Your belly. Your butt. Your chin. Your thighs.
Whether you’re sick of your beer gut or can’t lose your cankles, we all have trouble spots we wish we could slim down. Unfortunately, you can’t specifically target fat loss in precise locations in your body. It’s simple science: Everyone’s body is different, and some people are genetically predisposed to lose (and gain) weight in certain areas of their body compared to others.
But you can lose weight overall, and as you do so, your body will lose inches all over. You can also target specific muscle groups through exercise. This will not only tone and firm your body, but it will also help you build more lean, fat-burning muscle.
From your belly
Although some diet experts swear by smaller, frequent meals throughout the day, sticking to the basics might just be what’s best for blasting away belly fat. A study published in the journal Hepatology found that eating in between meals actually increased abdominal fat. The researchers suggest three square meals a day would be better for your waistline.
Think a sugar-free and calorie-free beverage is also good for your waistline? Think again. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, drinking diet soda was linked to weight gain and an increase in waist sizes. One theory is that the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks trick your metabolism into thinking it’s actually ingesting sugar and spiking insulin, which stores in your body as belly fat.
If you’re balancing your career, family, social life, and that never-ending to-do list, stress is inevitable. But too much stress can lead to a bigger gut. When you’re stressed, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is necessary to regulate important bodily functions like blood pressure and fluid balance. But if you have too much of it, studies have shown your body ends up storing it in your midsection. Although stress is something that’s difficult to tackle head-on, make sure you evaluate the major stressors in your life and seek therapy if necessary.
HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training, is the hot new way to work out, according to fitness enthusiasts. And the benefits are worth it. Not only do you reap the benefits of high-intensity workouts in a shorter period of time, but it can also help blast belly fat. Greek researchers studied exercisers who performed intervals for 20 minutes and another group that ran for 20 minutes straight on the treadmill. After eight weeks, the group who did intervals ended up losing two inches of belly fat, while the treadmill group lost less than one inch. Although strength training and cardio are both keys to a successful fitness plan, make sure you’re incorporating intervals, too.
From your back
Fiber is slow to digest, so it helps keep you fuller, longer. Loading up on this important nutrient will help keep you feeling satiated and help you kick those junk food cravings to the curb. Fewer empty calories mean less back fat. Load up on whole grains, beans, and nuts for a much-needed fiber boost.
While you can’t magically get fat to melt off from your back through some exercise, you can target the often-ignored latissimus dorsi muscles, or “lats,” to help you lean out. Your lats are located around your middle back and attach to your vertebral column. Target them with lat pull-downs: When you sit at the pull-down machine, grab the wide bar overhead with your palms facing forward, making sure that your hands are placed at a wider distance than your shoulders. Stick your chest out, breathe out, and then pull the bar down until it reaches your upper chest. Hold briefly and then raise the bar back up slowly. Make sure you are feeling your back muscles, and have enough resistance so it’s tough but not impossible (if you feel it in your forearms more than your back, make sure to check your form).
One of the quickest ways to pile on fat, including on your back, is with sugar. Sugar is in everything and is detrimental to your health beyond the empty calories. Sugar causes weight gain quicker than other calories because it spikes your blood sugar and causes your insulin to increase, leading your body to store more fat. Giving up sugar will lead to a number of health benefits, less hunger, increased energy, and losing inches, especially in your back and belly.
Although people typically think push-ups are mostly for your chest, they also help strengthen back muscles and support your spine, helping torch back fat in the process. To do a proper push-up, lie on the floor facedown with your hands at your sides, just outside your shoulders, and your feet hip-width apart. Raise your hips, thighs, and chest off the floor so your weight is supported by your toes and palms. This is the starting position. Exhale as you straighten your arms and push your body up until your arms are straight. Try to keep your head, hips, and ankles aligned as though your body is a straight plank. After a brief pause at the top, inhale as you lower yourself down. Repeat for ten repetitions.
From your face
One way to boost overall weight loss, which will slim down your face, is to lay off on the empty calories from booze. Jim White, RD, ACSM HFS, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, recommends cutting back on alcohol if you are looking to lose weight. Although he usually lets his clients have 150 calories of whatever they want each day, which could be a glass of wine or a light beer, any more can be a slippery slope to weight gain. Plus, alcohol is dehydrating, which causes your face to bloat and look puffy. Try sticking to just one alcoholic beverage at a time, and make sure you chase it with a glass of water.
If you’re suffering from saggy face skin and an unsightly “turkey neck,” load up on carrots. The vibrant orange veggie is chock-full of carotenoids, which prevent cell damage and premature skin aging by protecting the skin from free-radical damage. The less aging and wrinkles you have on your face, the thinner it will look. Plus, carrots are full of vitamins and antioxidants, which can combat inflammation.
For a brighter, thinner complexion, load up on vitamin C. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that people who have adequate vitamin C levels oxidize more fat during exercise than those with low vitamin C, meaning you’ll get more fat-burning effects out of your workouts. Vitamin C also brightens your skin tone and can help fade the appearance of dark spots and other blemishes. Load up on fruits and veggies like oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, spinach, kale, and bell peppers for this essential vitamin.
If you love dousing your meals in salt, it’s time to put the shaker down. A Spanish study published in the journal Nutricion Hospitalaria found that sodium intake may promote weight gain. Plus, too much salt can cause your body to retain water, resulting in face bloat and puffy eyes. Even if you don’t use table salt that often, sodium lurks in lots of processed food in large amounts, so be sure to read your labels.
From your arms
“Focus on hitting upper body workouts three times a week,” White says. He recommends doing a combination of hammer curls, preacher curls, dips, dumbbell kickbacks, and tricep press downs. “To tone these areas stick to 12-20 reps per set,” he says.
Doing all the arm exercises in the world isn’t going to help if there’s still a layer of fat covering your upper body. “The more body fat you lose, the more muscle tone will pop,” White says. He recommends to cut down on eating after dinner as much as possible to boost weight loss.
White also recommends cutting back on portion sizes to boost weight loss. In one study of 329 overweight people, 40 percent of those who practiced portion control for two years lost 5 percent or more of their body weight. In the same study, those who didn’t actually gained weight! Measuring out your food and sticking to proper servings will help you cut back on calories, and lose weight overall, exposing those toned and firm arms.
If you tend to gain weight in your arms and have a hard time building muscle, you could have a T-type body type, meaning your body doesn’t produce enough of the hormone testosterone. One way to boost testosterone production is with vitamin D. Take 1000 IUs of a vitamin D supplement or eat more vitamin D-rich fish like salmon or sardines.
From your legs and butt
Toning your legs takes time, White says, and it may take a while to see any real progress. But a good place to start is in the weight room. “In the weight room focus on high-intensity training. Super-set a combination of squats, lunges, leg extensions/curls, and leg press,” White says. “Since legs are a bigger muscle, focus on 8-12 reps per set.”
“Oftentimes, the layer of fat covering the leg muscles can blur the definition,” White says. And more veggies could help burn fat; a study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that overweight adults in Brazil lost more weight when they ate more fruits and veggies. White recommends eating more fruits and vegetables to boost overall weight loss, which will show off your toned legs. He says to aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Incorporating cycling into your workout routine will be a double-whammy for working out your legs. The increased resistance and motion will work your leg muscles, and the moderate to high intensity of the workout will help torch calories and boost weight-loss. Plus, many spinning classes consist of intervals; a study published in the journal Obesity found that people who performed high-intensity intermittent exercise experienced an increase in fat loss.
“The food you eat can positively or negatively affect the appearance of your legs,” White says. He recommends focusing on lean protein, which can help build more fat-burning muscle. Protein has also been proven to help people feel full and lose weight, if you stick within the daily range (about 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight). Some good sources of protein include chicken, fish, Greek yogurt, and nuts.