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How to Get Rid of Love Handles and Stubborn Fat

girl pinching love handlesSo you want to know how to get rid of love handles and other stubborn fat. You’ve lost quite a bit of weight, but that annoying handful of fat that hangs over the sides of your pants just won’t go away. You’re not alone in your feelings, as this is a very common problem to have.

Stubborn Fat is Real

You might have noticed by now that certain areas of your body have a higher tendency to store fat. These areas tend to be your lower back, love handles, butt, hips, and thighs. These same areas of fat are also hard to get rid of. Many people label these areas as stubborn fat. Stubborn fat is real. It is not a myth or marketing term. There are reasons why these particular areas of fat are stubborn.

The way you store your fat is highly dependent on a couple of different factors. Some of the factors have to do with your sex and genetics. But more specifically, it’s the different ratio of hormones men and women have. The two sex hormones that influence fat disposition are testosterone and estrogen. Your ratio of testosterone to estrogen is going to have a large role in where you store fat on your body.

Why is Stubborn Fat Different?

So then, do we just store our fat in different places, or is there actually something different about this so-called stubborn fat? There are some very important differences actually. Your fat tissue contains two major receptors – alpha and beta.

Beta-receptors are the receptors you want. These receptors increase the breakdown of fat, and also increase blood flow to fat cells. On the other hand, alpha-receptors inhibit fat metabolism and have decreased fat tissue blood flow. Blood flow is very important when it comes to fat loss. Your blood shuttles many of the required hormones and nutrients into cells that are needed for lipolysis to occur. Less blood flow into fat cells means less fat loss.

Your love handles and other stubborn fat areas have a higher ratio of alpha-receptors to beta-receptors – up to 10 times more. What this means is that where your typical diet and exercise would succeed in mobilizing fat stores, it fails (or at least makes it more difficult) to get rid of love handles and other stubborn fat.

Getting Rid of Love Handles

It’s worth noting that the best way to fight love handles and other stubborn fat areas is to prevent them from forming in the first place. More than likely, those love handles were caused by a previous increase in weight. When you put on weight, your ratio of testosterone to estrogen starts to shift in favor of estrogen. This is because fat cells produce estrogen. The more fat you have, the more estrogen is produced.

As you can imagine, this process can get out of hand if not taken control of early on. And once you have a large amount of fat on your body, it makes it that much harder to lose it, but certainly not impossible!

Alright, so that doesn’t help you, as you already gained weight. If that’s the case, the best way to battle stubborn fat stores is to work on improving your insulin sensitivity (here are 10 ways you can increase your insulin sensitivity for better fat loss). Your insulin sensitivity is correlated with the amount of fat you hold on your body. People with better insulin sensitivity tend to have leaner bodies. Insulin is your body’s most powerful fat storage hormone. You need to control it if you want to get rid of love handles.

What Doesn’t Work

One way that will never work to get rid of love handles is exercise. You cannot spot reduce fat. In fact, if you are going to overwork your obliques in the hope that it will lose the fat in the area, it will actually cause the area to stick out more.

The muscle will grow from exercise stimulus, but the fat will remain the same, causing the area to be more pronounced. This isn’t something you should stress about, and you certainly shouldn’t stop working out, but it’s worth noting if you’re doing sit ups in vain trying to get rid of abdominal fat.

Read here to find out the real secret to targeting fat loss.

To conclude, you are not alone in your frustration over why your love handles and stubborn fat won’t go away. Through a treatment regimen focused on prevention, improving your insulin sensitivity, patience, and consistency, you give yourself a fighting chance to lose that stubborn fat. Stay focused with solid nutrition and intense exercise. Be patient and consistent more than anything, and you will notice it slowly start to go away.

  • KrystalBolduc

    Another great post Tony! I love the way you can “educate” without boring or speaking over the heads of the “nutritionally inept” Your site and passion is definately changing the world… One person at a time!

  • Coach Calorie

    Thank you Krystal. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Wendy T

    Interesting read.

    I was especially interested in the part about the higher estrogen shift. How does this relate to menopause and lower estrogen levels?

    • Lmyers

      Your body starts to put on fat in Menopause for this very reason. It is trying to maintain the estrogen levels produced by your ovaries and as that declines it adds fat to produce more estrogen. As abdominal fat produces the most estrogen, that is where fat will be added. As a double whammy, if estrogen is still not high enough and testosterone begins to dominate, any excess energy consumed will be stored on belly as well – as that is a male fat storage pattern!!

  • Kay

    I have a very good diet, mainly fish, 170g protein or more, less than 75g carbs but never under 50g, do resistance training and lift heavy. Got waist from 38″ to 31.5″, can see upper abs well “4-pack” but lower abs will not show. guess this is my stubborn fat. Correct me if i’m wrong because I think I know the answer to my own question.. Add more cardio & HIIT and more patience?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Kay, those last few body fat are tricky, and yes, it is going to take a lot of consistency and patience to bring them in. Strength training, cardio/HIIT are always good. Diet wise, if your calories have been in a deficit for a long time, it might be time to start implementing refeeds. Once or twice a week have a higher calorie/higher carb day. These are not cheat days. You still eat the same whole foods but in greater amounts. Sometimes, that’s all you need to keep things moving.


    Do spinning cycle three times a week for an hour. Great results

  • ane

    so, what kind of exercices is better to kill the love handles?

    • Coach Calorie

      As the article says, no exercise in and of itself will target your love handles. Fat loss is systemic, not localized. However, for burning fat, I’d look into HIIT –

    • barbmoore

      Try doing oblique crunches. They have shrunk my love handles by quite a bit.

  • Lily Scarrett

    My exercise regimen is good but have to say the diet really needs to improve. Great tips

    • Coach Calorie

      Thanks Lily. Your diet is going to make the biggest difference. You have to stay consistent with whole foods to get rid of the stubborn stuff.

  • Rebekah

    Question: are desserts made with whole food ingredients consider a “cheat?” Example, perhaps a pudding made of raw milk, cocoa powder and honey? Or a “cookie” made of shredded unsweetened coconut, honey, peanut butter & coconut oil?

    • Coach Calorie

      I’d co sided those healthy “cheats”. I wouldn’t make them staples in your diet, but you can have them much more often.

  • Aura

    I like this article!! I have been doing crossfit about 10 months and eating clean. I have lost 48 pounds and have not been able to lose more. I have seen weight loss every where but I have some belly fat that is hanging on!! I do alot of sit ups to try to lose my belly fat. Hmmmm now I am gonna rethink my extra exercise and maybe focus on my diet more. Thanks!

  • Sabina

    I`m insulin dependent diabetic woman,soon to be 40 and I lost a lot of weight and my skin is lose now.I go to gym 5-6times a week,taking cardio and weight classes but I can`t do anything about my skin,is tummy tuck my only option or is there anything I can do?Thank You

    • Karen A. Gonzalez

      Honestly, the same thing happened to me. I lost a ton of weight and had skin hanging on my stomach. I actually teach fitness and exercise 6 days a week. I couldn’t lose the skin and now just had a tummy tuck. Love the way I finally look. Now I just continue to eat lean and exercise. FYI, it is really painful procedure… especially the first 4 weeks.

  • Coach Calorie

    Loose skin is a difficult one. There is a limit to its elasticity. Continuing to drop body fat will really reduce the appearance of loose skin, but for some people, surgery is the only option. If that is not an option for you, I’d work on improving your self-image and learn to love who you see in the mirror regardless of what you look like. Be healthy.

  • Falon

    Off topic, but would you recommend using a heart rate monitor? If so which one?

  • Pania Loughlin

    WHATTTT. I trained 4 years for nothing. Okay, I’m 43kg but yes, there are those stubborn fat I want to get rid off — it is not a lot but it is so “stubborn” hahah much for all those crunches, sit ups, planks and other ab work outs.

  • sheila

    I have been working out for 6 months and watching what I eat. I have gained weight instead of losing the weight and cannot lose my big thighs and love handles How long does it take to get the results I want

    • Coach Calorie

      If you’re doing everything right, you should lose .5-1% body fat per week. Start writing down your food and tracking your calories and body fat percentage. You can make adjustments from there.

  • Coach Calorie

    I use the Omron heart rate monitor as a cost-effective one. There are others that are more expensive that have more functions, but the Omron gets the job done for me. Here’s my article on it –