Every time you put on a few pounds or lose a few points, whether it’s due to stress, changes in eating, or shifting in exercise habits, it may seem like it happens first in one or two spots. It begs the question: Where do you lose weight first—and do you lose weight from certain areas faster than others?
Think about it: For some people, they gain or lose first in the belly, hips, or thighs; for others, that weight might go straight to or from the boobs. Or, you may notice the weight leave your face immediately, for instance.
The truth is, as much as you think you might be targeting certain areas for weight loss with so-called belly fat-busting or butt and thigh workouts, studies have found that you can’t necessarily control where fat loss occurs. But do some body parts naturally slim down at a faster rate? Experts explain what areas of the body tend to trim down first—and why.
Where do you typically lose weight first?
First of all, weight loss is going to be a different scenario between men and women. “Men and women tend to lose weight differently based on the types of fat they contain and childbearing factors,” says Romy Block, MD, an endocrinologist and co-founder of Vous Vitamin.
For example, research has shown that women have more subcutaneous fat, a type of fat that deposits right underneath the skin and is partially responsible for women’s curves, than men. The first place men typically lose weight is the belly, while women tend to lose weight all over, but hold onto weight in their thighs and hips, Dr. Block explains.
When it comes to weight loss, though, it’s less about your natural body shape and more about genetics, how your hormones work, and your metabolism, says Dr. Block. Regardless, she adds, you can’t choose a specific area of focus for weight loss.
Janet Brill, PhD, RD, a Philadelphia-based nutritionist, theorizes that where fat melts off on your body first is totally different for everyone, and you might lose weight from wherever you last gained it. “If you tend to gain weight around your waist, you’ll likely lose weight from your midsection first as well,” says Brill. Meanwhile, if weight goes straight to your boobs—as it does for many women—you’ll probably notice it leave your chest first, too.
In some cases, you might lose weight from around your internal organs as well. Dr. Block notes that this is the case specifically in people who have NASH, or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Even losing 5 percent of your body weight can boost the function of organs like the liver.
Why do women hold on to weight in the hip and thigh area?
The other factor at play when it comes to where you shed weight is Mother Nature’s plan for your body to be always be ready to get pregnant. For that reason, many women say that the fat around their hips, butts, and thighs stays put for the first several weeks of a weight-loss regimen—while their backs, calves, and even their faces begin to thin out much sooner.
“The fat on these body parts [the hips, butt, and thighs] is crucial for childbearing,” says Brill, “which is why most women notice that their body naturally hangs onto it as long as possible.” The increased fat in these areas is related to the higher levels of estrogen necessarily for fertility, Dr. Block adds.
As people near menopause, weight gain may shift to the belly. Because you have lower estrogen levels during menopause, more fat might distribute to the abdominal area, says Dr. Block.
Soo…is there any way to lose belly fat first? Asking for a friend.
In a perfect world, you could switch things up so you lose weight from where you want to first. But the fact is, you don’t really have much control over where the pounds peel off first…with one caveat: “When you work out, your metabolism increases, and that helps get rid of some of the visceral fat that goes to your stomach and abs area,” Brill says. It’s just a modest difference and doesn’t count as spot reducing—but it’s something to keep in mind if your body hangs onto belly fat forever and you want the waistband of your jeans to feel roomier faster.
Other than potentially speeding up your metabolism, focused exercise is not going to shed weight in any one specific area. Your body has a mind of its own in terms of deciding where to lose weight and when, the experts say.
However, the healthiest way to lose weight is a combination of diet and exercise. That’s really key—one without the other won’t have as much of a long-term impact. “Diet will directly impact stored energy, while exercise will increase your metabolism and help you keep the weight off,” Dr. Block says.
What’s the best way to start losing weight?
Don’t think of weight loss as a sprint—really, it’s a marathon. “Small changes [to your diet and exercise plans] can make big differences over time and impact your health and energy in a significant way,” Dr. Block says.
Even cutting out high-calorie drinks, including your favorite flavored latte and mixed drinks, is a good place to start. Of course, leveling up your exercise routine also can positively impact your metabolism (HIIT workouts can help you blast fat and increase your endurance, too).
Adding more movement to your life, Dr. Block says, like walking around the block an extra time and adding more stairs as opposed to elevators to your routine, can also contribute.
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