Love handles: what are the causes and how to get rid of them?

Posted by Nutrition pro on

Love handles: what are the causes and how to get rid of them?

What are love handles?

“Love handles” are areas of skin that extend outward from the hips. 

When combined with tight clothing, love handles can become more pronounced, but they aren't caused by tight clothing alone. They indicate excessive fat accumulation around the hips and abdominal area.

Learn more in this article about the causes of love handles and how you can treat them.

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What causes love handles?

The underlying cause of love handles is fat retention .

Generally speaking, fat cells accumulate when your body takes in too many calories or you don't burn as many calories as you consume. 

Over time, these fat cells can become visible as they accumulate in certain areas, such as around your waist and hips.

Fat can accumulate anywhere in the body, but certain factors increase the likelihood of retaining fat in the hip, lower back and abdominal areas. 

Factors that contribute to the formation of love handles include:

  • Hormones, especially excess cortisol
  • Age (the accumulation of belly fat is particularly common with age)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • A diet high in fats, sugars and high-calorie foods
  • Lack of sleep
  • Undiagnosed or untreated conditions that slow down your metabolism ( hypothyroidism - or underactive thyroid - for example, it is difficult to burn extra calories)

How to get rid of love handles?

In order to get rid of your love handles for good, you will need to change your diet, exercise, and lifestyle.

Here are different effective ways to remove love handles :

1. Fill up on fiber

Adding foods high in soluble fiber to your daily routine can help you get rid of stubborn love handles. Soluble fiber is found in foods like beans, nuts, oats, vegetables and fruits.

The prolonged feeling of fullness provided by fiber has been shown to decrease the number of calories people consume throughout the day, leading to weight loss.

2. Be on the move throughout the day

Finding simple ways to increase the number of calories you burn throughout the day is a great way to lose excess body fat .

3. Increase your cardio

Cardio-based workouts help burn calories and reduce excess fat on the body, which can help slim down love handles .

4. Stay hydrated by drinking water

Keeping your body hydrated is essential for optimal health.

Studies have shown that higher consumption of sugary drinks is linked to weight gain, especially in the abdominal region .

Instead of sugary drinks, hydrate yourself with plain or sparkling water, or unsweetened tea.

5. Reduce your alcohol intake

An easy way to cut calories and lose weight is to cut down on alcoholic beverages.

Although drinking small amounts of alcohol has been linked to health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, drinking too much alcohol is not good for your overall health but also for your waistline. .

6. Avoid added sugars

A healthy diet is essential when trying to lose fat in any part of the body.

Reducing the amount of added sugar in your diet can help reduce body fat, including love handles .

7. Lift weights

Engaging in any type of physical activity can help you lose your love handles , but adding strength training to your routine can be especially beneficial.

While cardio training generally burns more calories during a workout, resistance training helps the body build lean muscle mass and burn more calories at rest.

The combination of resistance training with aerobic exercise has been shown to be very effective in burning belly fat .

8. Eat whole foods as often as possible

One of the easiest ways to get rid of love handles is to eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.

Incorporating more whole, natural foods into your diet is a great way to reduce your waistline . Healthy whole foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Preparing whole food meals at home, rather than opting for ready meals, can be another great way to lose love handles.

Other lifestyle changes to implement

Adopting healthy habits can help you get rid of love handles and keep them from coming back.

Dietary rebalancing that includes portion control can complement increased exercise and fat-burning activities to reduce love handles .

  • Plant-based foods, like berries, dark leafy greens, and whole grains, provide essential nutrients without the extra calories and fat.
  • Stick to lean protein sources, such as eggs, fish, and white-meat poultry over red meats.
  • Beans and legumes can fill you up so you can lower your daily calorie intake.
  • Keep your sodium intake ( less than 2300 milligrams per day). Not only does this lower your risk of high blood pressure, but it can also help prevent fluid retention that can make love handles worse.

In addition to changing your body from the inside, you can also help camouflage the appearance of love handles from the outside.

Choose pants that fit at the waist rather than your hips. This can help reduce the constriction around the hips that stresses love handles in the first place. Also, make sure your pants and underwear aren't too tight.

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Are love handles a health risk?

Love handles aren't dangerous, but they can indicate underlying risk factors for chronic disease. These include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • A high cholesterol level
  • heart disease
  • sleep apnea and other respiratory problems
  • A cerebral vascular accident
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • cancer , especially of the colon and breast
  • liver disease
  • osteoarthritis

Preventing love handles can help improve your overall health.

Exercises that target the back, abs and hips

A quick internet (YouTube) search reveals targeted exercises for specific areas of the body, including love handles. But fat reduction cannot be achieved with spot exercises alone. Although strength and resistance activities can improve muscle tone and flexibility, they do not reduce fat cells.

Try combining cardiovascular exercises with dumbbells and targeted movements for optimal results. If you are trying to lose weight and overall body fat, you may need up to five hours of moderate exercise per week.

It's also important to maintain a healthy diet and avoid consuming more calories than you burn. For gradual fat loss and weight maintenance, incorporate aerobic activities, such as walking, cycling, and swimming.

Even if you can't do a full workout every day, you'll reap the benefits of simply being more active.

Engage your abs with Pilates movements:

It can be difficult to find an effective workout that you actually enjoy.

Fortunately, Pilates is a beginner-friendly exercise method that is beneficial for toning the abs. The practice helps improve flexibility, posture and core strength.

Adding Pilates workouts to your routine can even help you lose weight and reduce your waistline.

A study of 30 overweight and obese women found that eight weeks of Pilates significantly reduced body fat, waist circumference and hip circumference.

Pilates can be modified to suit your fitness level and is suitable for all ages.

Medical procedures

Certain forms of plastic surgery are sometimes used to reduce fat retention in specific areas of the body. One of these procedures is called liposuction .

During liposuction, a surgeon injects a solution into the targeted area, such as your hips, to liquefy fat cells. Then they remove the fat cells using a vacuum cleaner. The results can be seen a few days after the treatment.

Liposuction is not a solution for the whole body. It only treats specific and targeted areas. Also, without lifestyle changes, fat cells are likely to return. Liposuction is not recommended only for people who are slightly to moderately overweight.

Other procedures may be used to support weight loss in obese adults. These include gastric banding or gastric bypass surgery. If you are obese and have love handles, such procedures may be more effective than liposuction.

In summary

Love handles can be a side effect of excess body fat, especially fat in the hips and lower abdomen. 

Increased activity and a healthier diet can help reduce love handles as part of overall fat loss, but it's important to remember that this can also take time.

Stick to your plan for a healthier lifestyle, and you'll eventually reap the aesthetic and underlying health benefits.

If you are unable to lose weight despite diet and exercise, consult your doctor for advice. They may order blood tests to check for possible underlying issues, such as hypothyroidism, or have recommendations for surgical procedures.

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