Women's bodies tend to store excess fat around the waist and hips.

Why Are Love Handles the Last Place to Lose Weight?

by Damon Verial

If you exercise every day and eat healthy, yet still have that soft doughnut of fat around your waist, you might be suffering from love handle syndrome. But before you consider liposuction, realize that love handle syndrome is not a real condition -- it's just your body’s way of storing non-essential fat. Love handle fat, while different from other types, is susceptible to standard fat-burning techniques.

1. All About Fat

Fat is a necessary part of the human body. Your body uses fat as a reserve resource for energy. While modern people tend to shun anything related to the word “fat,” they shouldn’t, because it is essential for a healthy body. The real problem is with non-essential fat, or excess fat stored upon the essential fat. According to movement scientist Chantal Vella, author of the article “Metabolism and Gender Differences,” men need at least 3 percent body fat, while women need at least 12 percent body fat. This means even the healthiest woman will have a body in which one-tenth of her body composition is fat.

2. “Love Handle” Fat

The love handle fat that many men and women have is not essential fat -- not most of it, anyway. When your love handles start to bulge, what you are looking at is visceral fat. Your body stores this type of fat around your body’s essential organs. Because men's and women's bodies are not composed in the same way, your body will store visceral fat around organs differently than your spouse's, which is why men tend to have “apple-like” bodies, with much of the fat in the stomach and upper body. Women tend to have “pear-like” bodies, with much of the fat around the waist. This is because a woman’s body emphasizes storing fat near the uterus. For this reason, women are more likely to have large love handles than are men.

3. Burning Fat

Your body, for reasons of health, burns off the non-essential fat first. Visceral fat is the last to go of the non-essential fat because it is crucial in protecting the important organs of the body. So, a woman who has been doing well with her diet and exercise regimen might have lost much weight, but still have noticeable love handles. These love handles will eventually go away with continued exercise and effort. Exercise plus a caloric deficit still leads to fat loss throughout the body, including visceral fat.

4. Fat-Burning Overdrive

If you’re still worrying about those stubborn love handles and want to push your fat-burning into overdrive, design a strict diet, exercise and rest regimen. Engage in cardio exercise, exercise that raises your heart rate to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. Work out for approximately an hour every day; after around 30 minutes, your body will begin recruiting more energy from its fat reserves, effectively burning away some of that visceral fat in your love handles. Also consider adding resistance training to your regimen, because doing so can raise your fat-burning metabolism.

5. Nutrition and Rest

Nutrition and rest also have important roles in determining whether your body develops love handles. Some foods will put more fat on your love handles. Avoid fast food, processed food and foods with unhealthy fats. Healthy fats, such as those in nuts and plant oils, are good for your body and can stay in your diet. Also ensure that you get enough sleep every night to prevent the accumulation of more visceral fat. "Time" reports that sleeping less than six hours or more than eight hours a night can lead to increased storage of visceral fat.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images