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Spot Reducing Belly Fat: Is It Really Possible?

woman on leg workout machine

Spot reduction of fat is a misconception. It's a health myth that several circles like to cling to, but no valid scientific evidence supports it.

Spot-reducing fat means performing specific exercises will decrease fat in particular body parts. For example, the theory purports that leg lifts can reduce the amount of fat in the hips and thighs, abdominal exercises lead to flat abs or chest exercises remove fat under the breasts.

There is scant evidence to confirm that spot reduction is effective. A comprehensive approach that includes cardio and nutrition is much more effective if you want to lose fat in targeted areas on your own.

Strength training exercises will build muscle, which generally comes with fat loss. Cardio is a better option for strictly fat loss and heart health. However, both of these types of exercise result in fat being burned throughout the body and not in a specific area.

Regardless of the type of activity, the more calories you burn, the less fat you'll have. Problem areas, however, will tend to persist based on your genetics, hormones, or other reasons, which we will discuss below. Unfortunately, this type of stubborn fat cannot be spot-reduced.

Can You Spot Reduce Fat?

There is no scientific evidence that spot-reducing belly fat is possible. You have no control over where fat cells are burned when losing weight. Furthermore, as Plastic Surgeon Dr. Tabasum Mir describes above, genetics determine where these problem areas will be. Even thin patients following a clean diet and regular exercise plan can have trouble areas like the belly, hips, or underneath the chin.  

Therefore, it's recommended that you approach weight loss with a holistic view instead of trying to burn fat in one specific area.

Understanding Calories

Calories are a significant reason why excess fat exists in the first place. To lose fat, you must burn more calories than you eat. This is what's known as a caloric deficit.

To understand how fat-burning via eating fewer calories works, imagine you need about 2000 calories a month to maintain your current weight. 

Two thousand calories a day isn't an arbitrary number. It's calculated by your age, weight, height, gender, and overall frequency of physical activity. A simple online search will tell you roughly how many calories you need to eat based on those factors, also known as your basal metabolic rate.

If you eat more calories than what your body needs to use, it stores the excess fat throughout the body.

If you begin eating 2,500 calories a day, that means that in a week, you've eaten 3500 more calories than your body needs. A surplus of 3500 calories equals about a pound of fat, meaning you've gained weight in one week.

Weight loss occurs if you eat about 500 calories fewer than your basal metabolic rate. There are 3,500 fewer calories in your system after a week, meaning that you've lost a pound of fat and, thus, lost weight.

Consuming fewer calories does not only depend on your diet. You can burn calories when doing exercise, which will help meet your caloric deficit and fat-reduction goals

The Spot Reduction Training Myth

Our genetics dictate where stored fat appears during weight gain and from where it disappears during weight loss.

When exercising, your body won't just be burning calories in the body part you exert force with. During strength training, you're drawing energy from your entire body; thus, fat burns in the same way.

While focusing on specific muscle groups will help you become stronger in that area or areas, it will not help you lose fat there. 

Burning fat to lose weight depends on your calorie intake. Therefore, reduce how many calories you consume to help burn the stored fat throughout your body. Also, pay attention to the type of food you eat, as a balanced, nutritious regimen replete with protein is best for fat loss.

Once you have started to lose weight, some trouble areas almost always hang on. These will be the last to decrease and often require you to become incredibly lean, almost close to single-digit percent body fat to eliminate fully. Hence, we always remind patients that small pockets of stubborn, pinchable flab are entirely normal.

That said, if you still want to spot-target such areas, the only way to do so is with a fat removal procedure like stomach liposuction, where fat is physically removed from the body.

Alternatives To Spot Reduction Training

Now that you understand that choosing where to lose fat in your body is not possible, you have other options to consider, such as dieting, exercise, and body contouring procedures.

But what must be made clear is that burning fat is only possible with a proper diet. The amount of calories you burn during exercise will never beat a healthy diet. Therefore, take all the following recommendations as activities to do while making healthier food choices.

  • Cardio: Cardio is the most efficient way to burn more calories. Aim to do 90 minutes of cardio a week for weight loss. Walking is a great, underrated form of cardio.

  • Resistance training: Lifting weights will help you lose some calories but, more importantly, build muscle, resulting in a bevy of health benefits. Therefore, coupling cardio and strength training with a diet will provide great results.

  • High-intensity interval training: This involves short intervals of intensive exercise that alternate with low-intensity recovery periods. It's great for burning fat, improving heart health, and building muscle.

  • Body contouring procedures: Fat removal surgeries can target unwanted pockets of fat throughout the body. Results will be permanent if your weight is maintained.

  • Injectable treatments: These injections can burn subcutaneous fat after multiple treatment sessions but may be painful and are less customizable than liposuction. Furthermore, many medspas offer unauthorized injectable treatments that can lead to adverse side effects, as the FDA recently warned

It's important to understand that targeted fat loss via diet and exercise requires patience. The results are never immediate and will require consistency. 

While cosmetic procedures will provide faster results, you must commit to a healthier lifestyle to maintain those results. 

AirSculpt® Provides Targeted Fat Reduction

AirSculpt® technology was developed to target fat without using invasive surgical techniques. With a keen focus on results and patient safety, AirSculpt® procedures are designed to provide a more efficient recovery with minimal risk.

To flatten your midsection, Stomach AirSculpt® offers various procedures that contour your abdomen without scalpels, stitches, needles, or anesthesia. 

Instead, we use a biopsy punch to form a symmetrical two-millimeter opening from where fat is removed. AirSculpt® also uses a variation of advanced power-assisted liposuction to pluck fat cells one by one with mechanical accuracy. 

Patients with small, hard-to-address areas of stubborn fat can achieve lasting and dramatic changes. Better yet, they can do so without waiting months for recovery to end, as is customary with traditional treatments like traditional liposuction.

Reducing fat via the cosmetic route doesn't have to be a stressful decision or experience. Call the AirSculpt® body sculpting office nearest you to start working with us to schedule your in-person or virtual consultation. 


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