It’s easy to blame that bottle of red wine and bowl of creamy pasta for the extra jiggle on your stomach and rear end, but it’s really biology that determines where those excess calories settle. Your body hangs on to two types of fat: subcutaneous, which typically accumulates in the lower body, such as the butt, and visceral, which is mostly in the waist area, according to Harvard Health Publications. Genes and hormones both play a role in where fat settles. Although spot-reducing these areas isn’t possible, overall weight loss can help slim down a fatty waist and butt, while targeted strength-training will help define the muscles underneath.
Diet for Fat Loss
Employ a two-fold strategy for losing overall body fat through diet and exercise. First, take a good, hard look at your meals and how many calories you’re eating per day. Limit excess fat, added sugar and alcohol in favor of lean protein, fresh produce and complex carbohydrates. Smart choices include a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, particularly dark, leafy greens, protein sources such as chicken breasts, fish and legumes and whole-grain carbs, such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Watch your portions; just because something is carb- or fat-free doesn’t mean it can be eaten to excess.
Cardio for Fat Loss
The second part of overall fat loss requires burning off calories to create a caloric deficit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise, such as jogging or running, biking, skiing, swimming laps or jumping rope. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes a day. An easy measure of exercise intensity is the “talk test” – moderate-intensity exercise leaves you breathing heavy but still able to carry on a conversation. A vigorous rate means you’re breathing too hard to create coherent sentences
After the fat starts to melt off your body, you’ll want to focus on building the muscle that was hiding beneath the fat. Skip common waist workouts such as situps, which can cause back pain and work only the ab muscles. Instead, focus on exercises such as the plank, which works the entire core at once. To complete a standard plank, get onto your hands and knees. Push your knees off the floor so they’re fully extended behind you, while lowering your forearms to the ground to prop up your upper body. Use your core muscles to support your body and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds, or as long as possible. Variations of this exercise include side planks, stability ball planks and reverse planks.
Your rear end is actually made up of three muscles: the gluteus maximus (underneath each butt cheek), the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus, both of which are located around the bony part of your pelvis. Most toning exercises that work your glutes will also target other muscles, such as your quads and hamstrings, making them efficient for firming up your entire lower body. An example of butt-toning exercises include the ever-popular squat, which requires spreading your feet hip-width apart, bending slightly at the hips and then sitting back and down as if you were lowering yourself into an imaginary chair. The goal is to create a 90-degree angle at your knees, but not allow your knees to extend in front of your toes. Push back upward, squeezing your glutes as you reach the top. To make this exercise harder, hold dumbbells. Another butt-toning option is standing or walking lunges.
- College of the Canyons: Eating Strategies for Permanent Fat Loss
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to do About it
- Columbia University: Go Ask Alice: Booty-Enhancing Exercises
- Body Results: Plank Variations
- Harvard Health Publications: Strengthening your core: Right and Wrong Ways to do Lunges, Squats, and Planks
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
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