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Stop Looking for a Short Cut

Lately, I’ve had several people ask me about losing weight in specific areas of the body; the post baby belly, the under arm flab and “banana roll” between the buttocks and hamstring. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There is no such thing as spot reduction.

Meaning, we can’t just do a bunch of crunches and expect to lose a muffin top, we can’t do a bunch of triceps extensions and expect to lose our granny arms and the hip abduction/adduction machines won’t give you a thigh gap. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that. Your best bet is adopting a clean diet, operating at a caloric deficit and participating in a well rounded strength and conditioning program. These factors combined result in fat loss throughout the entire body, but not just in one specific location.

Altering your diet will help you lose fat, but building muscle is another very effective way to speed up your metabolism (i.e. fat loss) and it gives you definition. When you say that you want to “tone up” that really means build some muscle. While spot reduction does not exist, site specific muscle building does. Want to lose the belly bulge and get a perky derriere? Hit the glute bridges, deadlifts and lunges and both areas will improve. Gaining muscle will give you shape so you aren’t just thin without muscle tone, aka “skinny fat,” as sometimes happens with dieting alone.

Your success depends on your approach. You can try to kill yourself in the gym, but if you are overly stressed and aren’t eating or sleeping right, it won’t be very effective. Similarly, you can try a gimmicky diet, or starve yourself, but you won’t have the fat loss and muscle definition (or “tone”) that you’re craving. The best results come from focusing on a more well-rounded fitness perspective: eat good food, get good sleep, reduce your stress levels, aim for 3 strength training workouts each week and add more activity into your daily routine. N.E.A.T. (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) like taking the stairs more often, playing with your kids, or a quick walk at lunch, helps burn more calories without having to spend a ton of time in the gym.

I wish it was as easy as doing a few extra sit ups, or triceps extensions, but it’s not. It’s more of an everything in moderation approach. You don’t need to do any one thing in extreme (i.e. exercise and/or diet). Improving a whole bunch of small things – even if it’s only a little bit – will have a greater synergistic effect than simply adding some tough workouts or doing a diet cleanse for a few weeks.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there are no short cuts. So, whatever you do, it has to be sustainable to be most effective and long lasting. The greatest benefit of this approach, in my opinion, is that everything gets better. You don’t just lose your turkey neck, bingo wings, fupa, saddle bags, or other silly sounding, undesirable body part; you also decrease your overall stress and anxiety, improve your mental clarity and quality of sleep, and resolve your G.I./digestive issues without any extra effort. Your energy and confidence soars and very aspect of your life is positively affected. By trying to take the short-cut to a better body you miss out on the best part of a healthy lifestyle: living each day to the fullest!

Joanna Meade (view bio) is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club . She trains private clients and teaches a group Strength and Conditioning class. She can be reached at 410-332-0906 or cjoannameade@gmail.com.