Everybody Is Lying About How To Flatten Your Belly

Everybody Is Lying About How To Flatten Your Belly

Core exercises will build up your abs, but they do nothing for the layer of fat on top of them. Likewise, no leg exercise can give you slimmer thighs. And yet headlines and tweets about shrinking specific body parts abound — even when the articles themselves contradict the headline.

Photo via VisualHunt

For example, this health.com article is headlined as a “10-Minute Love Handle Workout”. It begins by saying that a traditional ab workout won’t get rid of your love handles (true) so you need to target your oblique muscles specifically (uh, that’s no better). Then there is a brief moment of clarity:

That being said, it’s a myth that you can spot reduce fat loss. Yes, you can target your obliques to maximise toning, but fat is lost through cardio and diet. We’ve all heard that abs are made in the kitchen, and (unfortunately) it’s true. You can do crunches until the cows come home, but unless you get rid of your excess fat through healthy eating, your toned abs will never be seen. So here’s the best strategy for kicking your love handles to the curb:

The strategy has three steps. One is to diet, described in four words: “Eat lean. Eat clean.” Uh, thanks. The second is a mention that you should do some cardio. The third is the promised “love handle workout”. Of these three, only the first two can shrink your love handles. And yet the headline and bulk of the article are about the third item, which can’t.

Or take this shape.com article on the “Best Inner Thigh Exercises for Women”. They asked 16 trainers to “share their go-to move for slim, sculpted hips and thighs”, even though there is no move that can make your hips and thighs slimmer. (You can exercise a muscle to make it larger.) The first seven trainers dutifully offer exercises that strengthen the inner thighs. The eighth objects: “If you want to reduce the size of your thighs and look more toned, then your goal is really fat loss since you can’t spot reduce.”

But then he offers an exercise anyway, and so do all the rest.

I am sure the trainers, many of them impeccably qualified, understand the difference between losing fat (which happens all over) and strengthening a muscle (which you can target). Several of the others mentioned that they chose exercises that burn a lot of calories, which seems like a nod to the truth. But then the article gets written anyway, and packaged with a headline that directly contradicts the facts on exercise physiology.

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Yep. But here’s the thing – as long as most people are fat and lazy, they’ll always go for the quick fix and the answer they want to hear – 10 minute abs, etc – supplement companies know this, trainers know this, Instagram influencers know this – as long as people continue to be wilfully ignorant, people will keep fleecing them out of their money with 30 day booty building shredding programs, waist trainers, and articles like, “the best exercise to eliminate love handles.”

    Turns out if you’re honest and say, “stop eating donuts and drinking 3 bottles of wine with dinner,” people don’t want to listen.

  • Healthy eating or calorie restriction? In the world of fitness/weight loss, the latter is better received…yet somewhat deceptive.

    You can healthy eat all you want – if you’re consuming too many calories – even if those colories are coming from healthy foods – you will struggle to lose weight. Weight loss happens when your body is in calorie deficit (so it can start chipping away at its reserves) and yes – feeling hungry is an unpleasant side effect.

    Now, people who train heavily on a daily basis don’t need to worry about calories too much but the average person isn’t spending hours at the gym and that 20 minute cardio workout will be burn approximately 1.5 bananas worth of calories.

  • The other thing people tend to do is focus on weight loss, as though reducing the number on the scale is a real indicator of overall physical fitness. In reality, you need to focus on fat loss. Fat loss is the key to abs and a toned body.

    A person can diet and exercise for an entire year and literally lose 6kg, but drop four pant sizes, or about 8 inches around their waist. In so doing, their body becomes toned, and their overall strength and athleticism has increased dramatically. This person has obviously “lost weight” but not in the sense that they have decreased their overall weight by a significant margin. In fact, this same person could still be in the overweight category of the BMI scale, but completely in the acceptable range of body fat percentage.

    Finally, not everyone will be able to show abs without dropping their bodyfat percentage below a certain point (below 15%-12% for men and 20%-15% for women). This is because of genetics and/or their abs not being muscular enough to protrude and show through their skin. To kick this off, as you cut body fat, your body fights back against you, and actually starts burning muscle. This in turn means you have to increase caloric intake, which means that you gain a bit of weight back!

    So the cycle goes, Cut calories – Workout to Maintain muscle – Increase Calories – Workout to Build muscle – Cut calories – workout to Maintain muscle – Increase Calories – Workout to Build muscle.

    Do this enough times, over a long enough time period, and with a consistent dietary and workout plan, and you can show abs…it just takes lots and lots of self control and patience.

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