Spot Reducing, Myth or Miracle?



There are no miracles in weight loss, though there are lots of myths. You may have heard a new one making the rounds: cortisol will ‘dissolve’ fat around the waist. Not so.

Whenever you take in more calories than you use, the remaining energy is stored in chemical bonds between adipose tissue (fatty deposits). In adult men those fat deposits are preferentially stored around the waist and abdomen, in women around the hips, thighs and abdomen.

As you take actions that place a demand for energy on your body that is greater than can be supplied by available glucose (its preferred source), it turns to fat to supply the deficit. Fat molecules are broken down and severing those chemical bonds releases the energy needed for maintaining internal temperature, muscle movement, etc.

But, here’s the kicker: you have no control over where the body takes that fat from. Cortisol may aid in releasing those fat deposits and breaking down those bonds, but it isn’t targeted. There is, currently, no technology that will remove local fat deposits from any part of the body except mechanical removal, such as in liposuction.

It’s true that doing abdominal exercises, though, helps reduce fat around the waist, and in two ways.

First, since abdominal exercises typically involve large-scale movement that requires high effort, it naturally requires lots of energy. Once the available free energy is consumed, the body turns to those fat deposits to get more. The result is less fat and weight loss.

But it does that in an overall way, with no narrow location getting most of the benefit. Most of the fat may indeed come from the waist, but that’s because that’s where most of it is, as a percentage. But the exercise doesn’t target that fat in any way.

Second, during a vigorous abdominal workout those muscles are being worked harder than others. That’s the whole point of abdominal exercises. As a result, those muscles (along with the back muscles, typically) are being strengthened. Toning and strengthening those muscles helps restore their youthful ability to hold in the internal organs, primarily the stomach.

At the same time there will be a (largely temporary) loss of fluid that contributes to both weight loss and slimming. The net effect is that the waist looks slimmer, the bulge is reduced. That’s definitely a good thing, both for general health and weight loss or fat reduction.

But it’s not the same thing as targeting specific fatty deposits, as the makers of cortisol pills (and other) ‘miracle cures’ would like to sell you. The only effective program for reducing fat deposits – around the waist, on the thighs and buttocks, or anywhere else – is the old-fashioned, high effort, high willpower one.

A program of adequate daily exercise and proper diet is the key to long-term health, safe weight loss and fat reduction. You’ll feel better and your health will be optimized. And, not coincidentally, you’ll reduce those unattractive fat deposits around the middle.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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