“Do more crunches and you’ll lose the belly fat,” your friend advises after you casually mention to her that you really want to lose the extra belly pooch you’ve developed in recent years. She means well, and the idea sounds like it should work.
But is this true? Does spot reduction really work, or is it nothing more than an urban myth? To find the answer we need to take a look at the biology behind weight loss.
A Persistent Myth
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way up front: Spot reduction is nothing more than a myth, albeit a persistent myth that continues despite the overwhelming evidence that it does not work. You could do a million crunches, for example, but it won’t contribute to any fat loss in your abdomen. It will definitely help you to build up your ab muscles, but it will not allow you to target the fat in your belly.
Why does this myth persist? It’s probably because it sounds like it really should work. It sounds logical. After all, if we want to develop bigger muscles in a certain area, we need to exercise that muscle group more. Using the same logic, it also stands to reason that if we want to lose fat in a particular area, then we need to exercise that area more.
The Biology of Gaining and Losing Fat
When people gain fat, they don’t just gain it in one area, do they? No, they gain it all over their bodies. The reverse is also true when it comes to fat loss. When people lose fat, it isn’t possible to target fat in only one area (spot reduction). The only way to lose fat in an area is to lose weight overall and hope that particular area gets smaller.
There really are only two ways to lose weight: through diet and exercise. The overall formula is simple: If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.
Dieting typically includes reducing our total caloric intake, eating foods that are better for us, and avoiding those foods that contribute to weight gain – like sugar and processed foods. We really are what we eat, and we should always strive to avoid overeating and to only eat foods that are beneficial to our bodies.
Exercise is an important part of weight loss because it causes the body to burn more calories. This causes the body to deplete its stores of fat. It’s important to keep in mind that fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We need some fat in order to live. It’s the way our bodies store energy. It only becomes a problem when we have too much fat.
The Only True Spot Reduction
If you have an area of your body that does not respond to diet and exercise, there is one type of spot reduction that actually does work – liposuction surgery.
Liposuction, when performed by a skilled plastic surgeon, enables you to target areas of fat in certain parts of your body and have that fat permanently removed. Liposuction has been around for a few decades and is generally considered safe – but it’s important to keep in mind that there is still the possibility of complications. This is surgery we’re talking about, after all. Always do your homework before you commit to any plastic surgery. Be sure you check the doctor’s credentials and know the potential complications before going under the knife.
In recent years some new ways to remove fat without surgery have been developed that you may want to consider instead of liposuction. One company has developed a procedure where lasers are pointed directly at the skin over the targeted area, killing the fat cells beneath. Another company has developed a procedure to freeze fat cells with a device applied to a particular area. And yet another company has recently come out with an injected formula just for the fat cells in the chin area. The formulation is injected into the fat which causes the fat cells to slowly die over a period of a few weeks. These procedures can be done in a doctor’s office on an outpatient basis.
The next time someone recommends doing a bunch of crunches to eliminate belly fat, just thank them for their advice, disregard it, and move on. They mean well, but the information simply is not correct. You now know how our bodies gain and lose weight. With this information, you can make changes to your diet and exercise regimen to lose weight in a healthy way.
The author combines diet and exercise to keep his weight in check and live a healthy lifestyle. Read more about him at his website.