“Stubborn body fat.” Those three words conjure up some very unpleasant images of those “last few pounds” in those “hard to lose” places. In men, it’s the annoying pockets we get right around our navel, lower abs, lower back, and sides of the waist that make us want to leave our shirt on. In women, it’s the “grandmother arms” tricep flab that flaps around in the breeze when you wave to someone… and those dreaded “saddlebags” – the upper thigh, hips and butt area – especially that place where the back of your thighs meet your gluteus maximii.
If you want to “minimize your maximus” and other trouble spots, I have a theory about so-called “stubborn fat” and what to do about it. Some people might not agree with me, holding fast to a belief that certain fat cells are simply harder to burn due to alpha 2 receptors or some hormonal anomaly, but I at least want to offer my opinion for your consideration.
Even Bodybuilders Have “Localized” Fat Deposits
If you’ve seen the picture of me at 3.7% body fat on my website at www.burnthefat.com, you might be shocked to hear that – like many men – I store fat very easily on my lower abs. You might not even believe me (unless you’re one of my college buddies, then you know what I used to look like).
It’s true. The fat on my lower abs is always the last place to go. However, I never worried about it called it “stubborn fat”, I simply called it “localized fat.” I was able to lose it by learning how to eat and train properly and by changing my mental attitude towards the entire situation. I definitely didn’t lose it by using drugs, supplements or some “magical” spot-reducing machine.
Do You Cling Onto Self-Limiting Beliefs?
A big part of the problem is that many people BELIEVE in stubborn fat so much that they literally manifest more of it! I don’t know everything about everything… heck, I’m just a “muscle head” from New Jersey… but one thing I am 100% certain about is that if you walk around all day long complaining, “I can’t get rid of this stubborn fat!”, well, my friend, you aint gettin’ rid of the fat! No person ever became successful by thinking about failure all day long.
The ironic thing is that nearly every email I receive from distraught overweight people starts off with, “Help Tom, I CANT LOSE THIS FAT!” It’s rarely, “Hey, Tom I know I can lose this fat, I just need some coaching. Teach me how to lose it. Show me what to eat and how to exercise. Just tell me what it takes and I’ll do it.” Nope, hardly ever get emails like that.
I don’t believe in “stubborn fat” in the sense that one pocket of fat does not burn in the same way that all the other fat on your body burns. I only believe in “stubborn fat” if you’re referring to the fact that certain areas always seem to be the last to place to go.
Genetics and Fat Storage
To explain energy in – energy out, I’ve often likened the body to a bank account when referring to caloric energy deposits. Ironically, however, the body is NOT at all like a bank account with respect to fat withdrawals. You could deposit 20 five dollar bills, 10 ten dollar bills and 5 twenty dollar bills in that order, and you’d have $300 stored in your account. If you wanted to take out $100, you could selectively withdraw the FIRST $100 you deposited – the 20 five-dollar bills. Body fat cannot be withdrawn this way.
Fat storage patterns have a genetic component. The first place you store fat is where you’re genetically predisposed to deposit it. Over the years, I’ve measured body fat on thousands of people. It’s always been interesting to see the disparities in the places that individuals store fat. I’ve seen women with very small iliac crest (hip bone) skinfolds of only 4-5 millimeters in thickness, but they have very large tricep skinfolds (20 millimeters or more). I’ve seen guys with arms and legs that were ripped and veiny, with 3 millimeter skinfolds, while still having a roll of lower ab fat. It’s very frustrating for many people to be lean in most of their body while still storing fat in one localized spot, but it’s actually more common than having fat spread evenly throughout the body – its normal!
Most men store fat first in the lower abdominals, sides of the waist and lower back. Women tend to store fat first in the hips, upper thighs, and often the back of the arms. As body fat percentage increases further, you will continue to deposit fat in those spots and everywhere else on your body – even your face and fingers. Once deposited, you can’t selectively choose where you withdraw the fat – you will lose fat all over your body and it will more or less come off in reverse order: The first place you put it on will be the last place it comes off.
Losing fat is like draining the water from an in-ground swimming pool: When you fill the pool, the water always goes to the deep end first. When you drain the pool, the water always leaves the shallow end first and the deep end last. No matter how badly you want to drain the deep end before the shallow end, you just can’t do it.
Spot Reduction STILL Doesn’t Work
Many people wish they could lose fat in their most concentrated, localized fatty spots first. In fitness lingo, we call this “spot reduction.” Almost every year, promotional articles and advertisements come out claiming that a breakthrough has been made and spot reduction is “now possible.” However, there are still no products that have been scientifically proven to spot reduce body fat.
The infamous “cellulite cream” is one spot reduction scam that never seems to go away – it keeps popping up with a new name wearing different clothes. Other spot reduction scams include abdominal machines, ab rollers, ab wheels, electronic stimulators, pills, soaps, wraps, girdles, and so on – all of which claim to remove fat from the stomach, thighs or other specific areas first. Some of the exercise machines are effective at developing the muscles underneath the fat, so they aren’t totally worthless, but the claims of local fat loss are where they fail.
No matter how many times we fitness professionals give this speech: “Spot reduction doesn’t work – it’s a myth,” people still want to believe so desperately that it IS possible, that they keep plunking down their hard-earned cashola, scam after scam, hoping that science has finally produced the real McCoy.
I’ve read the ads for some of the newest topical fat burners and they can be extremely persuasive. They give long lists of scientific studies, but the ironic part is that none of the studies quoted were conducted on the product that was advertised.
Even if someone invents a legitimate gel or cream that really does spot reduce, you’re now talking about taking a transdermal drug, and you would only be treating a symptom (fat) and not the cause (inactivity and poor nutrition). Keeping the fat off for life will still boil down to changing your lifestyle and burning more calories than you consume. A topical can never work independently of a caloric deficit produced through diet and exercise.
The good news is that if you learn the physiology of fat loss –which is really quite simple – and if you work with your body naturally, you can lose ANY fat without taking drugs. All you need is a little bit of patience, persistence, some strategy and good old-fashioned hard work.
The Truth About “Stubborn” Fat
Here’s why these fatty areas appear “stubborn” and why people continue to call it “stubborn” fat: By the time someone loses enough fat overall to be down to that last localized “pocket” (the place they put it on first), most people have caused metabolic and hormonal damage from overly restrictive dieting. THAT is what makes the last fat harder to lose; not because the thigh/butt/tricep/ab fat cells themselves are more stubborn, but because you’re simply not burning as many calories as you used to.
For example, if a you’re a guy with a total daily energy expenditure of 2800 per day and you stay on 1500 calories per day for 90 days (starvation diet), then according to the mathematical calories in versus calories out calculations, you’ve accumulated a 117,000-calorie deficit. With 3500 calories in a pound of fat, that means you should have lost 33.4 pounds of fat. But you didn’t!! You lost maybe 19 pounds and then got stuck at a plateau with that last bit of lower ab flab still defiantly clinging to your waistline. Why? Because you’re no longer BURNING 2800 calories per day!!! Your metabolic fire has dwindled to a weak flicker. There is no longer a 1300 calorie per day deficit.
In other words, you hit a plateau – metabolically and hormonally. Your fat-burning hormones and enzymes have decreased. Your metabolic rate is depressed. You’ve lost lean mass, which has slowed your metabolism even further (and permanently so until you put that muscle back on through weight training and eating like a human being instead of a mouse). Last, but certainly not least, your appetite has gone haywire and you seem to get constant cravings that are practically irresistible.
If you had not slowed down your metabolism and created an unfavorable hormonal environment due to improper dieting and lack of exercise, you would not be stuck and that last bit of fat would just continue to come right off just like the rest of it did – it would be the very LAST place to come off, but it WOULD come right off.
Your solution for losing the last bit of localized fat is to avoid metabolic slowdown in the first place and then to patiently and persistently follow through until you’re as lean as you want to be. In part two, I’ll reveal the all-natural methods you can use to lose even the very last bit of localized fat – even if you’ve tried everything and have never been able to lose it before. Stay tuned. (In the meantime, you can get more information on my complete natural fat burning system here: www.burnthefat.com).