Flanks, or “love handles,” refer to the excess fat on the sides of your lower waist and back.
Although excess can build up anywhere on the body, it often occurs in this area. That’s because the body tends to store fat around the belly. This type of fat distribution may be due to factors like genetics, hormones, or gender.
Love handle formation is also more common as you get older. Over time, the body redistributes fat from your limbs to your trunk. Your metabolism also slows down, causing weight gain.
It’s not possible to target one area of your body for weight loss. If you want to lose weight in a specific area, you must lose weight everywhere. You can do this by practicing habits that burn calories and fat.
Weight loss requires a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit is when you burn more calories than you take in.
For healthy weight loss, it’s generally recommended to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day. This equals 3,500 fewer calories a week, or 1 pound of fat loss.
Here’s how to create a caloric deficit in a healthy way:
Be mindful of what you eat
Healthy weight loss involves a balanced diet of nutrient-dense and low calorie foods.
- Fruits and vegetables. Plant foods are low in calories and high in fiber, which will keep you full for a long time. They’re also rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
- Whole grains. Replace refined grains, like white pasta, with fiber-rich whole grains. Examples include brown rice and quinoa.
- Lean protein. Choose lean protein like seafood, poultry, lean beef, and beans.
- Healthy fats. Swap saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Good sources include avocado and olive oil.
- Whole foods. Limit or avoid processed foods, which are often high in calories.
Drink more water
Water has zero calories. It can help you burn more calories and reduce your appetite before meals.
When consumed instead of sweetened beverages, like soda, water can be very useful for weight loss.
Create a cardio routine
Overall weight loss requires a regular cardio routine. Cardio exercise burns calories while improving energy, bone health, and mental wellness.
It’s recommended to get 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day, 5 days a week.
Examples of aerobic activity include:
As you lose overall weight, you’ll also lose flank fat.
Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep can disrupt your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight. It’s also associated with higher levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. This can lead to greater appetite and higher caloric intake.
Thus, adequate sleep is essential for weight management. Adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Mental stress is linked to factors that cause weight gain. For example, it can contribute to poor sleep, increased appetite, and poor food choices. It can also lower your motivation for exercise.
Therefore, reducing stress is important for weight loss. Strategies for stress relief include:
Though it’s not possible to target flanks for weight loss, you can define the muscles underneath. This includes your core and back muscles.
To sculpt these muscles, try the following moves along with cardio exercise.
The side plank works your abs, butt, and hips. It also challenges your side waist muscles, which are underneath your flanks.
- Lie down on your side on a mat. Place your elbow beneath your shoulders. Stack your knees and hips on top of each other.
- Lift your hips upward, keeping your body in a straight line. Pause.
- Slowly lower your hips to the floor.
The bicycle crunch is a classic move for your abs and sides. Be sure to move from your core, not your neck, which could cause pain.
- Lie on your back on a mat. Place your hands on the back of your head. Engage your core and lift your legs, bending your knees at 90 degrees.
- Lift your upper body, moving your right elbow and left leg toward each other. Simultaneously extend your right leg.
- Move your left elbow and right leg toward each other, extending your left leg.
Standing trunk rotation
If you prefer standing exercises, try the standing trunk rotation. You’ll need a light weight, like a soup can or medicine ball.
- Stand straight, feet hip-width apart. Hold your weight just under your chest, elbows pointing outward. Engage your core.
- Rotate your torso to the right. Pause.
- Repeat to the left side.
The bird dog defines your abs, back, hips, and butt. It’s also excellent for improving posture.
- Start on all fours, placing your hands beneath your shoulders. Place your knees hip-width apart.
- Contract your core. Lift your right arm and left leg until they’re parallel with the floor. Keep your spine neutral. Pause.
- Return to starting position. Repeat with your left arm and right leg.
If you want to spot-treat love handles, nonsurgical fat reduction procedures may be an option.
Cryolipolysis, or CoolSculpting, uses freezing temperatures to damage fat cells. The body slowly eliminates the fat cells over 4 to 6 months.
You may need multiple sessions to achieve the results you want.
Nonsurgical fat reduction
Some treatments can help reduce flanks by breaking down fat cells. Options include:
- Injection lipolysis. This injectable treatment uses deoxycholic acid to destroy excess fat. A common form of this injection is Kybella.
- Radiofrequency lipolysis. Radiofrequency lipolysis heats and destroys fat cells using radiofrequency.
- Laser lipolysis. Laser lipolysis, or SculpSure, heats and destroys fat cells using laser energy. It’s ideal for reducing excess fat in the flanks and abdominal area.
Liposuction, or “lipo,” is a surgical procedure that removes excess body fat. It can be used on various parts of the body, including the flanks.
During flank liposuction, you’re placed under local or general anesthesia. Your plastic surgeon makes small cuts in the fat. They use a cannula, or a narrow tube, to suction fat from the area.
If lifestyle changes and nonsurgical procedures haven’t produced the results you want, flank liposuction might be right for you.
Other surgeries for flanks include:
Extended tummy tuck
In an extended tummy tuck, fat and skin are removed from the:
- upper abdomen
- lower abdomen
An extended tummy tuck can be combined with a liposuction.
Lower body lift
A lower body lift targets loose skin. It sculpts the lower body by removing excess skin and fat. The surgery is often used after significant weight loss.
A lower body lift can tone the:
If you want to make your love handles smaller, try focusing on habits that will help you lose weight in general.
- eating a well-balanced diet
- exercising regularly
- reducing stress
You can also do exercises for your abs and obliques, which are the muscles at the sides of your trunk. This will tone and define the area.
If lifestyle changes don’t produce your desired results, talk with your doctor. You may be a good candidate for nonsurgical or surgical procedures.