People want to lose weight for many reasons: health, athletic performance, appearance, the desire to keep up with kids or grandkids.
But where exactly the weight will come off first is highly individualized. There’s little science to suggest that all people lose weight in particular areas first.
Seeing results in a targeted body zone can be motivational, but can you predict (or better yet, influence) where you’re likely to lose weight first? Probably not.
Here’s what we know about the science of weight distribution and regional weight loss.
Genetic factors largely determine where fat is distributed in your body.
Research is underway to discover exactly how genetics could help health professionals personalize weight loss programs.
Where you lose the most weight may have something to do with your sex.
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If you’ve lost weight before, you may already know where your body tends to show weight loss first.
For some people, the first noticeable change may be at the waistline. For others, the breasts or face are the first to show change.
Where you gain or lose weight first is likely to change as you get older. Both middle-aged men and postmenopausal women tend to store weight around their midsections.
Studies show that for postmenopausal women, adding exercise alongside a healthy diet is key to losing belly fat.
Most of the scientific evidence suggests that you can’t target a specific spot to lose weight, even if you concentrate your exercise efforts on that zone.
In one 2013 study, participants exercised only their nondominant leg for a period of 12 weeks. Interestingly, the exercised leg lost less fat than what was lost in the upper body — and there was no difference in fat loss between one leg and the other.
There’s no evidence suggesting you can use exercise to target where you lose fat first on your body. But exercise can improve your:
- heart health
- brain function
- physical strength
- athletic endurance
- general weight loss goals
Extra weight around the waist — especially deep visceral fat that encases the organs — raises the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular issues, like heart attack and stroke.
Although you won’t necessarily be able to see visceral fat loss, it’s still important to manage it since it can harm your health.
Research has found the following eating plans may help reduce or manage visceral fat levels:
low glycemic index diet
- a diet high in
plant or animal protein portioned meals
- diets low in
Exercise has also been found to help reduce visceral fat, especially
Your body breaks down fat cells when you lose weight. It uses the energy in those cells to fuel your activity levels and keep your body warm.
Once fat cells have been metabolized, the byproducts leave your body in sweat, urine, or carbon dioxide when you exhale.
How do you know whether your exercise and nutrition strategies are working?
It’s OK to lose small amounts of weight over a longer period of time. And actually, that’s preferred.
Most doctors agree that losing around 1 to 2 pounds a week is ideal for sustainable weight loss. Faster weight loss is unlikely to last because it’s harder to maintain in the long term.
Where you’ll lose weight first is largely determined by genetic factors.
Just as your body is programmed to gain weight in certain areas, it’s also programmed to lose weight in certain areas. Your sex, age, and hormones also play important roles in where and how quickly you lose weight.
Most research shows it’s not possible to target certain areas for fat loss. However, studies have shown that several strategies are effective for reducing the amount of abdominal visceral fat.
Eating lots of lean protein and vegetables, exercising more often than not, and limiting your carbs, alcohol, and sugar intake will help.
You may not be able to predict which parts of your body are going to lose weight first, but you can change your diet and exercise habits so your whole body benefits from a healthier lifestyle.