Despite their name, love handles are not something many of us are particularly fond of.

They are areas of stubborn fat on our hips and obliques that can be tough to get rid of.

But good news; it can be done! It just requires some dedication and lifestyle changes.

While it may be tough to get rid of this particular type of body fat, there are some proven techniques to help.

Today we’re sharing some of the easiest ways to get rid of that stubborn fat.

What Are Love Handles?

The term “love handles” refers to the fatty area around your hips and waist.

Also called a muffin top, this is the unwanted fat around the waistline that tends to bulge when wearing tight clothing. 

While the term may sound cute, these fat deposits can be a precursor to larger medical conditions in the long run. 

People with excess fat, particularly around the midsection and lower back, are at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even some kinds of cancer. 

What Causes Love Handles?

Cortisol

Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone.

When you are stressed, there are higher levels of cortisol in the body.

Chronically high levels of cortisol can cause increased fat accumulation around the waistline, hips, and midsection.

Age

Unfortunately, with age often comes weight gain.

This can be due to several different factors, but hormones also play a big role, especially for women.

Changes in hormones can cause increased fat cells around the midsection, and decreased activity could make it more difficult to lose this stubborn fat. 

Diet

A diet high in sugar and excess calories is naturally going to cause increased fat cells in the body.

For many, there is a good chance that increased fat may accumulate around the waist and hips. 

Lack of Exercise

Lack of physical activity can make it very difficult to lose any excess fat that may have been put on from the reasons mentioned above.

Exercise is beneficial for so many different reasons, but shedding excess fat cells is definitely one of them! 

Alcohol

Alcohol, like diet, can be a big factor in weight gain. Many different types of alcohol contain quite a lot of sugar and empty calories.

On top of that, drinking alcohol tends to lead to more snacking, especially on less healthy snack options.

All of these things combined can lead to increased fat, which can end up around the waist. 

Lack of Sleep

Lack of sleep can have a huge impact on your hormones.

Getting too little sleep can increase ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and decrease leptin (the fullness hormone) causing you to be hungrier throughout the day.

This can lead to overeating, and therefore more fat cells around the waistline. 

Genes

Where you accumulate fat on your body really comes down to genes.

Some may gain weight in the upper or lower body, while others naturally gain more weight around the stomach and hips.

12 Simple Ways to Get Rid of Love Handles

Here are some ways that you can get a handle on your love handles. 

1. Start in the Kitchen

The first thing to do is to focus on your food choices. What you eat plays a big role in how much fat your body carries.

Focus on lean protein (like chicken & turkey), healthy fats (like olive oil and avocado), and whole grains (like oatmeal).

These nutritious foods make a great base for your diet plan. 

2. Avoid Liquid Calories

Believe it or not, your brain doesn’t process liquid calories the same way that it does real food.

On top of that, many liquid calories really don’t provide us with much nutritional value.

Think alcohol, soda, or high sugar juices. 

When we drink these beverages we are feeding our bodies calories without feeling full afterwards, which often just leads to excess calorie intake. 

Avoid these by reducing alcohol and soda consumption and focusing on getting your calories from nutritionally dense foods.

3. Reduce Your Calorie Intake

Like focusing on WHAT you eat, reducing HOW MUCH you eat is a great way to get rid of your muffin top.

Eating excess calories will lead to an increase in fat cells in the body, some of which are naturally going to fall around the hips. 

You can begin reducing calorie intake by focusing on whole, nutritionally dense foods like the ones I mentioned above.

Increase flavor with herbs and spices, rather than calorie-dense sauces, and swap processed carbohydrates for whole grains. 

Another great way to reduce calories is doing Intermittent Fasting, which naturally reduces your calorie intake by reducing the window of time throughout the day that you eat.

Combining this with higher fat, low carb foods puts your body into a state of ketosis, which helps you burn fat instead of glucose. 

4. Eat More Veggies

If you want to improve your diet, reduce calorie intake, and reduce body fat veggies are the first place to focus.

Vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

These are all important for proper nutrition and long-term health, but they can also help you ditch the love handles by being low in calories and high in fiber.

This means they’ll help you stay fuller longer! 

So go ahead, add some spinach and kale to your smoothies or use bell peppers with your hummus instead of chips.

Making these easy swaps will make a huge difference in the long run. 

5. Snacks

Snacks can be an area of our diets that tend to be filled with processed options.

We often reach for convenience foods that are high in sodium, sugar, or fat.

To give your snacking a makeover, focus on veggies, healthy fat, and lean protein. 

Like I mentioned above, peppers and hummus can make a great snack.

Lean protein like hard-boiled eggs or yogurt can also make a filling snack that can lead to fat loss. 

6. Eat More Protein

High-quality protein sources are another great way to stay full and satisfied. I always recommend having at least one source of protein at every meal.

In fact, some studies have shown that high protein diets can be particularly useful in reducing weight around the stomach (3). 

High-quality protein can be anything from lean meats, to plant-based protein sources.

Here are a few different lean protein options you may want to consider including in your diet: 

  • Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils
  • Non-fatty white-fleshed fish
  • White meat poultry
  • Lean cuts of beef or pork
  • Tofu or other vegetarian meat replacements
  • Eggs
  • Sustainable seafood

7. Eat Fewer Simple Carbs

Carbs are another macronutrient (like protein and fat) that are an important part of your diet.

However, when it comes to carbohydrates, the source is the key.

Carbs are broken into two categories. There are simple carbs and complex carbs (4).

Simple carbs are typically found in processed foods like sweets, packaged snacks, white bread, and pasta.

These foods really don’t bring much nutritional value to your body and tend to cause spikes and dips in your energy and blood sugar levels. 

Complex carbs, on the other hand, provide the body with fiber, as well as many other nutrients.

These include starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, legumes, and whole grains like whole-grain pasta, brown rice, and oats.

Because they contain fiber and other nutrients, they are digested more slowly and won’t spike your blood sugar levels.

They also tend to contain fewer calories, therefore contributing to a loss of fat around your hips.

Because of these benefits, we recommend including complex carbs in your meals. 

8. Choose Healthy Fats

The third macronutrient is fat. Although fat tends to get a bad reputation, it’s actually an important part of your diet.

It’s needed for energy, as well as things like blood clotting, the development of cell walls, and reducing inflammation (5). 

Like the other macronutrients, the source of fat in your diet is important. 

Healthy fats occur naturally in many foods such as nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fatty fish.

Avocado, sunflower and olive oil, walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds all contain healthy fats as well.

These fats are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and help reduce inflammation in the body. 

When deciding if something is considered healthy fats, look out of words like omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, as well as thinking about if that food is naturally occurring or highly processed. 

The fats to look out for trans fats.

They are a form of manufactured fat that has been proven to be unsafe and even become illegal in some countries.

Foods with trans fats tend to be very highly processed and will likely contribute to weight gain.

9. Get The Right Amount of Sleep

The amount of time that we sleep each night can have a big impact on our overall health, including our weight.

Research has shown that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain for a few different reasons. 

Lack of sleep can cause increased hunger and appetite.

When you are hungrier throughout the day, it is natural to reach for snacks or larger portions more often.

Being tired all of the time can also put a big damper on motivation.

If you’re feeling foggy and frustrated, it can be really hard to focus on your goals. 

Another part has to do with biology.

There have been studies that link a lack of sleep and a physical change in your body’s chemistry (6).

So, if you want to get rid of your love handles, sleeping for the right amount of time is vital.

There are plenty of great resources around the web that share advice about getting better sleep, but if you have a chronic problem, be sure and talk to your doctor. 

10. Caffeine

One thing that can impact sleep quality is caffeine.

While many of us need an extra boost in the morning, drinking caffeine later in the day can make it more difficult to both fall asleep and stay asleep.

We recommend cutting off caffeine in the early afternoon to help improve sleep quality. 

Caffeinated beverages can also often come with lots of added sugar (think sweet coffee beverages, soda, or energy drinks).

Like anything high in sugar, this can lead to increased weight if you’re consuming them regularly. 

If you do like your coffee sweetened, try ditching the sugar for a more natural sweetener like stevia or honey.

You could also try water flavored with fruit to help cut back on soda. 

11. Reduce Stress

Stress can take a big toll on so many different areas of our life, our bodies included.

Stress can cause increases in cortisol, which can increase food cravings, lower metabolism, and, ultimately lead to chronic disease and health problems in the future.

Reducing stress can feel like it’s easier said than done, but actually, a lot of the things we’ve already talked about can help!

A healthy diet, quality sleep, and regular exercise can go a long way in reducing your stress. 

Like sleep, if you feel that stress is a chronic issue that you have trouble coping with, it can be very helpful to speak with a doctor or mental health professional. 

12. Liposuction

Although we wouldn’t recommend this as a first choice, Liposuction can be one way to specifically target the muffin top area. 

If you don’t know, Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure that allows you to remove fat in specific areas of the body.

The stomach, hips, thighs, and buttocks are common areas that liposuction is performed. 

While this might sound like the perfect solution, remember that liposuction is a surgical procedure and does come with its own risks, as well as a significant recovery time. 

If you are considering this, be sure to speak with your doctor about any other health conditions you may have. 

13. Love Handle Workouts

Regular exercise is also an important part of both ditching the muffin top and living a healthy life.

Most love handle workouts are tailored to exercise your core and belly. 

While it is tempting to only focus on this area by sticking with things like crunches and side planks, unfortunately, we can’t really spot treat the specific love handle area. 

Because of that, love handle workouts are really just full body workouts!

And while you can strengthen muscle groups, to lose weight, you need to combine a healthy diet with a consistent exercise routine.

If you’d like a more personal exercise routine, we definitely recommend talking to a personal trainer to help meet all of your exercise needs. 

HIIT and Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is a fantastic way to reduce waist size and weight overall. 

Cardio is moving your body so your heart rate goes up. During these workouts, you should be sweating and breathing heavily. 

You can get calorie-burning movement regardless of your fitness or energy level.

Cardio can include anything from swimming, going for a run, biking, or even going for a brisk walk.

This type of exercise is excellent for weight loss and burning fat, and you don’t need a personal trainer or a gym. 

If you do want a more structured form of cardio, HIIT workouts might be for you. HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training.

It involves bursts of high-intensity cardio, followed by a rest period.

These workouts often pack an intense punch and work the entire body in a short period of time. 

Weight Training

Cardio can help you burn fat and reduce your muffin top, but to keep your body looking great, you should also consider resistance training.

Strength training will help build muscle and boost your metabolism long term.

Strength training can be done either with equipment or just with your body weight.

Things like lunges, squats, and planks are all exercises that will help you build lean muscle without any fancy equipment. 

While cardio burns a lot of calories at the moment, lean muscle mass actually boosts calorie burning, even at rest.

For that reason, strength training can be a big part of getting rid of love handles for good. 

Oblique and Core Workouts

While core workouts can strengthen the muscles in your belly, you can’t lose body fat and love handles with oblique exercises alone.

Unfortunately, spot reduction isn’t really a thing.

You’ll have to reduce your total body fat in order to get rid of those stubborn love handles. 

However, while they may not be a miracle solution, you should still include workouts that activate your abdominal muscles.

To tone up your torso and obliques, give these exercises a try. 

Best Exercises for Your Love Handles

Planks

  • Planks can be done either on your hands or elbows.
  • To start, lie on your stomach and place your hands or elbows directly under your shoulders and feet hip-width apart. 
  • Then push up so that your elbows/hands and toes are supporting your whole body in a straight line.
  • Make sure your core is tight and your butt is in line (not sticking up). 

Russian Twists

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lean back slightly until you feel your abdominal muscles engage.
  • Keeping your spine upright, rotate to the left so that your right elbow meets your left knee. Continue this rotation on the other side. 

Bicycle Crunch

  • Light flat on your back with your knees in a tabletop position. Start by extending your left leg.
  • As you do this, twist your torso and bring your left elbow to your right knee. Repeat this with the right elbow and left knee. 

Side Bend

  • Stand tall and slowly lower your right arm down your right leg, leaning to that side.
  • As you do this reach your left arm up and over to feel a deep stretch in your left side. Brace your core to return to standing upright and repeat this on your left side. 

How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of Love Handles?

Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer to this question.

How your love handles change will depend on how you chose to implement the lifestyle changes above.

While genetics do come into play, it is usually considered safe to lose one to one and a half pounds of fat per week, which will help you towards this goal.

While there are many things you can do right away to help get rid of belly fat and love handles, for long term success, you need to make lasting lifestyle changes. 

If you need additional resources or help with a personalized meal or exercise plans, you may want to speak with a nutritionist or personal trainer.

A doctor also might be able to help with stress and sleep problems.

Know that in addition to trimming your hips and waist, you are also working towards your long-term health, and that should make it all worthwhile. 

  1. “How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Jan. 2020, www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html.
  2. Hu, F. B. “Resolved: There Is Sufficient Scientific Evidence That Decreasing Sugar‐Sweetened Beverage Consumption Will Reduce the Prevalence of Obesity and Obesity‐Related Diseases.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 13 June 2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/obr.12040.
  3. Chen W;Liu Y;Yang Q;Li X;Yang J;Wang J;Shi L;Chen Y;Zhu S; “The Effect of Protein-Enriched Meal Replacement on Waist Circumference Reduction Among Overweight and Obese Chinese With Hyperlipidemia.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26650434/.
  4. “Carbohydrates.” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/carbohydrates.
  5. Harvard Health Publishing. “The Truth about Fats: the Good, the Bad, and the in-Between.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good.
  6. “Molecular Ties between Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 July 2016, www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/molecular-ties-between-lack-sleep-weight-gain.
  7. NewsWire, HR. “Yes, Drinking More Water May Help You Lose Weight.” The Hub, 15 Jan. 2020, hub.jhu.edu/at-work/2020/01/15/focus-on-wellness-drinking-more-water/.

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About the Author

Melissa Guido, MS, RD

Melissa Guido, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. She earned her Master's Degree in Nutrition at Meredith College and practices as a dietitian in North Carolina. She has worked in a variety of settings, such as weight loss, private practice, and diabetes prevention. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cooking, traveling, and cuddling with her two dogs.

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