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Targeting Weight Loss Is a Myth

Spot-reducing body fat isn't possible, but learn what can help you maintain a healthy weight.

measuring waist, tape measure

Updated on March 11, 2022

When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, it's not possible to spot-reduce body fat, or target one area of your body. “When you gain weight it’s circular, meaning that you store fat all over your body,” says fitness expert and trainer, Obi Obadike.

“But certain parts of your body are prone to store more fat than others," Obadike explains. And where one person tends to store body fat may be different than someone else. For example, a tendency to store fat in the abdomen, may be tied to hormone levels, genetics, age and oher variables. Still, there are some steps you can take to help you improve your overall health and maintain a healthy weight.

Obadike offers three strategies:

1. Eat a clean/lean healthy diet: “Abs are not made in the gym, they are made in the kitchen.” Obadike says this is something he and many fitness experts tell their clients. “Flat abs are not indicative of 1,000 sit ups a day, they’re indicative of how low your body fat is. And reducing your body fat comes from a clean, healthy diet.” 

That includes at least two protein servings a day, at least two servings of veggies/fruits, good fats and at least two servings of complex carbohydrates. “Diet is 80 percent of your success in losing belly fat,” says Obadike. “But by combining that with a rigorous cardio and weight-training plan, you increase your chances of losing belly fat by 15 to 20 percent.” 

Clean/lean foods to add to your diet include oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, baked or broiled chicken breast, baked or broiled turkey breast, fish and, of course, fruits and veggies. “I teach my clients the 90/10 rule,” says Obadike. “That is eat clean 90 percent of the time and cheat 10 percent of the time.” Of course, a cheat isn’t a plate of chicken parm followed by a slice of tiramisu. Examples of a “cheat” would be one slice of pizza, a small hamburger or small slice of chocolate cake. The serving size should fit roughly in the palm of your hand. 

How many calories should you limit yourself to each day to shed pounds? “A weight loss caloric diet that I use is 10 to 12 calories per pound,” says Obadike. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, your daily caloric intake would be between 1,800 to 2,160 calories (180 x 10 = 1,800; 180 x 12 = 2,160). “I’ve had great success with my clients using this formula,” he says.

2. Follow a weekly cardio program: “To see results you’ll need to do 30 to 45 minutes of cardio at least four times a week,” Obadike says. His favorite fat-blasting equipment? The elliptical, stairmaster and treadmill. “They help you burn calories fairly fast,” he says. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. But if you're unsure of where to begin, simply taking a daily walk or walking on a treadmill is a good start. Aim to gradully increase the amount of time and intensity of your routine over time. 

3. Build muscle: For most adults, combining resistance training with a regular cardiovasular exercise routine is ideal. It can help you build more muscle mass, enabling you to burn more calories at rest.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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