In a perfect world, you’d be able to pick and choose where you lose and gain weight. Unfortunately, when your body needs energy, it takes it from all over your body—not just from your hips because you’re sick of your love handles and muffin top. There are, however, tweaks that can be made to your diet and exercise plan (and your attitude towards helpful living in general) that make shrinking your hips a feasible endeavor. We turned to some of the country’s leading health and fitness experts to find out the most effective strategies, all of which eschew quick fixes—and instead encourage long-term results. For more tips on how to lose weight permanently, check out these 20 Ways to Lose Weight Forever!
First, the Gym Stuff
Ditch The Hamster Wheel
“Slow, steady cardio—think long jogs—will have you going nowhere…slowly,” says Noah Neiman, co-founder of Rumble-Boxing in New York City. “It’s one of the most over-used and least efficient ways to lose weight.” Neiman suggests trading in your long jogs for some harder, more aggressively paced intervals—also known as high-intensity interval training (HITT), a type of training that gets and keeps your heart rate up to burn more fat in less time. The way it works is you push your body to its maximum for 20 to 30 seconds of an exercise (like sprinting), then rest or do a less intense version of that exercise for one to two times that amount, and then keep repeating this pattern for 20 minutes. Sayonara, squishy sides! For more killer exercises, check out these 30 Most Effective 30-Second Workout Moves.
Forget Spot Training
“Most personal trainers no longer endorse spot training, since scientific evidence supports that it doesn’t successfully eliminate fat in the targeted area,” says personal yoga and group fitness instructor Amanda Murdock. She goes on to explain that body fat, unfortunately, works like the ol’ “first in, last out” method. “The first place you gain weight will be the last place you lose weight, and that’s usually the belly and hips.” Exercises focused on your abdomen, however, do help you to tone that area; but the fastest way to lose excess fat in your stomach and hips is to perform exercises that cause you to lose excess fat overall (like from those intense exercises mentioned above).
Focus On Exercises That Multitask
“It’s best to do moves that incorporate multiple muscle groups since you can’t really spot train one specific problem area,” says Physique 57 co-founder Tanya Becker. “Barre exercises are highly effective since your body becomes the machinery and your muscles have to work together to support your balance at the barre.” Becker also notes that it’s important to combine sprints that incorporate cardio, as well as strength training. “This combination yields quick results when you’re trying to trim and tone all of your muscles.”
Do More Core
We already covered the unfortunate truth that we can’t pick and choose where we lose and gain weight meaning that spot training is vastly over-rated. “Doing core strengthening exercises, however, are important because having a strong core will give you more strength in your workouts,” says Murdock. “And we already know more muscle means less muffin top.”
Make Your Lower Body Work, Too
“If you want to slim your hips, think of your entire lower body,” says Rachel Piskin creator of Chaise Fitness. “Focus on exercises that build long, lean muscles. This will lengthen your hamstrings and quads, which as a result will create a more lean and toned lower body.” Exercises you should consider include opposite leg and arm lifts and yoga-inspired moves like twisted chair and downward dog.
Practice Your Balance Exercises
Balance exercises are a great way to slim the hips and melt love handles. Piskin suggests, for example, going into a lunge then pushing up to a one-legged balance. This will work the core, glutes, inner and outer thighs to help trim the body.
Do This Pilates Move
“One of the best exercises is placing a ball between the inner thighs and going into a bridge position with the hips,” says Peskin. “Squeeze from the inner thighs the ball 30 times and then lift your heels and repeat. Take away the ball and get into bridge position again, squeezing your knees together and pulsing your hips up 30 times. This series can be repeated three to five times.
Consider Metabolic Conditioning
Metcon (aka Metabolic conditioning) is, according to Neiman, the ultimate way to train both hard and smart. “Metcon is a way of training that both builds a lean body and keeps that metabolism roaring throughout the day; even when you stop working out.”
What does that mean for you? It means that, even when you’re watching TV and noshing on your protein-filled sandwich post workout, you’ll be burning calories. An example of a Metcon training circuit would be to do burpees, jump squats, jumping lunges, and rows for 30 seconds each—at a high intensity—followed by a 30-second break; you repeat the circuit five times.
Do This Quick Routine
We asked Justin Norris and Taylor Gainor, co-founders of the LIT Method, to put together a special hip workout circuit that can be done anywhere, anytime. Ready? Let’s do it!
Start with a side plank for 30 seconds on each side (drop your hips toward the mat and lift them back up towards the ceiling, keeping your core muscles engaged).
Then do 30 seconds of kick unders (start in high plank position, take one leg and aim it towards your elbow, alternating sides).
Next, do squats to oblique twists for 30 seconds (start with your feet shoulder width apart, cradle your hands behind your head; after you squat and begin to rise, take your opposite knee to opposite elbow, alternating sides).
Next, do 30 seconds of bicycles (lie flat on your back, hands cradled behind your neck, squeeze your core while alternate elbows to opposite knees, with a slow and controlled tempo).
Finish off with knee-to-opposite-elbow mountain climbers (in plank position explosively drive your knee to opposite elbow preparing your other leg to move as your leg comes back to starting position) and then plank marchers (in forearm plank position, slowly drive your knee to the outer part of your elbow, alternating sides).
Got that? Whew! For more fat-blasting ideas, check out these 30 Easiest Ways to Lose Weight After 30!
Now, Everything Else
Garbage In, Garbage Out
“There is no way around it,” says Neiman. “What you put in your body is 99.9 percent responsible for the composition of your body. It’s not about eating less or even eating more, it’s about eating smart,” says Neiman. These are the 30 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Foods that you should be filling your cart with.
Eat Lean Meats
“Unless it’s for ethical reasons, eat up,” says Murdock. “Organic and grass fed lean cuts of meat are an amino acid powerhouse. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, protein is the building blocks of muscle, and muscle keeps you lean.”
Be Mindful Of Powders
Watch out for powdered foods—including protein powder, peanut butter powder and Crystal Light—which Murdock often finds are the culprit for gas and bloating with her clients. “In many cases, these can not only make you feel bloated, but can also cause visible bulging.” Here are 36 Ways to Debloat in 36 Hours for if you need to shrink your middle, stat!
Avoid Diet-Based Foods
Stay away from items labeled low-fat or sugar-free. Becker cautions that most of these diet-based foods are highly processed or use substitutes that have very little nutritional value. Instead, she recommends snacking on nutrient dense, fiber-rich foods like raw almonds, carrots and hummus, or apple slices dipped in raw honey, all of which help provide energy and keep you satiated between meals. She also recommends steaming or boiling your vegetables whenever you can to get the most nutrients from them.
Monitor Your Fiber Intake
Pay attention to how much fiber you’re consuming; it’s amazing for satiety and important for gut health and optimal digestion. Murdock does issue a note of caution: “If you’re eating a high fiber diet without drinking a lot of water, you’ll become gassy and you’ll notice bloating, which looks a lot like fat but isn’t. I speak from fiber experience. It doesn’t stop me from eating it, but it does stop me from freaking out when I bloat.”
Eat More Fat
Studies show diets higher in healthy fats are better for your waistline. “So, don’t feel as bad for crushing that whole jar of almond butter at midnight last night….well maybe not the whole jar,” says Neiman. Nuts, dark chocolate, fatty fish, chia seeds, avocados and extra virgin olive oil are also good sources of healthy fats.
Power Up with Protein
While you might have to think twice about your protein powders, protein is good. “Studies have have shown diets rich in lean proteins have the best body composition,” says Neiman. “They keep you full longer and release hormones that help keep your body at a favorable weight. So, eat those whole organic eggs proudly.” Chicken, turkey, fish, seafood and nuts are also good options for protein.
Murdock tells her clients to load their plates with fish. Wild-caught Alaskan Salmon to be precise. “The fatty acid composition is great for your hair, nails and waistline.”
Caffeine Can Be Your Friend
While there are pros and cons to caffeine, it has been shown time and time again that coffee can improve athletic performance. Drink your brew a few minutes before your workout and it will give you an energy boost to help tackle those fat burning, calorie-torching workout moves. Find out more with these 35 Things You Don’t Know About Caffeine.
Consistency Is Key
Bad weight takes time to put on—and it takes time to drop off, too. One of the first things Neiman tells his clients is that it’s important to find a routine of healthy eating and exercise you can maintain. Then, he says, be relentless in achieving your goal. Most health and fitness professional recommend adhering to an 80/20 diet where 80 percent of the time you’re eating healthfully (vegetables, lean protein, etc.) and 20 percent of the time you’re giving into your food vices.
Drink More Water
“Think you’re hungry? Chances are you’re dehydrated and it’s messing with your metabolism,” says Neiman. Watching your water intake is especially important if you consume a lot of sodium, which is dehydrating (this tends to be the case if your diet is high in processed foods). Remember that food can be a great source for water—think watermelon and cucumbers. Several of the foods on our list of The 20 Most Filling Healthy Snacks have high water density!