Can you 'spot reduce' fat?
Reaz Mahmud Fiem

Our resident fitness expert talks about whether we can actually target specific regions of the body and achieve 'localised' fat loss


What is ‘spot reduction’ of fat? The term might be new to you but unfortunately the process is not. Whoever has gone through unnecessary body fat gain has probably tried this. So spot reducing fat is nothing but trying to reduce or lose the body fat of a certain area of the body. Yes, over the years we have been taught that it is possible to do so. Go inside any local gym, you will find many of the newbies doing workouts to reduce fat from specific regions of their bodies. The end result is usually leaving the gym after a month without any progress.

To understand the scenario better let us take an example. A person who recently gained a bit of belly fat is concerned with how to lose that unflattering extra bit. The first thing he would hear from his friends or family is that “you should exercise”. Well it is true! He most certainly should. So what is his next step? He might either join a gym or take up working out at home. The exercise he ends up giving the most emphasis on is crunches. He performs crunch after crunch with the thought that his potbelly will disappear someday. Unfortunately, no results appear and he ends up far from it! Instead, he probably ends up with a back pain from a muscle strain.

If you are one who is familiar with the above scenario, then take my advice – you cannot spot reduce fat. This is the greatest myth in the fitness industry. If you want to reduce fat from any specific region, you will have to go on a calorie deficit. The deficit can be created either by diet or by exercise. Wait! Did I just mention exercise? The person in our example has been working out, so how come he had no results to show for it? The reason is simple – the exercises he has chosen are not burning enough calories. For example, crunches are simply not enough for burning enough calories to take you in a calorie deficit to target your belly fat. Also crunches work on the rectus abdominus. What is that? That is the muscle of the abdomen. Hence crunches will have no impact on the fat lying over the muscle, and that is the hard truth.

Therefore, whenever you want to reduce unwanted body fat from any particular region, you have to think from an overall fat loss perspective. That is, you have to reduce the total body fat percentage to see progress. You have to take up a healthier lifestyle with a balance of effective training, proper sleep and eating the right kind of food. Having said that, I should also mention that your body tends to hold on to certain areas of fat areas more rigidly than in others even through diet and exercise. We often term them as ‘stubborn body fat’. While there are many reasons behind this, the number one factor to remember is that blood flow is not equal in all areas of the body to mobilize fat equally. Thus do not lose hope and keep working hard towards that fat loss goal of yours. I promise you, if you are consistent you will see all your unwanted body fat melt away.

There is also another important point worth mentioning. The speed at which you lose your body fat is dependent on several factors. For example, if you have a body fat percentage of above 20% the rate of fat loss will be pretty fast. However, if you are willing to go below 10% then surely you will not see the same results. The loss of fat will be at an annoyingly slow rate. Also, you will lose fat faster in some region of your body than in others. For men, they may see quicker fat loss results in the upper body than in the lower abdomen. Similarly for women, the fat from gluts and thigh region tends to go away at the slowest rate.

That is the human anatomy; we have been created that way. The body uses fat for emergency fuel, and it tends to want to hold on to some of those 'reserves'. Therefore in many cases fat loss may seem like a difficult and sometimes frustrating task. Then again, as I have already mentioned above, a good workout plan and diet strategy can definitely take you there.


Reaz Mahmud Fiem is a fitness enthusiast who wishesto help people stay healthy.

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Reaz Mahmud Fiem

The author is a fitness enthusiast, who wishes to help people stay healthy.