Patrick J. Bird, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance at the University of Florida, explains.
We all do tend to fatten up with age, although there are interesting differences based on age and gender. Hormones drive the deposition of fat around the pelvis, buttocks, and thighs of women and the bellies of men. For women, this so-called sex-specific fat appears to be physiologically advantageous, at least during pregnancies. But it has a cosmetic down-side as well, in the form of cellulite. The potbelly, on the other hand, is a typical male form of obesity that has no known advantage and can be life threatening.
Throughout most of their lives females have a higher percentage of body fat than males. By 25 years of age, for example, healthy-weight women have almost twice the body fat that healthy-weight men have. This gender difference begins early in life. From birth up to age six, the number and size of fat cells triple in both boys and girls, resulting in a gradual, and similar, increase in body fat. But after about eight years of age, girls begin gaining fat mass at a greater rate than boys do. This increase appears to result from a lower female basal fat oxidation rate (a measure of the use of fat to fuel the body at rest), and it is accomplished by expanding fat cell size, not number. (Between six years of age and adolescent, there is little or no increase in fat cell number, for either boys or girls, in healthy-weight children. In obese children, however, the number of fat cells can increase throughout childhood.)
During the adolescent growth spurt, the rate of fat increase in girls almost doubles that of boys. It is marked by more and larger fat cells, and it is seen mostly in the gluteal-femoral area–pelvis, buttocks and thighs–and, to a much lesser extent, in the breasts. This general acceleration in body fat accumulation, particularly sex-specific fat, is attributed mostly to changes in female hormone levels. After adolescence, the accumulation of sex-specific fat more or less stops, or decreases dramatically, in healthy-weight women, and there is usually no further increase in the number of fat cells. Fat cells in males also do not tend to multiply after adolescence.
As most women know, it is more difficult to shed fat from the pelvis, buttocks and thighs than it is to trim down other areas of the body. During lactation, however, sex-specific fat cells are not so stubborn. They increase their fat-releasing activity and decrease their storage capacity, while at the same time fat storage increases in the mammary adipose tissue. This suggests that there is a physiological advantage to sex-specific fat. The fat stored around the pelvis, buttocks and thighs of women appears to act as reserve storage for the energy demands of lactation. This would seem to be particularly true for habitually undernourished females.
But this advantage brings one annoying disadvantage that many women experience: the orange-peel-look on the hips, thighs and buttocks called cellulite. Cellulite appears as body fat is gained and more of it is packed into existing cells. (Remember, new cells are not normally formed after adolescence.) These packed cells then swell and, when large enough, become visible through the skin. Adding insult to injury, as the skin gets thinner and less flexible with age, the puffed-up fat cells become even more visible. (Unfortunately, no cream, massage, vibrating machine, injection, pill, whirlpool bath, rubber pants or other gimmick will get rid of cellulite. The only help is general weight loss, with a sensible diet and regular exercise, which can reduce the effect.)
Men tend to store excess fat in the visceral, or abdominal, region. This deposit has no apparent physiological advantage. On the contrary, it is downright dangerous. A large potbelly, where waist girth begins to exceed hip girth, is strongly associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, elevated triglycerides, hypertension, cancer and general overall mortality.
Potbellies pose these health risks because the fat that produces them is metabolically more active. Abdominal fat simply breaks down more easily and enters the chemical processes related to disease quicker than sex-specific fat or fat located in other parts of the body. Unfortunately, the belly fat is typically being restocked as fast, or faster, than it is being depleted.
Another problem for potbellied men is back pain. This is caused by the excess weight, a forward shift in the body¿s center of gravity resulting from the pot, and muscle weakness (particularly abdominal muscles) related to age and inactivity. Together these factors can lead to excess curvature of the lower spine (lumbar area) and pain as the individual works to maintain an upright position. (Incidentally, a potbelly–even a huge one–normally does not show the outlines of the bloated fat cells (cellulite) because abdominal skin is generally thicker and less taut than that covering the pelvis, buttocks and thighs.)
Body fat is, of course, necessary for life. Besides being a source of energy, it is a storage site for some vitamins, a major ingredient in brain tissue, and a structural component of all cell membranes. Moreover, it provides a padding to protect internal organs and insulates the body against the cold. But as we age, most of us tend to gain fat and weight–about 10 percent of our body weight per decade during adulthood. This stems partly from a steady decline in metabolic rate, but mostly from a decrease in physical activity. Still, getting too fat (more than 30 percent body fat in females and 25 percent in males) is associated with increased risk of disease and premature death, regardless of where the fat is stored in the body. As a society, we are severely stressing the scales to the point that obesity is now a national health epidemic.
Answer orginally posted on September 23, 2002
We all have a few trouble spots that seem to defy good diet and regular workouts—be it your belly, thighs, arms or backside. But why? What genetic factors decide our fat stores, and can we change them? And what, if any, effect does this fat placement have on overall health?
“Every body has its own metabolic rate and ideal body mass index, so it can be difficult to generalize,” said Christopher D. Still, DO, director of the Geisinger Obesity Institute. “However, research has proven that there is a point where those fat stores begin to negatively impact your body’s internal systems.”
Here’s what you need to know about trouble spots and their impact on overall health.
How trouble spots happen
There are many factors involved in excess fat placement, including gender, hormone levels and metabolism.
“Starting at a young age, girls have a considerably higher percentage of body fat than boys, because estrogen boosts the creation of fat cells,” said Dr. Still. “As puberty begins and hormone levels get higher, those differences become more obvious.”
Gender-specific fat stores in women include the thighs, pelvis and hips, while men experience it in the stomach, causing those tell-tale potbellies. However, it’s important to remember that hormone levels vary, so those with more testosterone may see more belly fat, and those with more estrogen may see more fat in the hips and thighs.
Age is also a factor, as it determines hormone production. As men age, their testosterone level drops, slowing the burn of fat cells and making them more prone to weight gain in the midsection. In post-menopausal women, a decrease in estrogen and increase in testosterone might cause some weight gain in the same place.
These factors can’t be changed naturally. However, in some cases, a doctor may suggest hormone therapy.
How do individual trouble spots affect overall health?
Regardless of where you gain weight, gaining too much poses serious health risks.
“Fat cells can cause inflammation in our joints and compound the damage of the increased pressure that extra weight adds,” said Dr. Still. “In addition, excess fat can lead to obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and some cancers.”
However, some trouble spots are more detrimental than others.
Belly fat is known as a visceral fat, meaning it lies deep inside your abdomen and surrounds major organs. This type of fat tissue causes more inflammation and increases the risk for diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea and fatty liver disease, among others.
On the other hand, the stubborn weight in the hips and thighs historically carried by women is known as subcutaneous fat because it’s just below the skin. It possesses a lower risk of developing other medical problems. With the epidemic of obesity, women and children are producing for visceral stores, leading to more medical problems.
The good news is, when we lose weight, we tend to lose visceral fat stores first. Even a 5-to-10-pound weight loss significantly improves weight-related medical problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, and fatty liver disease.
“In all, improving your diet and increasing your physical activity is the best way to begin your weight loss journey. Your doctor can help pinpoint your goal weight and ideal body mass index to maintain good health for years to come,” Dr. Still said.
Your body mass index (BMI) can help determine if you fall into a normal weight, overweight or obese category. Wondering if you should be concerned with yours?
Discover your BMI with our BMI calculator here.
How to Lose Leg Fat
As summer approaches and we begin to ponder what we’ll look like in shorts, many will scramble for ways to tone up their legs.
While there’s no such thing as a rapid spot treatment that can specifically target your legs, what you can do is develop a routine that gets rid of overall excess body fat. Choose exercises that help to tone your leg muscles, and you’ll look and feel healthier by your first beach day.
How does leg fat develop?
First things first: It’s normal, and healthy, to have body fat. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), men of normal weight have an average of 18 to 24 percent body fat, while women have 25 to 31 percent. Body fat is often distributed evenly, but you may have a few “problem areas.” This is usually due to your genes.
Leg fat may be comprised of different types of fat cells:
- Subcutaneous fat: most common in the thighs and located right beneath the skin
- Intramuscular fat: fat dispersed within the muscle itself, much like the marbling seen in meat
The majority of leg fat is subcutaneous, which poses fewer long-term health concerns.
Read on for three ways to reduce your leg fat and tone your legs.
1. Do aerobic exercise
The first step to burning overall body fat is aerobic exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. Whether you walk, swim, or cycle, it’s important to choose a type of exercise you can complete at a moderate intensity to get your heart rate up and to maximize calorie burn.
One of the best aerobic exercises for the legs is cycling. The low intensity is especially helpful for beginners, and it doesn’t strain the knees. Cycling also increases muscle endurance in the:
- glutes (gluteal muscles)
If you’re not up for a cycling class, you might consider investing in your own stationary bike at home. Better yet, hop on a bike and head outdoors for some stress-blasting fresh air.
2. Strengthen muscles
Losing fat alone can leave you with flabby legs, so you’ll need to invest some time in defining your muscles. Weights and rowing machines are effective tools for leg-strengthening exercises, but you can work on leg muscles just as effectively without any special equipment.
Lunges are among the most comprehensive leg workouts because they tone the quads and the hamstrings while also slimming the inner thighs and buttocks. Follow these steps for a perfect lunge:
- Stand up straight. Place your hands on your hips for extra balance, if needed.
- Step your right leg forward, left leg back, and bend your right leg at the knee, creating a 90-degree angle.
- To prevent injury, make sure your right knee doesn’t extend past your ankle.
- Press your weight down into your heels.
- Press back up to your starting position.
- Complete your desired number of repetitions (reps) and then switch legs.
Other at-home strengthening exercises include:
- calf raises
- leg lifts
3. Reduce calories
Exercise is the most effective way to tone your leg muscles, but you also need to fight fat cells from the inside out.
Reducing your calorie intake is the first step to take because your body will naturally utilize excess fat as its next energy source. Think of the calories you eat as a budget — try to stay within or under your budget most days of the week.
There is no magic diet to get rid of leg fat, but watching what you eat can help.
Before making significant dietary changes, you should talk to your doctor or dietitian, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.
Leg transformation takes time
Many diet companies and exercise moguls promise quick leg transformations with their programs. As with weight loss, getting the legs you want takes time and consistency. Patience goes a long way toward building a leaner, stronger foundation for your body.
Extra fat around the thighs and tummy can turn clothes shopping into a harrowing experience.
A layer of fat hanging over those pants or shorts, plus thighs rubbing together can cause you to feel self-conscious and make it difficult to get fitted properly. If you want to melt belly and thigh fat fast, you must partake in a rigorous diet and exercise program. With serious self-discipline, you can get rid of that stubborn fat as quickly as possible.
Step 1: Create a calorie deficit with your diet and exercise program. 1 lb. of body fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so you must eliminate an average of 500 calories per day to lose 1 lb. a week. Eliminate 1,000 calories daily to lose 2 lbs. a week. To maintain your health during weight loss it is best to use a combination of diet and exercise, rather than only one method, to achieve these numbers. Also, do not try to lose more than 2 lbs. per week.
Step 2: Burn the excess layers of fat with high-intensity interval training. Take your favorite cardio exercise and alternate between periods of high and low intensity. For example sprint on a treadmill for one minute, and then walk one minute. Jump rope 100 times then rest one minute. Repeat this cycle over and over until you have completed at least 30 to 40 minutes of interval training.
Step 3: Perform thigh and abdominal targeted exercises. These help you tone up the muscles while you shed fat with cardio. For your legs, use exercises like lunges, plie squats, leg extensions, leg presses and hamstring curls. To work the abs, use V-ups, basic crunches, bicycle crunches, torso twists and side bends. Aim for three sets of 10 to 12 reps per exercise, three times a week.
Step 4: Clean out your fridge and pantry of all junk food items such as candy bars, cookies, sugary cereals, chips, sodas and fruit juices. These have few nutrients but plenty of sugar and calories to keep that fat stored on your tummy and thighs. Replace with lean meats like fish and chicken, fresh fruits and veggies, and low-fat, calcium-rich dairy products.
Weight loss tips: How to lose belly and thigh fat fast
Effective weight loss tips: 3 simple ways to slim down your belly, thighs and legs  |  Photo Credit: Thinkstock
New Delhi: Running on a treadmill everyday would certainly help you burn calories and lose weight. But it seems you would need a strategic approach and move to help you lose fat from one particular area such as the thighs, legs, waistline, and even buttocks. But, before getting started with your weight loss plan, you need to understand the fact that it’s important to overhaul your lifestyle if you’re really serious about achieving a permanently fit body.
You need to keep in mind that while spot reduction has been promoted as a way to target belly fat or fat stores in certain areas, many studies have dismissed the idea. So, whether you’re trying to lose fat around the abdomen or trim your lower body, including the thighs and legs, you need to focus on all key areas required to slim down along with those targeted exercises.
Diet comes first
Remember, a healthy and fit body is achievable when you are very focused on your diet and nutrition, which is the single most effective way to help you do the job. Your diet has a great impact on your body composition, weight, and overall health and well-being. Focusing on eating more of fibrous fruits and vegetables, protein from fish and lean meats, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, whole grains will help you drop fat from all areas of your body, including your stomach, thighs and calves. Make sure you drink enough water to help you stay hydrated, filter out bloating toxins, and keep your digestive system running smoothly.
It’s important to understand that you need to exercise smartly to see optimal results – whether you want to shed 10 kilos, build lean muscle, tone your abs or lower body. There are many workouts that can effectively help you transform your legs and butt. It is said that doing 2-3 cardio interval-training sessions per week can be quite beneficial as it triggers a hormonal response that encourages faster fat loss and building lean muscle mass, which will help you get a toned and defined look. To tone your legs, you may focus on exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, leg presses, and calf raises, etc.
Getting enough sleep is important not just to help your body repairs old cells and filters out fat-retaining stress hormones. It also affects how you eat and how you exercise, which means it can impact your body size. Not getting enough shut-eye (at least 7 hours) could mean you’re less likely to make healthy food choices and see maximum fat loss results, and that includes the rate at which your lower body will slim down.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.
A Proven Way to Lose More Fat
When it comes to losing weight, experts often cite one hard and fast rule: You can’t spot reduce. As much as you’d like to drop inches from just your belly or slim down your thighs, your body draws from fat stores located throughout the body when it needs energy. But lately, new research shows that there may indeed be an exception to this tenet-one that can help you whittle down your waist, hips and thighs, while still helping you drop pounds and look leaner all over.
The Science of Fat Loss
Before getting into how your body sheds excess weight, it can help to understand how fat is stored in the first place. Whenever you eat, whether it’s a bag of chips or a big green salad, the presence of carbs (glucose), protein (amino acids) or fat (fatty acids) digested into the intestine alerts the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin. This important hormone then signals your body to break down and absorb these nutrients, where they can be reassembled as glycogen, protein and fatty acids (triglycerides). Glycogen is primarily stored in muscles and the liver, with excess levels also stored in fat tissue. The same is true for amino acids. Fatty acids are absorbed from the blood and stored in fat cells.
As food is digested, blood glucose rises, causing a corresponding release in insulin levels. When a food causes this blood glucose (and therefore insulin levels) to rise quickly, it is considered to be high on the glycemic index. Foods like white bread or pasta are generally classified as high glycemic foods. Lower glycemic foods, such as oatmeal or brown rice, cause a lower spike in the release of blood glucose.
The sharp spike in the release of blood sugar that corresponds with eating a high-glycemic food is usually followed by a sudden crash, and within a relatively short time, you start to feel hungry again, as the body releases the hunger hormone gherlin. These dietary ups and downs not only mean you take in more calories. Research shows that gherlin seems to encourage the body to store excess fat around the belly, or midsection, as well as the hips and thighs.
Fighting Fat, Fast
So how can you get off the weight loss/gain roller coaster for good? Keeping your calories in check and following a healthy diet are important, of course. But as most frequent dieters know, sometimes that’s just not enough. If you’ve been frustrated by the failure of keeping pounds off for good, there’s encouraging news in the form of new weight-loss aids that help to reduce glucose response after you eat, as well as suppressing the huger hormone gherlin, so you’re less likely to raid the pantry later in the day. One of the best-researched of these remedies is a product called Vysera-CLS. In a recent randomized, double-blinded study, subjects who took Vysera for 30 days before eating a meal rich in complex carbohydrates lost upwards of 8 times more weight and 15 times more body fat than those who took a placebo drug.
The key ingredient in Vysera comes from plant foods, which have a lower glycemic index (and less calories) along with more fiber and water. These plant compounds help to slow down digestion and block the absorption of glucose and fat, so you end up eating fewer calories. In effect, when subjects took the weight-loss pill with their meals, it reduced the foods’ glycemic index, not only helping to blunt the corresponding insulin and glucose response, but also reducing hunger for hours afterward.
The calories-in, calories-out factor isn’t the only equation to consider in weight loss. In the study, the subjects who took Vysera also had lower levels of the hunger hormone gherlin. Since gherlin is often associated with fat storage around the waist, hip and thighs, those who took the medication also lost inches off those key trouble zones-including more than an inch off the circumference of the waist, a half-inch off the hips and nearly a half-inch off the thighs!
Dieters often complain of feeling an energy lull that comes with shrinking portion sizes. Natural energy boosters (like the caffeine in coffee) can help, when taken in the appropriate amount. The chemical compounds found in substances like caffeine can also help to boost resting metabolism, which further helps in the battle against body fat. Vysera, for one, was engineered to contain the ideal amount of these energy builders, to help dieters feel less lethargic and more invigorated without the subsequent crash that can often follow.
Of course, no weight loss aid can work if the rest of your diet is out of whack. For best results, you need to stay within a healthy range of calories (no more than about 2,200 calories a day). Dieters with the best results while taking Vysera consumed a light breakfast (such as coffee and a yogurt with fruit), a lunch rich in complex carbohydrates (think: pasta with marinara sauce and a little olive oil), and a protein-focused dinner (grilled chicken and vegetables), as well as healthy snacks like fruit or mixed nuts. Regular exercise is also important to help increase energy and burn calories. After following this program for four weeks, you should see a noticeable difference in your body-especially where you want to slim down most.
Learn more about Vysera-CLS and how you can buy it here.
- By SHAPE Editors
Let’s face it-nobody wants to be pear-shaped, that bulge over the hips and the “Jodhpur thighs” are not exactly appealing. Unfortunately for women this is exactly where fat is most likely to accumulate, often with the “Orange-Peel” effect of cellulite.
- This needs to be attacked on two fronts, the first being diet and the second being exercises that lengthen and strengthen. When you perform these leg stretches, you should feel it pulled out to its full extent, all the way from the hip socket to the pointed toes.
Try to incorporate the following tips to lose fat off your thighs
- If you want to get stronger without gaining much muscle mass, then use a range between 1 to 3 reps where you reach muscular failure in that range. Alternatively, if you use a rep range of 15 or more reps per set, you will build muscular endurance and very little muscle mass.
- Exercises such as squats, lunges, leg curls, stiff-legged deadlifts, leg extensions, and calf raises are all excellent for toning your legs
- Cardiovascular training such as running is very good for keeping the thighs from gaining much muscle while still losing fat. Not too many runners have big legs but most have very lean legs. The same is true of cycling or the stair machine.
Losing fat depends heavily on nutrition, therefore
- Increase your protein intake, e.g. eggs, lean meat, chicken, fish, etc. This helps support yourmetabolism.
- Cut back on junk food. This will make a huge difference quickly. You don’t have to totally eliminate it, just decrease it greatly.
- Don’t eat anything before a workout. If you do, your body will burn what you just ate rather than fat.
- Eat about an hour after a workout. This allows your fat burning to continue until you eat. Don’t wait much longer than that though, as you need food to recover. Stick to protein and low fat foods.
- Try not to eat late at night. Your body won’t have a chance to use those calories and will store them as fat.
- The real problem about losing weight from a specific area, like hips/thighs/butt, is that we tend to blow hot and cold over the ‘problem area’ and don’t stick with our plan long enough to sort it out. We panic or try and starve ourselves and we end up even fatter than before.