Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
Does a moment on the lips really mean a lifetime on the hips? Nope. (And can we retire that judgy, food-shaming saying already?)
If you’re looking to lose your love handles (also known less affectionately as “side-butt” and “muffin top”), there are some strategies you can use.
Let’s break it down.
They’re lovable bits of flesh that hang out on your sides and like to bulge out over your waistband. (But maybe less so now that we’ve finally put the low-rise jeans trend behind us.)
We all carry fat differently in various parts of our bodies. Some people accumulate it around their belly, thighs, or butt. For others, it may go straight to the hips. It’s a fun quirk that makes each of us unique — like snowflakes. ❄️
Factors that can influence how your body carries fat include:
- hormones, especially too much cortisol (aka the stress hormone)
- age (belly fat accumulation tends to increase with age)
- lack of physical activity
- a diet high in fats, sugars, and calories
- sleep deprivation
- undiagnosed or untreated conditions that slow down your metabolism
Just so we’re clear, it’s not possible to lose fat in just one area of your body without going surgical (or else we’d all be walking around looking like Kim Kardashian). But you can definitely shed overall pounds while targeting your hips with certain exercises.
Let’s look at the math: To lose 1 pound of fat, you’ve gotta burn 3,500 calories. People typically consume 1,800 to 3,000 calories a day. Dropping 500 calories from your daily intake, with no other changes, should amount to weight loss of 1 pound per week.
But your results may vary — genes, hormones, and health history affect everyone differently.
The key to losing weight the healthy and sustainable way is consistency: Make small changes every day and listen to your body’s needs.
Exercises that strengthen your core can help whittle your hips. These exercises are tough at first but well worth it. A trimmer figure is nice, but more importantly, you’ll improve your posture and balance and help keep your back safe from pain and injury.
Pro tip: Turn up “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira as you fire up your core.
Oh, for the love of crunches!
Bicycle crunches (aka cross-crawl sit-ups) are great for working your obliques. They should be done slow and steady to engage your core and side muscles to their max. No speed spinning, please.
- Lie on your back with hands behind head and knees bent.
- Lift shoulders and head off the floor and engage abs. At the same time, lift feet off the floor, keeping knees bent, so your shins are parallel to the floor.
- Slowly twist your body so left elbow moves toward right knee and extend left leg straight.
- Slowly twist in the other direction, bringing left leg back to its bent position and moving right elbow toward left knee. As you twist, extend right leg in front of you.
- That’s 1 rep. Do 15–30 reps.
Don’t sidestep the side plank!
Planks (especially side planks) are intense, but that’s because they work! Remember to take it a few more seconds at a time and stretch your comfort zone — but not so far that you compromise form. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you develop a powerful core.
There are a few different versions of the side plank to make it easier or more challenging.
The basic side plank looks like this:
- Lie on your side and prop yourself up on 1 arm. Make sure elbow is in line with shoulder. Your forearm should be flat against the floor, at a right angle to your body.
- Stack legs, one on top of the other, so your body forms a straight line from head to hip. Take a deep breath. With knee still touching the floor, raise your hips.
- Squeeze your butt and hold the position for 30 seconds. Focus on keeping abs tight to help support your body.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Work your way up the plank ladder:
When you’ve graduated from the basic side plank (breezing through multiple reps without crying for your mama), try this modification:
Raise knees off the floor so the only parts of your body touching the floor are the side of your foot and your forearm.
Once you can hang with the knees-off-the-floor side plank, you’re ready for hip dips:
While in side-plank position, slowly lower your hip an inch or two and then slowly lift it back up. Is your music on? Then put your hand up on your hip. When I dip, you dip, we dip. Do this for 30 seconds to a minute. Then switch sides.
Dosvedanya, love handles! (aka Russian twists)
When something includes the word “Russian,” it’s pretty much guaranteed to kick your butt, amiright?
- Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Tightening abs, lean back so you’re at about a 45-degree angle to the floor. If you’re not using a weight, clasp your hands. If you’re using a weight, hold it just above your belly.
- Still with knees bent, lift feet off the floor so you’re balancing on your butt. For additional support, you can cross your ankles.
- Twist to the right, bringing clasped hands or weight to the right side of your body.
- Twist to the left, touching the weight or your hands to the left side of your body.
- Repeat for 30 seconds to a minute.
When you’ve built up your core strength and the exercises are getting less “Russian,” you can start to add weights for more resistance.
She’ll be comin’ ’round the mountain
While the view’s not quite as satisfying as on a real adventure, mountain climbers are a great exercise to have in your hip-targeting repertoire.
As you get better at this move, you can turn up the speed, increasing your heart rate. This gives you cardio benefits, so you’ll burn even more calories while working your muscles (#WinWin).
- Start in a plank position.
- With abs tight, pull right foot off the floor and move right knee toward left elbow.
- Pause briefly, and then return right foot to its original position.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Continue for 30 seconds to a minute. Increase your speed for more intensity.
Raise the bridge!
Bridge Pose is good for your lower back and for firming your glutes. So get that booty up in the air, because it’s all about that bass, ‘bout that bass.
To make the move more challenging, try lifting one foot at a time off the floor as you lift your hips. Switch feet with each repetition.
- Lie on your back with knees bent, arms at sides, and palms flat against the floor.
- Slowly lift butt and lower back off the floor to create a straight line from knees to shoulders.
- Squeeze glutes and hold for up to 30 seconds.
- Slowly release your muscles and lower yourself back to the floor.
- Repeat 10 times.
It’s tempting to blaze through your weight loss goals with fad diets and fasting, but that’s not sustainable or healthy. People usually end up gaining back the weight they’ve lost — or even more.
Moral of the story: Go slow. When you set attainable goals and allow for slow adjustments, you’ll be more likely to stick to them and have long-term success.
Try these hacks to slim those hips… the healthy way!
- Log your lunch. Research shows tracking your meals leads to more weight loss. There are a ton of cool apps you can try, but use them as a general guide since counting calories can quickly become obsessive and unhealthy.
- One step at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself by cutting out everything you’ve ever loved all at once. Instead, choose one healthy eating goal at a time and work on it until you’ve bossed up. Then pick another.
- Don’t deprive yourself. As tempting as it is to swear off cake, cookies, and chips for good, being a food purist could set you up for bingeing. Instead strive for balance and moderation.
- Plan ahead. Fast-food joints don’t have your personal goals in mind (#rude), so sticking to your needs takes some planning. Have some nutritious snacks and lunch ideas on hand when you’re out and about.
- Get in touch with your feelings. Many of us eat out of emotion and habit. Identifying and understanding the reasons you eat can be helpful in reducing overeating. Pay attention to your emotional eating triggers and try taking a walk, journaling, or listening to music instead. If you have to reach for edible support, go for something nutritious yet still satisfying like crunchy carrot sticks and hummus.
- Fill up on H2O. Drinking lots of water throughout the day is important for your overall health and may also make you feel fuller. It’s also possible to confuse hunger cues with thirst, so being well-hydrated can help you avoid getting the munchies.
Love handles? What love handles?
Wear whatever makes you feel your best. If that means keeping those hips under wraps, these tips might help:
- High waists for the win. Bottoms with a high waist won’t cut you off at the hips and create a bulge. Shop for bottoms that sit at or just above your belly button.
- Think thick. Waistbands that have at least two buttons and sit higher in the back than the front add comfort and a smoother look.
- Be a babe in a babydoll waist. Clothes with empire waists flare out from a higher spot on your torso, de-emphasizing your middle. A-line dresses and skirts also start narrow and then flare, so they balance out longer torsos and draw less attention to your hips.
- Find your fashion-forward flow. Some styles (boho, anyone?) work well for folks who prefer extra room in the middle. For more comfortable flow and zen vibes, try kimono-style shirts, caftans, or wrap-style shirts and dresses.
- Wear slimming colors. Rather than dressing in head-to-toe black, try wearing a dark color on your lower half and a light color on your upper half. This can draw attention away from your hips.
- Shape-shift. It’s 2020, and shapewear has come a long way! From smoothing bodysuits and dresses to waist cinchers and control briefs, the options are endless.
What’s the hype-o on lipo?
Have you been exercising, eating healthy, and wearing clothes that make you feel good, but you still don’t love your love handles?
For some people, certain fat deposits refuse to budge even after they’ve made these changes. In this case, there are invasive and noninvasive options.
Just remember: Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and good health ALWAYS trumps superficial ideals of perfection. Surgery is painful and expensive, and it comes with potential complications.
If you don’t love yourself now, surgery isn’t going to change that. But if it’s something you feel strongly about, there are some options you can discuss with a medical professional.
Noninvasive options to look into before considering surgical methods include Coolsculpting, WarmSculpting, and Vanquish. These can be done in-office on a lunch break, require multiple sessions, and can reduce fat deposits by 20 to 40 percent over time.
Liposuction isn’t considered a weight loss treatment. In fact, most plastic surgeons require patients to be within 30 percent of their “ideal” weight and have a certain amount of muscle to qualify for the procedure.
Liposuction removes fat from the belly by sucking it out through a tube. Results can be seen immediately, but swelling can last for weeks or months. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, but the recovery can be quite painful and require 1 to 2 weeks off from work.
It’s not easy to lose weight, but love handles are nothing to stress about. Focus on gradually improving your lifestyle habits, incorporating hip-targeting exercises and mindful eating practices.
Refreshing your wardrobe can also go a long way toward making you look and feel your best so you can rock your body right now.