Can you lose weight in ‘problem areas’?

FYI: Two of our health-conscious Motherlode sponsors, I.M. Spa and Bfit, are teaming up to bring an awesome workshop to Fayetteville on February 5th. Bfit will be teaching a one hour workout class followed by services from the I.M. Spa crew–foot massages, hot stones, and paraffin dips. Now that’s the way to end a workout session! Refreshments will be served. There is a fee so call I.M. Spa at 479-251-7422 or Bfit at 479-935-4400.

Now, on to a question many of us really want to have answered:


Is there such a thing as working on your “problem areas”? Can you lose weight in certain areas of your body or does your body decide where it’s going to take off the weight? For example, when I want to lose weight in my stomach, it always tends to come off my chest instead!

This question makes me smile a bit.  As women, generally, we want to lose weight.  Period.  Then again, oh yeah, there is that one area where we want to keep it!  It’s easy to think, wouldn’t it be great if we could perform a little exercise nip and tuck exactly where we want to.

Before you start mentally picturing yourself in the great body you would sculpt if only possible, think about this: On a daily basis, we all tend to use our dominant sides more. For example, moms that are right handed tend to carry young children on the left hip. Over time, the left side muscles get stronger relative to the right. If excess “weight” reflected this muscle imbalance and drastically melted off the left side, we’d end up looking pretty strange.

So, body fat doesn’t redistribute dramatically based on where we workout. What does change is our posture. I never understood the importance of posture before studying movement. Generally, we know good posture is a good thing, but why? Good posture indicates a balance of muscle strength. Balanced muscle strength means safer joints. The end result is we avoid joint pain, have better balance, and are less prone to injury.

Okay, back to weight-loss! Body fat doesn’t distribute perfectly for everyone. Some women carry extra weight in the hips and thighs, some in the stomach. Your “problem” areas are likely the same problem areas your mother had.  Exercising will not change your individual body fat distribution, but it will lower your overall body fat percentage, and give you your best body.

Yes ladies, when you start exercising, you may lose some weight in the chest, but that tells you it wasn’t really supposed to be there in the first place. It might also seem like you haven’t lost weight anywhere else, but I promise you have. It may not be as drastic a loss as desired, but it’s there.

Now, let’s take another look at whether or not we can work on “problem” areas. I know, I already told you your problem areas are genetic and that losing weight means losing overall weight. In fact, overall weight-loss is most dramatic when one has a lot of excess weight to lose. Working your muscles in a given area does increase the ratio of muscle mass to body fat in that area. This tends to be a smaller, less drastic change, but one you can feel and maybe even see (if you’re really paying attention).

Often, problem areas are rarely used and, thus, never toned. You can lose extra weight in, say, the stomach by toning the stomach. (As an interesting side note, access to the core muscles is often inhibited by excess weight around the waist. Diet is an important factor in this situation.) We can’t ignore genetics completely, but we can opt for an exercise program designed to address bad posture and tone problem areas.

Our bodies look at muscle mass as optional. Use it or lose it. The ironic thing is, we need muscles in order to be healthy. They reduce strain on joints and greatly improve circulation, which means your body literally stays younger for longer.

Yes, smart exercise will slow physical aging. What do I mean by smart?  Exercise that helps you develop and maintain balanced muscle strength.  Weight-loss and increased strength are side effects of small daily habits over time.  It is a simple process, but one that requires knowledge and dedication.  Though we sometimes endure exercise because we want to look good, it becomes all too easy to give up when the inevitable confusion and/or frustration sets in. A better way? We can learn how to exercise effectively, discover how fun it is to move, and enjoy a strong, pain-free existence in turn.

Tara holds a degree in biochemistry and nutrition.  Along with Claudia Smith, she co-owns bfit, where she teaches nutrition and fitness.  Tara is author of bfit, be full, a nutrition column on