For most people, losing weight is no easy task. It takes much persistence and effort to pick a healthy diet and stick to it, and just as much work to adhere to a regular exercise regimen. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of dieting is that fat tends to stubbornly cling to some parts of the body, no matter how much weight is lost in other areas. A prime example of one such notorious trouble spot is the hips, which always seem to attract fat like moths to a flame. While many people are thoroughly discouraged by these “love handles,” employing certain diet and exercise tactics may allow you to finally expel these troublesome pounds.
The Reasons for Love Handles
The appearance of love handles can be traced back to the body’s fat storage process. This process is heavily affected by hormones, or chemicals within the body that influence the actions of various cells and organs. In this case, the hormone in the spotlight is insulin.
To fully understand the importance of insulin in the body, we first need to look at a term you are probably familiar with – carbohydrates. Essentially, carbohydrates are chemical compounds used by the body to produce new blood sugar, or glucose. This is where insulin begins to factor into the equation.
You have likely heard of insulin before, probably in relation to diabetes and diabetic patients. Insulin is tasked by your body with transferring newly formed glucose into cells, where they can either be used immediately as an energy source or stored as fat for a later date. The rate at which this process occurs is known as your insulin sensitively level. Generally speaking, a person with a high insulin sensitively level will quickly convert glucose into energy, leaving little blood sugar left to be turned into fat. Conversely, a relatively low level of insulin sensitivity will force the body to stockpile more glucose, leading to more fat.
Insulin sensitivity has an inverse relationship with the amount of insulin in the body; the more insulin in the bloodstream, the less effective it is at converting glucose into energy. The obvious result of this development is the accumulation of fat cells at various points on the body. One of the first places where fat appears is the hips; even if your insulin levels aren’t especially high, they can still be high enough to keep fat attached to the sides of your waist.
When reviewing the preceding information, an effective strategy should quickly come to mind; in order to eliminate love handles, you first must get better control over your insulin levels. And to do that, you must be more careful about what you eat.
Reducing Fat Through Diet
There are some foods that immediately come to mind as diet busters; it’s hard to think of anyone who lost weight by scarfing down doughnuts, sodas and potato chips. What can make diet so challenging, however, is that fat-building ingredients can lurk in seemingly healthy products. Below are some items that are best avoided by those looking to shed fat from their hips.
Foods/Drinks with High Fructose Corn Syrup – High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has a deservedly poor reputation, with a 2010 Princeton study linking this additive to increase weight gain in lab rats. Furthermore, the same study found that the rats added extra additional abdominal weight after consuming HFCS. In addition to its inherently unhealthy nature, HFCS has an almost ubiquitous presence in our modern food supply. High Fructose Corn Syrup is found in soda, ketchup, pickles, bread, cereal, yogurt, barbecue sauces and salad dressings, among other items.
Foods With Refined Grains – Unlike high fructose corn syrup, grains are generally viewed in a favorable light by most consumers. Despite their decent reputation, it would be a mistake to classify all grains as healthy. The term “grains” encompasses both whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains retain all of their main parts – the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains, in contrast, have been stripped of their bran and germ through food processing techniques.
Aside from a change in color scheme (refined grains tend to be used to create white-colored products, while whole grain items are noticeably darker), a casual observer probably wouldn’t notice any differences between whole and refined grain foods. Your digestive system, on the other hand, certainly notices the change. According to a recent study by Pennsylvania State University, obese people who followed a whole-grain based diet lost more weight than dieters who ate refined grains. This difference was especially pronounced in the amount of body remaining near the abdominal region.
Trans Fats – In recent years, trans fats have rivaled high fructose corn syrup in terms of negative press. In addition to boosting the body’s levels of LDL cholesterol (known commonly as the bad from of cholesterol), trans fats can also cause fat to build up around the hips and stomach. The list of foods with this harmful ingredient includes margarine, cake mixes, certain soups, fast food and some frozen foods.
Exercises for Love Handles
As with any part of the body, your hips can be toned and made notably less flabby with exercise. If love handles are proving to be a persistent foe, try adding some of these activities to your exercise regimen.
Waist Twists – This first technique is fairly self-explanatory. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-length apart. With your arms extended from your sides, begin twisting from side to side. While performing twists, make sure to keep proper form. This means that your hips, head and legs must remain stationary; only your waist (located right above the hips) should be moving during this exercise.
Side Plank – Judging by its name, you can probably guess that this exercise requires you to lie on your side. Specifically, you should start this technique with your forearm resting on the ground, along with your hips and legs. Slowly raise your body off of the ground, until only your forearm and foot are touching the floor. Raise your other arm up towards the ceiling, and hold this position for roughly 8 seconds before returning to your starting point. To make this exercise somewhat easier, you can cross your legs so that the food of your top leg is planted firmly on the ground.
Captain’s Chair – You may not have heard of the Captain’s Chair exercise before, but rest assured that this technique can be quite beneficial when performed correctly. In fact, the American Council on Exercise picked the captain’s chair as the best exercise for strengthening your side abdominal muscles (also known as your obliques). Though this exercise is commonly performed at the gym, the captain’s chair technique can also be done from the confines of your home.
Start by sitting on your chair with feet on the floor. With your palms facing downward, grab onto the sides of your chair and slowly lift your legs up towards your chest. As you move your legs upward, keep your spine straight and exhale in a controlled manner. When you have brought your legs as far as they can go, hold your position for 3 seconds. You can then slowly return to your starting position, taking in a new breath as you do so. Aim for ten repetitions.