Despite their cute name, there isn't much to love about love handles.
Love handles are another name for the excess fat that sits at the sides of the waist and hangs over the top of pants. Also known as a muffin top, this fat can be a challenge to lose.
Many people try to target this specific area with endless side crunches and other abdominal moves that target the obliques, muscles that run down the sides of the torso.
In order to get rid of love handles for good, you’re going to need to make dietary, exercise and lifestyle changes.
Here are 17 natural ways to get rid of love handles.
Healthy eating is key when you’re trying to lose fat in any area of the body. Ditching added sugar is one of the best ways to clean up your diet.
Added sugar is found in foods and beverages like cookies, candies, sports drinks and sodas. The term does not apply to the natural sugar found in healthy foods like whole fruit.
Aside from being linked to a slew of health issues, such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, eating too much added sugar can lead to an increased amount of body fat, particularly in the belly area (, , ).
Sweeteners like table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey and agave nectar all contain a simple sugar called fructose.
Many studies have shown that fructose, especially from sweetened beverages, causes an increase in belly fat (, , ).
Plus, most sugary foods are loaded with calories yet contain few nutrients. Cutting back on the amount of added sugar in your diet can help reduce body fat, including love handles.
Filling up on healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds and fatty fish can help slim your waistline.
Not only do healthy fats taste delicious, they help you feel full, causing you to consume fewer calories throughout the day.
One study of more than 7,000 people found that when participants ate a high-fat Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, they lost a greater amount of weight and accumulated less belly fat than those on a low-fat diet ().
Replacing less nutrient-dense foods with healthy fats may help you lose body fat. This could be as simple as adding a few slices of tasty avocado to your meal.
In fact, one study showed that people who consume avocados tend to weigh less and have less belly fat than those who don’t ().
Even though healthy fats are high in calories, incorporating moderate amounts into your diet can help you shed pounds.
Adding foods rich in soluble fiber to your daily routine may help you get rid of stubborn love handles. Soluble fiber is found in foods like beans, nuts, oats, vegetables and fruits.
It helps keep you feeling full for a longer period of time by slowing down digestion and decreasing feelings of hunger.
The prolonged feelings of fullness fiber brings have been shown to decrease the number of calories people consume throughout the day, leading to weight loss ().
One study showed that when people increased the amount of soluble fiber they ate by just 10 grams per day over five years, they lost an average of 3.7% of their visceral fat, a harmful type of belly fat (12).
What’s more, whole foods that are rich in soluble fiber are usually also packed with nutrients. Plus, they’re good for the friendly, health-promoting bacteria in your gut ().
Finding simple ways to increase the number of calories you burn throughout the day is an excellent way to lose excess body fat.
Many people lead sedentary lifestyles and work desk jobs that involve sitting for hours on end. Studies show that sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for your health or your waistline.
One study of 276 people found that every 15-minute increment of sedentary behavior was associated with a 0.05-inch (0.13-cm) increase in waist size. Sedentary behavior was defined as reclining or sitting ().
Creating a habit as simple as setting a timer every half hour to get up and walk to the water cooler can make a big difference for weight loss.
Investing in a pedometer is a great way to track your steps and see exactly how much you are moving during the day.
Being stressed out has a negative impact on both your mental and physical health, and can even cause you to gain belly fat.
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.
Although this is a normal function, prolonged stress and overexposure to cortisol can cause unwanted side effects like anxiety, headaches, digestive issues and weight gain (, , ).
Many studies have linked increased levels of cortisol with weight gain, especially around the midsection (, , ).
To reduce stress and prevent belly fat, focus on activities like yoga and meditation that have been shown to reduce cortisol levels (, ).
Engaging in any kind of physical activity can help you lose your love handles, but adding weight training to your routine may be especially beneficial.
The terms weight training, strength training and resistance training are generally interchangeable. They all mean contracting your muscles against some form of resistance to build your strength.
While aerobic training typically burns more calories during a workout, resistance training helps the body build lean muscle and burn more calories at rest.
Combining resistance training with aerobic exercise has been shown to be very effective for burning off belly fat.
In fact, one study of 97 overweight and obese people found that a combination of resistance and aerobic exercise was more effective at reducing body weight and belly fat than either aerobic exercise or strength training alone ().
Plus, resistance training gives your metabolism a slight boost, helping you burn more calories throughout the day (24).
Like stress, not getting enough sleep increases cortisol levels in the body, which can lead to weight gain.
Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people tend to weigh more and have more body fat than those who get enough sleep.
One study that followed more than 1,000 people for five years found that those who slept fewer than five hours per night weighed more and had more belly fat than those who slept for seven to eight hours per night ().
Lack of sleep has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and obesity (, ).
To prevent yourself from gaining weight due to inadequate sleep, aim to get seven to eight uninterrupted hours of sleep per night.
Focusing on working out the part of your body that bothers you the most may be tempting, but exercising the whole body may be a more effective way to slim down love handles.
A better way to lose resistant body fat is to incorporate whole-body moves into your workout and add in aerobic exercises that work a large number of muscles at once.
Studies have shown that exercises that work the whole body, like burpees or using battle ropes, burn more calories than traditional exercises like push-ups ().
Adding high-quality protein to your meals can help you lose fat and maintain a healthy weight. Protein helps keep you full between meals and may even reduce the urge to snack ().
Furthermore, studies have shown that diets rich in protein are more effective at reducing belly fat than diets that are low in protein (, ).
Additionally, following a high-protein diet may help you maintain your weight once you have reached your goal ().
Including high-quality protein sources like eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, seafood, poultry and meats in your meals may help reduce excess fat, including love handles.
Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is defined as any activity that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time.
Aerobic workouts help burn calories and reduce excess fat on the body, which can help slim down love handles (, 36).
Many people feel intimidated by the high-intensity nature of some aerobic workouts, like spinning or running. However, there are plenty of low-impact, beginner-friendly aerobic workouts that are easy to do.
Swimming, working out on the elliptical machine or simply going for a brisk walk are all excellent ways to get into an aerobic workout routine.
Experts like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. That’s about 20 minutes per day ().
Properly hydrating your body is a must for optimal health.
Though water is the best fluid to drink, many people tend to reach for sweetened beverages like sports drinks, teas and juice when they feel thirsty.
The calories and sugar found in sweetened beverages add up and can cause you to gain fat around the waistline.
Studies have shown that a higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to weight gain, specifically in the abdominal area (, ).
What’s more, liquid calories don’t have the same effect on hunger as solid food, making it easier to drink an excessive number of calories and sugar ().
Instead of sugary beverages, hydrate with plain or sparkling water, or unsweetened tea.
Swapping refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and white rice for nutrient-dense complex carbs like sweet potatoes, beans, oats and brown rice can help you shed belly fat.
Unlike refined carbs that leave you feeling hungry, complex carbs keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day and may help you eat less.
This is because complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly due to their high fiber content.
Studies have shown that including fiber-rich carbohydrates in your diet can help you lose weight, which can help slim down love handles (, ).
One study of 48 people found that those who ate oatmeal at breakfast stayed fuller longer and ate less at both breakfast and lunch than those who consumed cereal ().
Choosing fiber-rich complex carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates is a great way to lose weight and get rid of love handles.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) might be one of the most effective workouts for losing body fat.
HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense aerobic exercise, each followed by a recovery period. These workouts are quick and effective, and numerous studies have shown that they can help you lose body fat.
A recent review of 18 studies that included over 800 people found that HIIT was more effective at reducing body fat and improving cardiopulmonary fitness than traditional, low-intensity, continuous exercise ().
Additionally, HIIT has been shown to be a powerful tool against belly fat.
One study that included 39 women found that adding HIIT to workouts was more effective at reducing belly fat than traditional training alone (45).
What’s more, HIIT workouts burn a ton of calories in a short period of time, meaning you don’t have to spend hours at the gym ().
Focusing on your food and paying more attention to how you feel while eating can help you shed pounds from your midsection.
Mindful eating is a practice that can help you gain control of your eating habits and may lead you to consume fewer calories.
Mindful eating involves paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, eating slowly without distraction and understanding how food impacts your mood and health.
This is an excellent way to get healthier, both physically and mentally, and has been shown to be an effective method for weight loss.
One study of 48 overweight and obese women found that mindful eating practices led to a greater loss of belly fat and reduction of cortisol levels, compared to no intervention ().
What’s more, practicing mindful eating can help you maintain a healthy weight once you've reached your goal (, ).
It can be difficult to find an effective workout that you actually enjoy.
Fortunately, pilates is a beginner-friendly exercise method that is beneficial for toning the abs. The practice helps improve flexibility, posture and core strength ().
Adding pilates workouts to your routine may even help you lose weight and shrink your waistline.
One study of 30 overweight and obese women found that eight weeks of pilates significantly decreased body fat, waist circumference and hip circumference ().
Pilates can be modified depending on your fitness level and is appropriate for all ages.
In fact, one study of 50 elderly women aged 60 and over found that eight weeks of mat pilates significantly reduced body fat while increasing lean body mass ().
An easy way to cut calories and lose weight is to cut back on alcoholic beverages.
Drinking too much alcohol has been linked to obesity and an increase in body fat, especially in the midsection (, ).
In one study of over 2,000 people, moderate and excessive alcohol consumption was linked to a higher risk of overall and central obesity ().
Alcohol also increases feelings of hunger by stimulating brain cells that regulate appetite, which may cause you to consume more calories (, ).
Plus, many alcoholic beverages are loaded with calories and added sugar, which can cause you to gain weight.
While drinking small amounts of alcohol has been linked to health benefits like a reduced risk of heart disease, drinking too much isn’t good for your overall health or waistline (58).
One of the simplest ways to get rid of love handles is to eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.
Highly processed foods like fast food, fried foods, sweets and TV dinners contain ingredients that aren’t good for health.
Studies show that people who eat lots of processed foods are at a greater risk of obesity, along with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease (59, , ).
Incorporating more whole, natural foods into your diet is an excellent way to shrink your waistline. Healthy whole foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and whole grains.
Preparing meals made with whole foods at home, rather than opting for premade dishes, may be another great way to lose love handles.
Research shows that people who regularly eat readymade meals sold at grocery stores and fast food restaurants have more belly fat than those who don’t ().
As you can see, there are many simple and natural ways to get rid of love handles.
Trying a new exercise routine, eating fewer processed foods and getting more fiber throughout the day can help you attain a slimmer waistline.
To lose fat and keep it off, you must make lasting changes to your diet, exercise routine and lifestyle.
Though changing one aspect of your life may result in some weight loss, combining several of the above methods will give you a better chance of losing your love handles for good.