Is it possible to lose weight in a specific area? Picture: Pexels Andres Ayrton
Is it possible to lose weight in a specific area? Picture: Pexels Andres Ayrton

Summer body pressure, fad diets, targeted fat loss may be harmful to your health

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Sep 21, 2021

Share this article:

Spring brings longer days and a perfect time to shed the winter weight gains and get your summer body ready.

During this time, many people are desperate to lose weight and may fall into the trap of fad diets and products that promise them targeted fat loss, also known as “spot reduction.”

Is it possible to lose weight in a specific area?

Zinhle Masango also known as “Fitness Junkie”, a certified nutritionist and Under Armour athlete says spot fat reduction is impossible. “Fat is all over the body; so when you're exercising, you're essentially burning calories and fat all over the body. You can't do more squats and expect to lose weight around your thighs.”

She also explains that in many cases, losing weight starts internally. “You will first lose weight as an internal process. This means you will first lose hard fat that surrounds your organs like liver and kidneys. Then with progressive results, you will start to lose softer fat like waistline and thigh fat.”

“For most people it is the abdominal fat, lower back, love handles, thighs, arms and buttocks. Having said that; belly fat is the most difficult to lose as the fat there is so much harder to break down compared to other parts of the body. And in most cases our fat is stored in our abdominal area.”

Masango says, basically, successful weight loss comes down to a good balanced diet consisting of macro and micro-nutrients; a mixture of aerobic and weight training can aid weight loss. As well as adequate sleep and rest, plus drinking water..

Sibongiseni Ndwandwe, a fitness trainer advises movement for those who want to shed kilos. “If you are trying to lose weight, you cannot truly be inactive; you have to get in some form of movement, whether it's walking, playing with your kids more, taking the dog for a walk, doing the garden more often. But for someone who is sedentary, they will have to be very strict on their diet and consume minimal calories.”

According to multiple studies, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is among the most effective ways to burn calories and fat. A January 2017 Journal of Diabetes Research study found that HIIT was a much more effective weight-loss tool than steady-state cardio. Even more important than what workout you do, though, is simply being consistent with exercise. The most effective regimen is the one you enjoy and ultimately stick with in the long run

What should people avoid when losing weight? Ndwandwe says “one needs to be very careful when using the word avoid.” Adding that, your body needs certain things to survive and function. The most common thing people avoid are "carbohydrates”. However carbs are fuel for the body and they are a source of energy. Having said that, things such as trans-fatty foods like take-aways and junk, one shouldn't completely avoid but should avoid overindulging in.

He also cautions against fad diets and diet culture: “The problem with most fad diets is that they restrict a lot of nutrients, whether it be macro or micro-nutrients. Some diets will decrease your carb intake. Personally, I feel there is nothing wrong with these diets, but people run them for too long and that's when they become dangerous. These diets are tools to kick-start your weight loss journey. They are not meant to be "lifestyle diets" or a way of life.”

Shani Cohen, registered dietitian and Association for Dietetics in South Africa spokesperson, explains diet culture as a culture of dieting with the intention of weight loss. “It demonises certain ways of eating – you are ‘good’ when you eat certain types of foods, and ‘bad’ when you eat others. It promotes disordered eating and can cause feelings of insecurity and guilt. It ultimately suppresses individuals who don’t fit the mould.”

Cohen says: “When it comes to health, and more specifically our diet and weight, we want quick and easy solutions to highly complex problems. Diets are advertised everywhere. They promise us results. Diet culture promises a ‘new you.’ It is quite a challenge to keep up with the latest healthy eating trends, and the newest diets on the block.”

She adds: “There is always a new one right around the corner that promises to solve all of our problems. Keto, Atkins, paleo, juicing, vegan, intermittent fasting and the list goes on. Too often, we are sold quick fixes with no emphasis on how to maintain success. These fad diets do seem to work initially (while we are following them). However, as soon as we stop, we pile the kilos back on. Diet culture can foster a toxic way of living for many people.

“A healthy lifestyle challenges diet culture. This lifestyle should adopt evidence based measures of health that's good for your health, body and mind – and not just that number on the scale”

A healthy lifestyle or getting the perfect summer body may be motivation to keep you going. But Ndwandwe says it shouldn't come with pressure: “People often put too much pressure on themselves and this could lead to unrealistic goals and, potentially, harm to themselves. But my advice would be to set daily goals; watch what you eat, train daily and stick to those goals.

“Understand what reaching your body goals really means. It's one thing to reach it but one needs to maintain that and make it a lifestyle,” concludes Ndwandwe.

Share this article: