Love handles might sound cute, but there’s really not a lot of love for them. These stubborn pockets of fat that sit around the sides of the abdominal area don’t look great and aren’t good for your health either.
Men get it tough, too, because thanks to biology, guys are more prone to gaining weight in this area. While it can be tough to lose your love handles, there is hope. Some positive lifestyle changes will help you shift this stubborn fat, plus you’ll end up feeling and looking a million times better.
What are Love Handles?
Love handles are the build-up of excess fat deposits that sit around the hips and abdominal area. Like most forms of fat gain, it’s caused over time by consuming more calories than you burn. Fat can accumulate anywhere in the body, however there a few contributing factors for it to build up around your hips, stomach, and lower back.
These include age, hormonal imbalances, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, lack of sleep, and some medical conditions. Unfortunately for men, this also tends to be the first place the body stores fat because physiologically, this is where there are naturally more fat cells to act as storage.
Extra weight in this area is also risky. It can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues.
Why are Love Handles so Hard to Lose?
While it is possible to get rid of your love handles, it can be harder than other areas. This is because the areas where you accumulate fat first, tend to be the places you lose it from last. Add in the fact that gents are more prone to weight gain in the belly, and you’ve got some stubborn weight.
It’s also important to remember your love handles didn’t get there overnight, so they’re not going to disappear that quickly either. If you’re serious about losing them, you’ll need to make a steadfast commitment to getting your health back on track.
How to Get Rid of Love Handles
Keto is a high-fat, moderate protein, and very low-carb diet. The goal is to burn through your stores of sugars or carbohydrates, which will then force your body to switch to burning fat for energy. Your liver converts the fat into ketone molecules, putting you into a state of ketosis. Foods you should eat include animal proteins, fresh vegetables, and natural fats. On the other hand, you’ll want to avoid carbs like bread and pasta, sugar, and fruit. Benefits other than weight loss include mental clarity, extended satiety, and reduced sugar cravings. However, like any lifestyle change, there can be side effects as you adjust, including keto flu. You may also need to commit to tracking your macros, at least in the beginning. You need to ensure you’re only consuming 20 to 50 grams of net carbs, to achieve and stay in ketosis. Doctor Eric Berg has a great keto diet plan which will get you on your way to losing your love handles in no time.
There are many different forms of intermittent fasting, and which format you choose will depend on your lifestyle. However, the goal of each is to limit your calorie intake to a set time period. Three of the most common are 16:8, 5/2, and OMAD. The 16:8 keeps your eating window to eight hours, while the 5/2 version has you eat normally for five days a week, then choose two days where you only consume 500 calories. Finally, OMAD is a more extreme version where you only eat one meal a day, consuming your full calorie allowance at once. This form of eating is based on the days of our ancestors when food scarcity was an issue. Humans are not necessarily designed to consume as much as we do, so by fasting, it allows your body to adequately digest what is already in your system.
Any kind of exercise is going to help you achieve a calorie deficit and lose your love handles. However, HIIT training is a particularly effective and efficient way to burn fat. It combines short periods of intense aerobic movement with recovery time, thereby raising your heart rate. Plus, there are many other benefits. It’s great for beginners because the moves can be simple and are often repeated, so there’s no crazy choreography to learn. You can also easily do it at home with follow-along YouTube videos, many of which don’t require equipment. Alternatively, if you need extra motivation, you can join a HIIT class to work alongside others. Lastly, HIIT can be modified for lower levels of fitness and low-impact exercises making it very inclusive. When adding it to your routine, aim for two to three 30-minute sessions a week.
Increase Your Cardio
Like HIIT, cardio is going to help burn belly fat, and reach a calorie deficit. There’s some debate about whether high or moderate-intensity is better. However, there’s no doubt that some cardio is better than none. One of the best things about cardio is that there are so many types of exercise that you can choose. Running is an excellent option, however, if you’re no Mo Farrah, why not try swimming, rowing, or cycling instead. If you’re a people person and like to work out with others, then organized and team sports are a great way to tick both boxes. You could even join a dance class to learn a new skill, burn some calories, and cut a rug next time you’re near a dance floor. Whatever you choose, make sure you enjoy it, so that you’re more likely to stay motivated and consistent.
Stress is a normal and inevitable part of life, in response to challenges that come and go. However, continuous high levels of stress affect both your mental and physical health. When you’re stressed, your brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone. Unfortunately, overexposure to cortisol can cause anxiety, digestive issues, and weight gain, particularly around the midsection. While avoiding stress entirely is almost impossible, if you can include self-care activities in your daily schedule, it can help manage your levels. You’ll want to find things that bring you pleasure and help to lower your heart rate. Try calming exercises such as yoga or pilates, or mindful activities like meditation and journaling. Other forms of stress-reducing care can include listening to music, spending time with loved ones, deep breathing exercises, reading a good book, playing with your pets, or even just a good hug.
Lifting weights is the best way to increase your lean muscle mass, which will naturally burn more calories at rest. Plus, strong muscles can improve your posture, general movement, and mobility, and also look very attractive. Combining regular resistance training with aerobic exercise is one of the most effective ways to burn fat and lose your love handles. If you don’t know where to start, there are lots of instructional videos on YouTube with advice on weight lifting. Just remember to listen to your body — you want to challenge yourself to get gains, yet not burn out. Always make sure to stretch after an intense muscle-building session too, you do want to be able to move the next day!
Drinking enough water is a crucial step in losing your love handles. Staying hydrated is important for several reasons. Firstly, it helps improve your energy levels and brain function. More energy means you’re more likely to have a killer gym session, therefore burning more calories. Water is also vital for curbing hunger and cravings. Often the body can’t differentiate between hunger and thirst, so before you pick up a snack or eat a meal, have a glass of water. Ideally, you want to aim for at least two liters daily, though more than that won’t go astray. Keep in mind that it’s important you’re hydrating with water and not sugary drinks like soda, juice, or sweet tea. Drinks like that are just empty calories that provide no nutritional benefit and only add to your calorie consumption.
Get Enough Sleep
If you want to lose your love handles, you need to get your beauty sleep. Similar to stress, a lack of quality sleep can lead to elevated cortisol levels. In turn, this leads to a slowed metabolism as your body tries to conserve energy. Plus, you’re more likely to be hungry because you want a hit of energy, and you’ll crave high sugar and high-fat foods to give you a boost of serotonin, the happy hormone. Preferably, you want around seven hours per night. If you find you’re getting enough hours in, but still waking up tired, you might not be getting quality sleep. This could be due to stress, sleep apnea, or other sleep conditions. Have a chat with your general care practitioner if you suspect this is the case, so you can get back to good snoozing as soon as possible.
It can be far too easy to reach for a tasty sweet treat or salty snack between meals. However, snacking can just be adding extra empty calories to your daily total and contributing to your love handles. If you’re feeling hungry between meals, there are a few things to consider before tucking into a snack. Check that your main meals contain enough protein, fiber, and good fats — these are the foods that keep you feeling full. Secondly, check if you’re thirsty. Have a glass of water, wait a little bit, and then see if you’re still hungry. Next, are you just reaching for food out of habit, sadness, loneliness, stress, or boredom? Being mindful of your reasons for snacking can help break bad habits. If you’re genuinely still hungry after all of this, try to opt for a healthier option such as fruit or veg.
Stop Drinking Alcohol
Just like soda and juice, the liquid calories in alcohol don’t contribute nutritionally to your wellbeing at all. There are over 100 calories in a standard beer or wine, so downing a few of these after work, or binging on the weekend can quickly add up. Abstaining completely will give you the best results in fat loss; however, it can be a bit of an ask. Plus, life is about balance, and there is a simple pleasure in a glass of good red wine or a refreshing beer. If giving up the booze fully is too much, try cutting down to a single drink in the evening, or only a couple of days a week. Similar to snacking, it’s also good to be mindful of your reasons for drinking, and examine your motivations. By doing so, you can better keep things in check, and ensure your balance isn’t heading off course.
Eliminate Refined Sugars
Refined sugars are another source of calories that you need to ditch if you’re serious about losing your love handles. Sugar is high in glucose and fructose, which is linked to many health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic issues, and obviously fat gain, particularly around the stomach and sides. Not to mention the fact that some consider sugar to be as addictive as Class A drugs, and you get that horrid sugar crash after you’ve eaten it. If you’re craving something sweet, try foods that contain natural sugars such as whole fruits. Because of its addictiveness, sugar can be hard to kick. If cold turkey seems a bit much, start with small, gradual changes like not having sugar in your coffee, skipping dessert, or scrapping sodas.
Avoid Foods That Contain Trans Fat
While some fats are good for you and form an essential part of a balanced diet, trans fats are not. Natural trans fats occur at low levels in some animal products, and then there are artificial trans fats. The human-made process involves hydrogenating vegetable or soybean oil to create a semi-solid product. These fats have adverse health effects, including links to higher LDL “bad” cholesterol, heart disease, and inflammation, as well as weight gain. Fewer companies are using trans fats in production these days, but you can check the nutrition label, looking under the “Total Fat” heading for the percentage. It is also still found in everyday foods such as fried takeaway, vegetable shortening, some kinds of margarine, bakery products, and some microwavable popcorn. Avoid these foods as much as possible if you’re serious about ditching your love handles.
Incorporating some dairy into your diet is a great way to get calcium. However, too much can hinder your weight loss progress. That’s because dairy contains lactose, which is a form of sugar that many people are intolerant to. Too much sugar can add unnecessary calories. Aim to make small changes, such as drinking your coffee black, or use almond or rice milk as a substitute.
MCT oil is most often extracted from coconuts and acts as a supplement added most commonly to coffee, smoothies, and salad dressings. The MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride, which is a more easily digestible fat chain. Consumption of MCTs has been linked to numerous health benefits. It’s been shown to release peptide YY and leptin, two hormones that promote a feeling of fullness while helping curb hunger and cravings. It also helps with weight loss because these oils have fewer calories than long-chain triglycerides, and burning them also takes more energy. Plus, it’s easily turned into ketones if you’re on a keto diet, and they are a more immediate source of fuel. Other benefits include helping to control blood sugar levels, reducing risk factors for heart disease, and fighting bacteria growth.
Focus on Healthy Fats
It may seem counterintuitive, but adding healthy fats to your diet is a great way to lose your love handles. Foods like avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon help you feel fuller for longer. Of course, moderation is still the key. Oily fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Meanwhile, olive oil can increase your HDL “good” cholesterol, as well as boost your metabolic rate. There’s a reason the Italians are so attractive! Nuts and seeds are rich in fiber to keep your regular, antioxidants to keep you healthy, and protein to keep you full. They’re little powerhouses that are easy to add to salads and cereals. Plus, all of these good fat sources are delicious.
Choosing organic foods may be a little pricier, but the benefits can far outweigh the cost. Firstly, natural foods can have far more antioxidants than traditionally grown produce, which can help protect you. It’s also been found that organic meat has more omega-3 essential fatty acids. Additionally, in a world where chemicals are omnipresent, any opportunity to consume less is always a good thing. Fresh produce and meat must adhere to strict controls to be considered organic, so the label can be taken seriously. However, be wary of processed goods, such as cookies and snacks, that are called organic. While they may seem like a healthier choice, they may be just as calorie-dense as conventional options. Focus on spending your hard-earned cash on organic wholefoods or even take the opportunity to start a home-grown garden!
Increase your Protein Intake
Shift your stubborn belly fat by increasing your protein intake. Similar to MCT oil, protein releases peptide YY, the fullness hormone. This helps you feel satiated longer and can help stop snacking between meals. Additionally, protein is vital for boosting your metabolic rate and helping you maintain muscle mass — you don’t want all those hard gym sessions going to waste. There are both animal-based and plant-based forms of protein that are great for incorporating into your meals. Try meats such a chicken, lean beef, and fish. Otherwise, eggs and dairy, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, are also great, as well as vegetable options like quinoa, lentils, kidney beans, and nuts. A mix of these will create a well-rounded diet that will keep you full for longer.
Add Fiber-Rich Foods
There are two forms of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Both are good to have in your diet; however, increasing your soluble fiber is a particularly useful way to reduce your love handles and keep the fat off. Soluble fiber mixes with the water in your body and slows down the release of digested food, helping you feel fuller for longer. You’ll want to look for foods such as sweet potato, apricots, legumes, Brussels sprouts, flaxseeds, and grains like oatmeal. However, if you don’t already eat a lot of this food, slowly increase your intake to avoid unwanted side-effects such as stomach cramps and bloating. Soluble fiber can also create good bacteria diversity in the gut, which in term can help ditch your belly fat.
Have Some Caffeine
Caffeine addicts unite! A cup of joe can help you lose your stubborn love handles. First up, caffeine can increase your metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories, even at rest. It also gives you more energy and alertness because the caffeine blocks a neurotransmitter inhibitor called adenosine. By doing so, it allows the release of other neurotransmitters and hormones such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which make you feel awake. Then, it also stimulates the nervous system creating epinephrine, or adrenalin, which starts to break down fat. Consuming 100-400 mg of caffeine, or one to four coffees, per day will give you the benefits, without side effects like twitching or anxiety. However, because you still need to be at a calorie deficit for fat loss, try to drink your coffee black, or with only a splash of milk. Otherwise, excess sugar and dairy will negate any benefits.
Eggs are a bit of a superfood, especially when it comes to weight loss. They’re chock-full of protein, choline, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. Like other forms of protein, eggs help to increase your metabolic rate and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Plus, large eggs contain only about 80 calories each, which is pretty low. Therefore, eating two or three eggs for breakfast with some veggies can set you up well for the day ahead for around 300 calories. They also make great snacks. You can keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge with their shells on for up to a week. If you get peckish, it’s a healthier, more filling choice than a bag of chips or cookies. Finally, they’re also cheap, so if you’re budget-conscious, it’s an excellent choice for an inexpensive protein.
Apple Cider Vinegar
While apple cider vinegar (ACV) is an ancient remedy for many maladies, it’s just as relevant today. Taking ACV every day can help reduce your appetite and lower blood sugar and insulin levels in diabetes patients. The main active ingredient, acetic acid, has shown increased fat burning and a decrease in belly fat storage in animal studies. While there are no studies in humans, it’s still promising news. Start by adding a teaspoon to a glass of water each morning, slowly working your way up to one or two tablespoons. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, and if you jump in too hard too fast, it can cause stomach upset. ACV also has other handy uses, other than weight loss. It’s brilliant in salad dressings, you can use it to get rid of dandruff, and it can help treat acne and foot bacteria.
Oolong tea, like green tea, has incredible health benefits. It contains both caffeine and catechins, which kicks your metabolism up a notch and helps promote weight loss. Some studies have found that oolong increased calorie burning twice as much as green tea, making it a great alternative. This tea is drunk black, which is great because you don’t need to worry about added sugar or milk. The flavor can also be deeper and toastier than green tea, but not as intense as black tea.
Invest in some good quality olive oil for its versatile use, incredible taste, and health benefits. It’s one of the healthiest fats around. Not only does it raise your good cholesterol, but it also stimulates the production of GLP-1, the fullness hormone. Additionally, it can boost your metabolic rate, so even when you’re not doing much, you’re still burning more energy. The easiest way to add it to your diet is to use it for cooking or add it to salad dressings. Put some ACV and olive oil in a container with some salt and pepper and give it a vigorous shake for a simple, at-home vinaigrette. Add extra herbs, garlic, or spice for an even better flavor.