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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.

Genetic analysis shows that the relationship between genes and body fat distribution is stronger in women than it is in men. For example, if people in your family tend to accumulate weight in the hips and thighs, you may gain weight there, too.

Studies suggest that genetic factors also influence weight loss. For example, if high protein, high fiber diets tend to work for your parents, there’s a good chance they may work for you, too.

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.

In one large, worldwide study involving more than 2,500 people, male participants tended to be less compliant with a low calorie diet but still lost slightly more weight than female participants did.

Research has found that men tend to lose more weight from their trunk area, while women lose more weight from their hips.

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.

In a 2010 study involving female soldiers who had been in an intense total-body physical training program for 12 weeks, researchers found that they lost the most fat from their arms and trunks, while fat mass in their legs was essentially unchanged.

There’s no evidence suggesting you can use exercise to target where you lose fat first on your body. But exercise can improve your:

Multiple studies have confirmed that extra weight around the midsection has worse health consequences than extra weight around the hips and thighs.

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:

Exercise has also been found to help reduce visceral fat, especially high-intensity exercise like running.

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.