Spot Reduction: Is It Possible?

Flabby bat wing arms?

Love handles far too easy to love?

Beer gut resembling a keg rather than a six pack?

Can I level with you for a minute? Everyone has trouble spots where they store more fat than other areas, and it’s usually the last spot to go when you diet down.

One of the most common questions I get from clients goes a little something along these lines:

“How do I get rid of this lower back fat?”

“I hate my flabby arms – what exercises can I do to get them toned?”

You have genetics to thank for that – not a lack of push-ups.

Sorry for the grim news. But not all hope is lost.

SPOILER ALERT: Your top priority – if you want to lose that stubborn fat – is to stay in a consistent calorie deficit through diet and exercise and lose weight all over. You can read up on the best ways to do that here

But I know that isn’t the answer you want to hear, so let me explain myself (it’s not as depressing as you think)

“What Exercises Can I Do For ‘X’?”


I’d love to say you could do sit-ups every day for a week and reveal a six pack, but it’s not that simple or easy.

2013 study discovered as much when it looked at how training one leg affected fat tissue composition compared to the other, non-exercised leg. There was virtually no difference in the amount of fat each leg had after 12 weeks of training the one leg hard.

The problem is, fat loss occurs from within the body by way of a calorie deficit. Your efforts in the gym can absolutely aid in that pursuit – but it’ll have little impact on spot reduction, moreso overall weight loss and body recomposition.

When you start to lose weight, you can’t will it away from specific areas. That’s up to your body to decide.

Of course, your body isn’t a perfect math equation and everyone responds differently. But your efforts will pay off eventually, I promise you that. The work reveals the rewards in the end.

“What About Fat Loss Creams & Sprays?”

Deer antler spray. FatGirlSlim. FatBurner 3000.

The supplement industry is full of body rubs and fat burning sprays promising the world – enough to put the seediest of massage parlours to shame.

With profit margins large and regulations minimal – supplements are exempt from the FDA’s strict approval process for drugs – and some shady companies take advantage.

These products rival detox cleanses and teas in the hoax department, marketed to trim your wallet, not your waist-line.


That said, one study using aminophylline cream showed a small but measurable reduction in waist circumference compared to control in 12 weeks (about 6 centimetres).  Note that both groups dieted and exercised during the study.

Here’s a product with the aminophylline cream (I don’t benefit from sales here nor do I endorse its use)

Take that for what it’s worth. Will it help? Maybe. But make sure you have the basics in place before spending hard-earned cash on any of it.

“But Kim Kardashian Says…”


You’ve seen Instagram models wearing them. The Kardashians love to pimp them out.

But waist trainers are a fraud.

Beyond the potential for internal organ compression causing kidney, gastrointestinal and lung issues, there’s no solid evidence that they do anything for your waistline.

The Kardashian’s affiliated waist trainer is being sued. Or as TMZ so artfully puts it, the plaintiffs “say they got burned but their fat didn’t.”

Power of Placebo?


Of course, there’s more at play here than what’s found in the research.

Psychologically, if using that cream provides a feel-good effect, it may give you the confidence to work harder in the gym.

And if that helps get you more consistent with your program, who am I to judge?

In The Power of the Placebo film, cyclists were told they’d receive either a caffeine pill, or a new supplement, purported to improve performance.

The catch? Both pills were placebo, containing nothing more than corn flour.

The cyclists had to race twice in one day. The first race was used to establish their baseline, and the second was following supplementation to evaluate its effects on performance.

Interestingly, half of them were faster in the second race after taking the placebo pill.

One cyclist even broke his own personal speed record.

The power of the mind cannot really be explained by science, but belief in yourself plays a huge role in any weight loss pursuit.

“So How Do I get Rid Of My Stubborn Fat, Mitch?”

I knew you’d still ask that.  I’ll stop belaboring the point.

Even if you desperately want to lose that muffin top or beer gut, it still takes a full-body approach to get rid of it.

But if you’re convinced a supplement or spray can help hold you accountable, by all means go for it. As some studies suggest, there may be some marginal benefit beyond the mental placebo effect.

That said, before running to GNC, make sure these 5 strategies form the base of your fat loss plan first and foremost.

5 Ways To “Spot” Reduce Fat (i.e. Do the shit that matters first):

  • Stay in a calorie deficit with your nutrition intake. The scale should be moving down 1-2 lbs a week (some more or less than others)
  • Get active (go to the gym, walk as often as you can, take a bike ride)
  • Minimize stress
  • Take a moderate approach – don’t eliminate a food group entirely or go on a fad diet you can’t stick to.
  • Believe in the process and yourself. “If you want to begin to alter your circumstance and alter your life, it’s very important that you begin to change your attitude about yourself.” – Les Brown



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