American pop sensation and actor Nick Jonas recently made headlines--not because of a new song or another red carpet appearance with wife Priyanka Chopra--but because of his ‘love handles’. While the term ‘love handles’ might sound cute, it actually refers to the excess fat in your body that accumulates around your waist. But remember, having love handles don’t make your body any less ‘ideal’. We strongly propagate that you love your body and maintain a healthy self-image, no matter your shape or size! However, it is also essential to maintain a healthy fitness routine, which is important not just for your body but also for your mind. So here's how you can get rid of love handles.
The main ‘cause’ of love handles is your body’s tendency to retain fat along your waistline. Some people’s bodies have a natural tendency to store fat along that area while for others it could be your thighs, breasts, arms or face.
Fat cells usually accumulate in your body when there is a calorific excess, which means that you are consuming a lot more calories than you are burning. There are certain factors that can contribute to fat being collected along your waist, lower back and belly. These include:
-Imbalance of hormones, especially increased levels of cortisol
-age (abdominal fat is particularly common as you get older)
-a sedentary lifestyle with little or no physical activity
-an unhealthy diet that is high in fats, sugars, and high-calorie foods
-lack of sleep or disturbed sleep
-undiagnosed or untreated medical conditions that may be slowing down your metabolism, like hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, which makes it difficult to burn off extra calories and lose fat.
When it comes to fat around your midsection, getting rid of it is no longer about losing it for superficial purposes. While love handles themselves aren’t risky for your health, they are symptomatic of serious underlying problems, which could include:
-high blood pressure (hypertension)
-sleep apnea and other breathing issues
-type 2 diabetes (too much body fat can lead to insulin resistance)
-cancer, especially of the colon and breast
If you’ve identified that you have unhealthy amounts of fat accumulated around your waist, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle and to get rid of love handles. Here are some things you can try:
Sometimes, we tend to eat mindlessly--when we’re bored, tired, stressed, excited--not necessarily because we’re hungry and our body is demanding nourishment. This leads to excess accumulation of unwanted calories which your body isn't able to consume throughout a day. This caloric excess leads to the conversion of leftover calories into fat, which settles in and around your waist. Hence it is important to be mindful about not only what you eat but when you consume food and most importantly why you’re eating it. Mindful eating can help you gain control of your eating habits and may lead you to consume fewer calories. It involves paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, eating slowly without distraction and understanding how food impacts your mood and health.
When being mindful of what you’re eating, solely focussing on counting calories isn’t enough. It is important that you consume nutrient-rich foods including fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meat and eggs. Processed foods such as fast food, fried foods and sweets contain ingredients that are harmful to your health and should be avoided as much as possible. According to health experts, people who consume large amounts of processed junk food on a regular basis are at a greater risk of obesity, along with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases. Instead of eating out, you should try to cook at home as often as you can and prepare meals from fresh whole foods, which will significantly help in reducing your waistline and cutting fat from being accumulated at your waist.
Water is a basic human need and is extremely essential for healthy body functions. Plenty of times, people confuse being thirsty with being hungry--so the next time you reach out for an untimed snack, try drinking a glass of water again. If you feel satiated, ditch the snack. Another mistake we tend to make is to replace water with other beverages, which often include sugar. This contributes to your body’s calorie intake, without adding any nutritional value. If you’re really craving some flavour in your drink, try infusing your water with fruits, mint or organic leaf-based teas.
While you’re cutting off sugar from your beverages, we suggest you cut added sugars off from your diet altogether. Added sugar refers to that which is found in foods and beverages like cookies, candies, sports drinks and sodas. It does not include the natural sugars found in fresh fruits and vegetables, which aren’t harmful and also pack a lot of nutrients and vitamins, unlike foods with added sugar. Many doctors believe that sugar is the main culprit when it comes to accumulation of fat, and hence is a very dangerous ingredient in your diet.
For a very long time, fats have had a bad rep and were considered the ‘culprits’ behind unhealthy weight gain, which led to people avoiding them like the plague. However, newer research has found that natural, healthy fats are actually very beneficial for your body and help you lose weight by making you feel fuller for longer. This helps you avoid snacking and binging in between meals, thus contributing to a leaner waist and a healthier you!
The best way to stay healthy and avoid a build-up of fat in your body is to burn off more calories than you consume. You can do this by first ensuring that you’re counting the number of calories you are consuming and next, by constantly moving so that you are able to maximise your calorie burn. Start by maintaining a strict exercise regime--try to fit in 40-50 minutes 3-4 days a week. Besides hitting the gym, try to remain active in other aspects of your life--little changes like walking to the supermarket, taking the stairs and walking while being on calls can have a massive impact on your health!
To say that exercise is extremely important to not only lose excess fat but also to maintain your overall health would be stating the obvious. However, adding resistance training to your workout regime will help your body build lean muscle and burn more calories at rest. Resistance training means contracting your muscles against some form of resistance to build your strength. This doesn’t mean that you give up on cardio altogether--in fact, studies have found that a combination of resistance and cardio exercise is more effective at reducing body weight and belly fat than either cardio or strength training alone. So get lifting!
While staying active and working out is important, making sure your body is getting enough rest and shut eye is equally essential! Your body heals, repairs and rejuvenates itself mostly while you’re asleep--so lack of sleep will make your physical and mental health go for a toss. Try getting at least the minimum 7-8 hours every night, and avoid taking naps in the middle of the day, as it would lead to light and disturbed sleep at night. If you have trouble sleeping, try taking a hot shower, rubbing lavender oil on your pillow or listening to ambient music before you sleep. If your trouble persists, visit a doctor immediately.
You may not realise it, but high levels of stress directly or indirectly affect the amount of weight we put on. This is because stress triggers the production of the hormone cortisol. Also known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands in response to stressful situations. This is harmful because research has linked increased levels of cortisol with weight gain, especially around the midsection. In order to avoid weight gain owing to stress, practice relaxing activities like yoga and meditation, which have proven to reduce cortisol levels in our body.
You might not know this, but alcohol is the easiest way to pile on excessive empty calories into your body. Which is why, if you’re really serious about cutting down on your waistline, the best thing for you to do is to drastically reduce your alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol has been linked to obesity and an increase in body fat. Moderate and excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to a higher risk of overall and central obesity. Besides that, alcohol also increases feelings of hunger by stimulating brain cells that regulate appetite, which will ultimately lead you to consume more calories.
Running is a great workout and an excellent addition to your daily cardio routine. To put it simply, yes--running will definitely help you reduce your overall body fat, which will help decrease the love handles around your waist. However, studies have found that a combination of resistance and cardio exercise is more effective at reducing body weight and belly fat than either cardio or strength training alone. So try adding some resistance training to your routine for the most effective workout!
As stated above, there is no ‘one’ exercise that will magically melt away your love handles. You need to focus on a combination of cardio and strength training to effectively get rid of the fat accumulated around your waist.
Skipping is another great option when it comes to cardio as it helps burn a lot of calories in a short span of time. When done in combination with resistance training, skipping can be a very effective way to reduce the fat along your midsection.
So remember, instead of focusing on how your love handles look and developing a negative self-image, try making small yet healthy changes to your lifestyle--this improves not only your physical but also your mental health, contributing to your overall wellbeing!
Featured Image: Shutterstock
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