Love handles refer to the excess fat that accumulates around the hips. For some, it’s an endearing name that comes with the concept that there is more of you to love. Meanwhile, others try various methods to rid themselves of their love handles.
In truth, having excess fat around the abdominal area comes with various health risks. However, love handles only pose a major risk when combined with visceral belly fat, or fat that lies in between the abdominal organs. In other words, a teeny bit of fat at the hips isn’t anything to worry about – especially for women who naturally have a bit more body fat than men.
Yet, you may still want to get rid of yours either way. So, how can you do that? And what causes love handles in the first place?
5 Causes Of Love Handles
According to Harvard Health, 90% of body fat exists in a layer just underneath the skin. Yet, the other 10% of body fat is visceral fat. This type of fat sits beneath the abdominal wall, within spaces in between your organs like the liver and intestines.
Visceral fat is where health problems begin. It’s associated with heart disease, asthma, dementia, breast cancer, and more. If you’re collecting fat around your hips and belly, you may be at a higher risk of increasing your visceral fat, which means your health could take a major hit.
But what causes love handles exactly?
1. Excess Calories
A major problem with the western diet is that it’s low in nutrients and high in calories.This has lead to the obesity epidemic where about 42% of the general population is obese.
Generally, the average adult should consume around 2000 calories a day. However, if you’re eating a ton of fast food or pre-packaged and processed food items, you may be going over your caloric needs, which leads to weight gain. About 3500 calories equals one pound. If you eat 3500 calories above your resting caloric needs without expending the same amount of energy (even over the span of a week), you will put on weight. Without serious resistance training, this weight gain results in fat accumulation, which may appear around the hips.
2. Hormonal Imbalances
Hormonal imbalances may result from nutrient deficiency and chronic stress. In fact, cortisol, the main stress hormone, has been studied extensively. Research has found that cortisol has the capability to increase appetite and slow the metabolism, which results in the storage of fat.
In addition, nutrient deficiencies can cause various processes within the body to go wrong. This can also impact metabolic function, leading to weight gain and love handles.
As you age, your metabolism naturally slows down due to decreased muscle mass and a decreased need for certain functions. This means your body becomes less efficient at burning calories and expending energy. Usually, this also results in increased belly fat. Again, this may appear as love handles around the hip area.
4. Lack of Sleep
Research links a lack of sleep to an increased risk of obesity. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body does not obtain adequate time to restore and repair. Further, when many individuals lack sleep, they tend to reach for high caloric foods for energy throughout their day. They are more tired than usual and make less healthy choices, leading to an increased risk of developing love handles.
Hypothyroidism refers to an underactive thyroid. The thyroid gland is responsible for metabolic function. In other words, when it slows down, so does your metabolism. This often leads to weight gain or difficulty expending energy.
What Foods Go To Your Love Handles?
There isn’t necessarily a particular food that leads to love handles. However, eating a high calorie diet obtained from pre-packaged and processed foods frequently leads to weight gain. This may include frozen pizzas, frozen dinners, chocolate, candy, crackers, chips, and more.
Generally, for overall health and for reducing your love handles, you want to consume a diet high in plant-based and whole foods. You also want to ensure you’re getting a wide-variety of nutrients, including a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats.
Do Love Handles Go Away On Their Own?
Technically, love handles will not go away all on their own. You will likely have to put in a bit of work. By work, this means incorporating regular physical activity into your life and becoming more informed about the foods you eat, as well as consuming a healthy and balanced diet.
To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in. However, losing weight isn’t the only option. You can also build muscle and tone up through resistance training, which can help reduce love handles and make them disappear.
What Is The Best Way To Get Rid Of Love Handles?
The solution is simple: Focus on building healthy lifestyle habits that help you maintain a healthy weight.
However, this is often easier said than done. Typically, it takes time and effort to lose weight and sustain it. It’s also a good idea to slowly introduce healthy habits. Feeling overwhelmed is all too real and can quickly create setbacks. Instead, take one small step at a time. Use these simple tips and solutions to help you get there:
- Decrease added sugar in your diet.
- Consume more healthy fats, like avocados and fish.
- Incorporate more fiber into your diet.
- Move more.
- Find ways to reduce your stress levels, such as relaxation techniques, deep breathing techniques, meditation, or by simply finding more ways to relax.
- Try resistance training. This will help you build muscle and burn fat.
- Prioritize your sleep. Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Increase your protein intake. Many individuals, especially women, don’t eat enough protein. Ensure you’re getting enough in your diet. Generally, you should be consuming about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
- Drink more water. Sometimes, you’re not hungry but rather thirsty!
- Slow down when eating and eat mindfully. Remove distractions, such as eating in front of the TV.
- Decrease your alcohol consumption. This adds calories to your diet and also places more stress on the liver.
Lastly, you may want to consider getting clothing that fits properly. Love handles may result from pants that are too tight at the waist. When you buy clothing that fits you, you may no longer need to worry about your love handles and you can love your body just as it is.
There are many reasons love handles can happen. Yet, there are also many ways you can get rid of them while improving your overall health and well-being. Ideally, sustainable weight loss comes down to creating healthy habits that last a lifetime. Find what works for you and lose those love handles for good (it’s entirely possible!).