exercises help to improve muscle tone contributing to weight loss. It should be noted that they do not directly remove fat from the area.
Adding resistance training to your exercise routine can help build lean muscles. This will lead to more calories burned, even while you are resting. A combination of cardio and weight training is more effective than when done alone8.
Not just hardcore running and lifting weights, engaging in any type of physical activity can also help. Studies have found that for every 15 minutes of sitting, your waist size increases by 0.05 inches9.
Alternatives for fat loss – non-invasive fat removal treatments
Healthier eating and increased activity can help to reduce the appearance of your love handles. These methods however take time, lots of willpower, and a lot of effort. For some, thanks to age and genetics, love handles can be impervious to any interventions. As we’ve mentioned earlier, even devoted gym-goers can struggle with it.
So, what are the alternatives for fat loss that do not require going under the knife and long recovery periods?
CoolSculpting and Sculpsure are two FDA-approved popular body contouring procedures that remove fat without painful surgery. Both procedures remove stubborn love handles safely and effectively by destroying fat. Nevertheless, the treatments do it in opposite ways.
CoolSulpting uses cooling technology to freeze the fat cells to death, while Sculpsure uses heat to melt the fat away. Also known as cryolipolysis, is an FDA-approved fat removal method that kills fat tissues by subjecting them to extreme cold.
Since the fat cells are sensitive to cold, freezing them will trigger cellular death or apoptosis. Over time, the lymphatic system naturally flushes out the fat cells. With no downtime required post-procedure, you can return to daily activities without missing much.
CoolSculpting can reduce fat cells by 20 to 27% in one session10. It is used to treat fat deposits in any area of the body, commonly the lower stomach, outer and inner thighs, armpit fat, back fat, bra bulge, upper arms, banana roll, sub-mental fat, etc.
SculpSure is also an FDA-approved fat removal procedure using laser heat energy. It involves the application of heat to target and disrupt the fat cells. The targeted laser energy heats the fat cells without damaging the skin and surrounding tissues.
SculpSure can target the thigh, love handles, and belly. Damaged fat cells are also naturally eliminated through the lymphatic system. Results can be seen anywhere between six to twelve weeks.
Find out more about our treatment solutions here or schedule a body assessment today to find out which treatment modalities suit you the most.