Q: I eat pretty healthy and work out when I can, but I still have a muffin top! You know, that extra fat/love handles on the sides of the lower back and hips. How do I get rid of that?
A: If we took a poll right now and asked women what the most stubborn areas of the body are to lose fat, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance that the majority would say the legs/butt, and second would be love handles and muffin top (lower back/ sides).
The Bad News first…
This area of the lower back is a favorite fat storage spot for your body. Genetics play a big role in how easy it is to store fat there. Genetics also play a role in how fast you can lose the fat in that area. For most people it happens to be the first place fat shows up and the last place to go.
Unfortunately all attempts at creating supplements and gadgets for spot reduction (losing fat from a specific targeted area of the body) have fallen short. You also can’t spot reduce fat around your waist no matter how hard you work that area with exercise, so we need a different strategy.
Here’s the Good News...
The good news is that even though you can’t spot reduce with exercise, you do not have to resort to liposuction to get rid of the fat in this area. A well designed exercise regimen combined with a nutrition program that supports your goal will get you there.
The first thing you need to realize is it’s all a matter of total body fat percentage. When you get your overall body fat percentage down, a certain amount of that will come from the lower back area.
We all have a little imaginary thermostat in our brain that pings when you get a bit too close to “too fat”. It’s usually signaled when your pants get too tight or you see something extra you haven’t noticed before in the mirror.
At this point one of two scenarios usually play out. The first scenario is scrambling behavior. The second scenario is you buy bigger clothing.
Do you buy bigger clothing?
I’ll deal with the second scenario first. This is where you acknowledge that you’re reaching the “too fat” point, but take on a mindset that says “it’s ok”. There are multiple versions of this mindset from “I’m ok with it, I love myself” to “it’s not that bad”; and you decide to buy bigger clothing.
The “it’s ok” mindset is the worst possible mindset to have. It causes you lower your standards for yourself and takes the fight out of you. This is the mindset that greases the slide to gaining a lot of weight in a short period time. I’ve had many consultations where people have shared stories of their weight truly spiraling out of control and when you finally wake up from the “it’s ok” state, you’re fifty or a hundred pounds overweight but you don’t know how you got there.
Adopting a mindset that says it’s ok undermines your mind and body’s internal mechanisms. Not only do you find yourself down the river without a paddle in terms of having gained weight but it fuels the demise of all your health markers. If you find yourself in the “it’s ok” mindset and can’t get out of it, visit a local professional to get on track.
The benefits and drawbacks of scrambling
The second and more common response to the “too fat” signal of your imaginary thermostat is scrambling behavior. This means that you will fight and scrap and do whatever it takes to get back to where you think you should be. This isn’t from statistics on your doctors chart. This is your internal feeling of where you should be in terms of your self image. You know when you feel and look good.
Scrambling is like a ball of energy that kicks you into gear to do whatever it takes to get back to where you want to be. Scrambling can be beneficial when you channel the energy into a healthy strategy like following the triad of effective weight loss– nutrition, resistance training and cardio.
Unfortunately if you don’t have a proper game plan on hand, scrambling behavior can also open your mind up to some questionable tactics like the popular crash diet of the moment or over exercising.
What to do?
The scrambling feeling is not necessarily a comfortable, pleasant feeling. It’s not necessarily a bad feeling, but it’s an urge to move. An urge to make it happen. As with so many other things (like when you’re starving, logic goes out the window and you eat that pizza), when you reach a scrambling point, you’re going to reach for whatever is available and will make the most impact.
The secret is to anticipate and make a better decision.
What you need to do…
To get your body fat down you need to create a caloric deficit through your exercise and nutrition program.
Don’t fall into the trap of doing countless reps of exercises that target that area. This will not help your cause. You’ll be wasting time at best and at worst, building muscle in the area, giving you a thicker waist. You want to work the area properly to condition the muscles underneath. This will help give you a slimmer look. Of course I’m biased but our home exercise crash course is a simple yet effective program.
2. Cardiovascular activity
Cardio is not only good for your heart and overall health, it also helps burn excess calories and makes it easier to create a caloric deficit.Make sure you get a mix of high intensity cardio and lower intensity cardio.
3. Supporting Nutrition
The last and perhaps key piece to the “lose lower back fat” puzzle is consistently eating in a way that will support fat loss.
a. Make sure you’re taking in less calories than you burn
b. Make sure you’re getting enough protein to keep the metabolism running hot and to recover from your workouts
c. Practice Carbohydrate Manipulation to manage your blood sugar