I received a question the other day stating:
“Dr. Sam, how do I get rid of my “love handles”? Is there a way to do it permanently? It always seems to be there, no matter what I do and I’ve tried everything.”
Well, first of all – I can guarantee that you haven’t “tried everything“.
And yes, there is a way to permanently remove and “erase” your love handles and I’ll tell you how in a couple of minutes.
The love-handles are seen in both men and women, but typically more in men.
It’s that fat on the side/back of your lower abs.
They’re on top of the external oblique muscles, located right above the hip bone.
Which, incidentally, most people make a huge mistake by training the oblique muscles thinking that by working them and so forth, they’ll somehow burn more fat in the area. Some kind of “spot reduction” technique or strategy.
A lot of so-called experts and trainers keep telling people to do this and it’s just a stupid idea. Your oblique muscles can grow quickly and thus, they’ll just get bigger and wider when you train them.
You do NOT want that.
You want to narrow your waistline, NOT make it bigger and wider… even if it’s muscle.
This means no side-bends. No weights, no dumbells, no cables, no planks — nothing!
Additionally, doing heavy squats and deadlifts also activates the oblique muscles and thus, builds them.
This is great for performance and stability, but not for aesthetics and having a tight, narrow waist.
Simply doing regular ab work that focuses primarily on the rectus abdominis, the front of your abs, top to bottom, is all that’s needed. You’ll indirectly tighten the oblique muscles, without building them and making them big and blocky.
With that said, let’s move on and talk about how to get rid of the love handles.
Lose The Fat
I don’t know why they’re called the “love handles”, but let’s just call it what it really is – fat!
And to shrink your love handles, you need to lose fat.
Before I start discussing fat loss, there’s a definite hormonal relationship to stomach fat, including the love-handles.
I had a very good friend growing up and he was very lean everywhere. A skinny guy. But it seemed that ALL of his fat went right to his stomach and the majority of it, to the love handles.
Some people distribute fat evenly throughout the body. Some more on the lower body and some more on the upper body.
Or look at women for example. When they go through menopause, their fat distribution changes and it starts to go more towards the gut, belly, and “love handles”.
It has to do with genetics and hormones.
Now, you can’t change your genetics, but you most certainly can make improvements in your hormones, which will help accelerate fat loss around the stomach and love-handles.
This is why some people follow the wrong diet or exercise program and they lose “weight”, but it’s not that much fat. It’s water and muscle weight. They end up looking “skinnier”, but not much leaner.
And I mention this because there are a few hormones I want you to focus on that control stomach fat.
There are other hormones and peptides of course, such as Growth Hormone, IGF, etc. but I want to keep it simple today.
Cortisol is one of your stress hormones. You need it to survive but most people oversecrete this hormone. We live in stressful times. Too much is going on all at once. We don’t “stop and relax” and we sleep poorly.
As cortisol levels go up, fat storage in the belly also goes up.1,2
Interestingly, people who have large waists in proportion to their hips, especially women, have been found to secrete more cortisol, especially during stressful times.3
Additionally, higher cortisol causes two other negative reactions in the body.
- It lowers testosterone levels.
- It decreases insulin sensitivity and increases blood sugar and insulin levels.
Both of these hormonal imbalances, cause further fat storage around the belly.
While at the same time, DECREASES muscle mass and thus, further decreasing your metabolism.
Simply stated, you’re really screwed!
One of the best ways to improve cortisol levels is to get better and deeper sleep. I will do an entire article about this topic in the future.
But you must manage your stress levels better.
This also means you don’t go crazy with the workouts. Exercising every day and pushing hard all the time – doing super intense gym workouts AND cardio and so forth – is very stressful for your body. You’re creating a hormonal imbalance and a very negative one.
So, listen to your body and know when you need to pull back and relax and let the mind and body recover.
The next hormone I want you to focus on is insulin. This is a storage hormone. Just like cortisol, you need it to survive. But, it shouldn’t be elevated all the time.
High insulin and blood sugar levels cause more belly fat, including the most harmful kind – visceral fat – which is the fat inside your organs in the stomach. It causes the protruding, pregnant belly.
So, you must manage your insulin levels and this has a lot to do with your diet. This doesn’t mean you never eat carbohydrates.
You should have some carbs, but not a ton of it and more importantly, not the wrong kinds.
First off: don’t drink your calories. It shoots up your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Eat natural, healthy carbs – vegetables, some fruit, small amounts of starches like white rice, yams, and legumes.
Also, stay away from seed and vegetable oils. They cause hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and inflammation. This means NO oils such as soybean, canola, corn, sunflower, sesame, and so forth.
I’ve done articles and articles about this topic so I won’t push it too much. You can read about improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.
Testosterone is found in both men and women, just at much higher levels in men.
As men’s testosterone levels decrease, starting in his mid-20s, his body fat starts to increase. In fact, there is a direct and strong correlation between testosterone and stomach fat.4-7
More testosterone = less stomach fat.
Higher testosterone also means a better ratio to cortisol, the stress hormone.
As a reminder, the opposite of testosterone is NOT the female hormone, estrogen – but the stress hormone, cortisol. Higher testosterone help fight the negative effects of cortisol.
And, I’ve made a lot of article about this topic as well. You can also read more details about increasing your testosterone levels.
So, you need to improve your hormones, which has to do with your lifestyle. This means:
- Stress management
Now, there are supplements, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs that will help make improvements in these hormones. Some are very effective and powerful.
HOWEVER, nothing is as important as diet, exercise, and stress management.
The supplements will accelerate the process and the truth is, they all work very well together.
There’s never ONE simple solution or magic bullet or pill.
What matters is persistence, consistency, determination, and making a commitment that you’re going to make daily improvements, week after week, month after month, and year after year to get in shape and stay that way.
If you have bad days, no problem. Just start over again the next day. It’s totally fine.
Permanent Fat Loss
Oh, I almost forgot about the permanent way to erase your love-handles. The truth is, there’s really only one main way and that’s through liposuction.
They actually remove the fat cells and thus, it’s permanent.
There are a couple of injectable drugs that will cause similar effects, but that topic is far too advanced for me to speak about here.
So, if all else fails, you may want to consider liposuction at some point. However, there are no shortcuts, if you want healthy and long-term fat loss.
Just take action daily and soon, you’ll achieve your goals.