Fact or fiction: You can spot-reduce fat

Fact or fiction: You can spot-reduce fat

Remember the 'hip and thigh diet'? And we've all seen the magazine articles: '10 days to a flat stomach'. Wishful thinking or can it really be done?

Getting a six-pack by doing lots of crunches always sounded feasible, and who doesn't love the idea of those diets that 'target' your belly fat first? Nutritionist and exercise expert Kristen Mackenzie, from the Millennium Institute of Sport & Health, puts us straight:

"Where we carry our excess fat is largely determined by genetics and our gender. Women generally carry their excess body fat on the buttocks, thighs, breasts and around the stomach area. They are often shaped like a pear or an hourglass. Men are more prone to being apple shaped, a somewhat healthy sounding term, but the stomach is actually an unsafe place to carry excess fat.

These areas are the first to hold excess fat as we gain weight, but thankfully, they're also the areas that are the first to go with a weight-loss regimen. But we can't choose how this happens. Women have been known to complain of 'losing a cup size' while not being happy about the rate of fat loss on their thighs, for example. If you are pear shaped, it's likely you will stay in proportion and still be pear shaped, just smaller! Men will often lose their high-risk belly fat when they lose weight.

It's important to be realistic and focus on what we can and can't change. You can change your total body fat and your muscle mass (and muscles can be targeted, unlike body fat stores). You can't change your height, your bone size and length, or in many cases how your fat decides to distribute itself. That means you cannot focus fat reduction by targeting a certain area (except by surgery)."

The bottom line: Myth

The best and safest thing to do to reduce the belly and thighs is to do more exercise and control your energy intake. If you are worried about a particular area, do some light resistance exercise to help tone the area at the same time. And remember, being pear shaped is attractive, so aim to be healthy and remember to wear clothes that show off your assets!

First published: Apr 2007


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