How to beat those stubborn fat spots?

We bring you a personal training plan to reduce fat in problem areas with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. Follow our guide to beat those stubborn

Fat spots
Most women have hard-to-shift fat spots that they’d love to lose. Top of the list is excess weight on our hips, closely followed by outer thighs, tummy fat and upper arm fat, according to a study by a cosmetic clinic. While these stubborn bulges are largely down to genetics, our hormones can also govern where we store fat, explains Max Tomlinson, author of a book on reducing fat. And hormonal imbalance can be caused by poor diet, stress, environmental pollution and lack of effective exercise, he says. He believes that each fat spot — whether it’s stomach fat, bra-bulge, big thighs and bottom fat or bingo wings — is caused by the action or inaction of a specific hormone.

The good news is that you can reduce fat in problem areas with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. Follow our guide, which comes complete with a specific “killer” exercise.

Back Fat
Excess fat around the bra straps can be due to carb overload or a sign of a sluggish thyroid. This gland governs the rate at which you burn calories from food, explains Max. Low thyroid function can cause bra-bulge fat as well as overall weight gain, fatigue and depression.

- Try eliminating grains and refined carbs such as white rice and pasta to see if it reduces fat. Then slowly introduce unrefined carbohydrates such as wild rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
- Certain raw foods can interfere with the correct functioning of the thyroid gland, so limit intake of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, swede, turnips, peaches, soya bean products, spinach and strawberries unless cooked.
- Boost your intake of iodine and selenium by eating Brazil nuts, brown rice, garlic, liver, and onions.

General exercise:
- Front crawl, breast stroke and butterfly stroke are good for getting rid of bra overhang, while Pilates can help strengthen and define back muscles.

Killer exercise:
The back extension
- Lie face down with your arms along your side.
- Contract your abs and squeeze the back in order to lift your chest a few inches off the floor — no more or you risk putting a strain on your back.
- Hold for a few seconds, then lower. Do three sets of 16 repititions.
- Progress to lifting your feet two inches off the floor simultaneously, to add intensity.

Lifestyle tips:
- Dry brushing your skin towards the heart before your morning shower with a long-handled brush stimulates your lymphatic system and eliminates toxins.
- See your GP for a blood test to check your thyroid level. Get properly measured for a well-fitting supportive bra and styles that reduce fat “spillage”.

Love Handles
Fat bulging over the back and sides of your jeans could indicate a problem with the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels, explains Max. “A sugary diet forces the body to pump out insulin, to move the sugar out of the bloodstream. But over time, if sugar intake remains high, the cells can stop responding correctly, causing more insulin to be released, excess glucose to build up in the blood and stubborn areas of fat to be laid down,” he says.

- Avoid sugars and carbohydrates to calm insulin production. Aim to eat a Mediterranean diet — avoid alcohol, white bread, biscuits, cakes, chips, crisps, processed sweetened cereals, rice, sweets and fizzy drinks.
- Try giving up starchy grains for two weeks, says Miguel. “Wheat, rye and rice turn into sugar fast. As the sugar load normally exceeds our body’s ability to clear it, excess is metabolised as fat, and stored as love handles for easy access later, in case of famine.”
- Replace rice and pasta with “konjac root” versions, such as Zero Noodles, which are carbohydrate-free.
- To reduce insulin resistance, eat food rich in antioxidants, such as cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, fresh herbs, chilli, cranberries, blueberries, broccoli and green tea.
General exercise:
Cycling, swimming and Bikram (hot) yoga
- Twists and stretches in the hip area will burn fat and tone muscles, so try cycling, rowing, skating and swimming front crawl. – Dance forms like salsa and zumba, skipping and hula hooping will work this area while Bikram yoga helps remove fat through sweating.

Killer exercise:
Oblique sit-ups
- Lie on your back, knees bent, with hands supporting your head. Allow knees to fall towards one side.
- Raise your chest towards the sky and twist at the waist. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.

Lifestyle tips:
- This type of fat can also be due to stress, so dedicate 15 minutes a day to relax. Chromium can also help control blood sugar levels.

Bingo Wings
Upper arm fat can be caused by toxins in the body and also low testosterone levels, particularly in older women. For instance, BPA (Bisphenol A), a toxin found in some everyday products like plastic food containers, can cause the body to store excess fat, say scientists.

A calcium-rich diet is associated with higher rates of fat oxidation and acceleration of fat loss. Dairy foods can convert fat stores into usable energy, so stock up on yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, sardines with bones and fortified non-dairy milks like soya, rice and oats. Have a protein-rich breakfast three times a week.

For example, try a protein smoothie with a good quality protein powder — whey or soy based — a piece of fruit and a little yogurt. It’s ready in a couple of minutes, really filling, and provides the ideal protein intake to build muscle and provide energy.

General exercise:
Boxing and yoga
- Boxing, body combat classes and yoga — holding the downward dog position, for instance — are all great for toning the upper arms. Bikram yoga, which is done in a room heated to 40 degrees, is great for upper arm fat because raising the core temperature helps eliminate the build-up of toxins that strips away bingo wings.

Killer exercise:
Triceps dips
- On a chair, place hands next to the hips. Lift up on the hands and bring the hips forward.
- Bending the elbows (no more than 90 degrees), lower the hips down.
- Push back up without locking the elbows and repeat 15 times.

Lifestyle tips:
- Never heat up food in plastic containers.
- Body brushing from your elbow to armpit helps improve circulation. This will help give the appearance of having smoother, firmer upper arms.

Flabby Belly
A paunch may indicate a problem with the adrenal glands. Unmanaged long-term stress causes the body to produce too much cortisol, which can raise blood glucose levels. This triggers the release of insulin, which instructs the body to store excess glucose as stubborn deposits of fat around the stomach.

- Cut down on stodgy foods and eat more colourful fresh vegetables, particularly green and leafy varieties, and lean protein. -Keep blood glucose levels stable in the face of stress-induced cortisol surges. Increase intake of slow-burn, low-GI foods (wholegrains, vegetables, pulses, fish and meat) and cut out high-GI foods (processed foods, cereals, sugar, dairy products, dried fruit, beer, wine, fruit juice and coffee).
- Cook with ginger — it’s been shown to help manage blood sugar levels as effectively as drugs, and without any of the side effects. And having eggs for breakfast will leave you feeling fuller for longer.

General exercise:
- Jogging, swimming and cycling
- The secret to losing abdominal fat is cardiovascular exercise — not crunches. While curls and sit-ups build muscle, it can stay hidden below stubborn fat. Jogging, cycling or swimming will increase your metabolic rate and burn excess fat in this region. But don’t overdo it — too much exercise can also increase cortisol production.

Killer exercise:
The Plank
- Begin on hands and knees, then distribute your weight between your toes and elbows, keeping your body straight and pulling your stomach in.
- Do not allow hips to move to the side, drop or raise.
- Hold position for at least 30 seconds.

Lifestyle tips:
- Relax! Anything that helps you to unwind reduces stress levels and breaks the hormonal cycle that is causing your body to lay down belly fat. Studies show that reducing stress will also decrease cravings for calorie-dense foods.
- A good quality fish oil or omega oil will help burn fat and slow the absorption of sugar through the gut.

Thunder Thighs
Genetics are usually to blame for a pear shape, but hormones can also play a part. Max says: “The female hormone oestrogen promotes fat storage around the top of the legs, and many of us are exposed to high levels of both natural oestrogens in water and farmed meat and synthetic versions — chemicals in plastics and non-stick coatings — in the environment.”

- Eat more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains as they contain special substances which bind to, and help excrete, excess oestrogen. Cut down on alcohol, painkillers and drinks laden with chemical preservatives and colouring agents as these hamper the liver’s efforts to clear excess oestrogens. Eat live, natural yogurt to boost the friendly bacteria in your gut, which help clear oestrogen via the gastrointestinal tract.

- A study found that more than two cups of coffee a day can trigger higher oestrogen levels in women.
- Diet every other day. Research shows this helps burn fat and keep muscle. On the day you diet, have green juice for breakfast, lean protein and salad for lunch, and cooked green vegetables and pulses for dinner, with minimum snacks, preferably fruit.

General exercise:
Aerobics, climbing and power walking
- “Power walking works thighs, calves and buttocks, burns calories and promotes lean muscles,” explains Lovisa Nilsson, a nutritionist. High-intensity interval training, with squats and lunges, are an efficient way to tone this area. Climbing, hiking in the hills, or treadmill walking on an incline will also help.

Killer exercise:
- Lie on your back with arms at your sides and with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Lift hips toward the ceiling. Hold and lower the back.
- Repeat for 60 seconds, squeezing your bum at the top of the range of motion.
- To make it harder, extend one leg at the top for 5 seconds.
-Keeping hips up, place foot back on the floor and then lower your hips. Repeat for 30 seconds on one leg and then swap legs.

Lifestyle tips:
-If you are on the pill or HRT containing high oestrogen, consider talking to your GP about alternatives. Filter water to reduce oestrogen.

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