From Muffin Top to Healthy Weight • 4 Tips to Get There

Reduce muffin tops

Whether it’s for health reasons, to lessen the risk of disease,(1) or simply because you want to feel more confident in your skintightening up your belly can be really tough. The worst part is that you could be wasting your time on the wrong approach. Are belly exercises really the best way to get rid of your “love handles” or “muffin top”?

Woman in yoga pose

The truth about leaner abs is…

  • Reducing belly fat takes time and continuous effort
  • You should work on improving your nutrition first to encourage overall fat loss (and not specific exercises to “tighten your abs,” which is secondary.)

Avoid focusing on the “love handles”/“muffin top”

Trying to fix a certain “flaw” often leads to crash diets and useless exercises. You’ll invest so much effort and impatiently wait to see the “love handles” melt, which doesn’t happen as fast as you might expect. This causes frustration and you could be tempted to completely give up.

A more rewarding approach would be to focus on your body as a whole, because in truth, there are no special exercises that make “love handles” disappear. Your body is the vehicle with which you experience life – improving your lifestyle will make you fitter, happier, and more content overall – not just fit better in your jeans. Here’s how to do it…

4 tips to reduce belly fat long-term

The following tips are prioritized based on how much of an impact they have on reducing belly fat. That means if you incorporate them one at a time and start with #1, you will experience the most success.

1. Cut calories (moderately, but consistently!)

Putting your body in a fat loss mode is the only way you will eventually lose the excess abdominal fat and keep it off.

Sustainable weight loss is based on a moderate, steady calorie deficit. To make sure that you are in a moderate deficit you need to calculate how many calories you burn (your Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and how much you eat. Aim for about 300-500 calories below your TDEE. Check out these tips on how to start your weight loss journey.

Salad bowl

Is there a specific diet that is recommended for getting rid of love handles?

No, as long as you are able to maintain the necessary deficit and not eat too little, you are doing it right. Think about what is the least amount of calories I need to cut to see results not what is the lowest number of calories I can function on. This expert diet review will teach you all you need to know!

Here are some more ways to cut calories and lose belly fat:

2. Eat more protein & less sugar

Protein supports your body transformation

Protein is the building block of your body and it becomes especially important when you are trying to change your body composition. And it’s not just when it comes to building muscles. Protein is also extremely important when trying to lose fat. By eating enough protein you make sure not to lose muscle mass. Plus, it makes you feel full longer. Find out all you need to know about protein.

Are you vegan?

There are plent of ways to ensure that you get enough protein on a vegan diet. Find out how in this interesting post on vegan protein. 

Man is working out

Sugar can mess up your plans

There is hidden sugar in many common foods. When we consume so much added sugar, it’s almost as if our taste buds get “addicted” to it. If you crave sweets after a meal because you are used to having dessert, you are unlikely to reach for a banana to satisfy the urge (even though it has plenty of natural sugar). And once you take that first cookie it’s so hard to stop. This makes it extremely hard to maintain the calorie deficit. Consider a 30-day no-sugar challenge and see how that experience shapes your view of nutrition.

Do I really have to cut all sugar to lose love handles?

Not really. Losing weight is not about extremes. You can still eat occasional desserts. The key is portion size and maintaining a steady calorie deficit.

Do I really have to cut all sugar to get a tighter core?

Not really. Losing weight is not about extremes. You can still eat occasional desserts. And there’s always the option of delicious AND low calorie. The key is portion size and maintaining a steady calorie deficit.

3. Get more sleep

The importance of sleep is often underestimated when it comes to weight loss. You can read countless studies and lists of benefits of sleep, but nothing will be as convincing as simply doing an experiment yourself. Often we are not aware of how sleep-deprived we are and the consequences it has on our appetite, cravings, mood, motivation…Understanding common sleep myths will help you grasp how sleep works.

Make it a priority to get the best quality sleep you can for a couple of days and observe how it affects your cravings and moods. This sleep calculator will help you determine the optimal wake-up time based on sleep cycles.

4. Fix your workout plan

Just because it’s #4 doesn’t mean workouts aren’t important for losing belly fat. But remember, they can’t make up for poor nutritional habits.

If you don’t have a workout plan – get one! Why not start with a 12-week bodyweight training plan you can do at home?

If you do have a workout plan, it’s time to evaluate its effectiveness:

  • Is your training plan focused on “ab workouts for love handles”? Doing targeted ab work shouldn’t be your top priority. Focus on full-body workouts and add extra ab work only if time allows.
  • Do you workout less than 3 times per week? Aim for at least 3 workouts per week.
  • Are your workouts always the same? Your plan should include a variety of workouts so that you don’t get used to the same routine.
  • Do you only do cardio? Make sure to include strength training, too. It will change your body composition faster, growing muscle and reducing fat.
  • Does your plan lack high-intensity workouts and/or intervals? HIIT workouts, Tabatas, and interval runs are great calorie burners!

Each question you answer with “yes” indicates that your workout plan is less effective for weight loss than it could be.


Are special exercises for love handles the best way to reduce lower belly fat?

Exercises focused on your side abs are not going to burn the fat that you have sitting there. You need to maintain a moderate calorie deficit to lose fat.

Do abs workouts make a difference in losing belly fat at all?

While abs workouts don’t speed up your weight loss, there is definitely value in training your abs. Your midsection transfers force throughout the body and stabilizes your posture. Besides that, doing abs workouts will help you “discover your abs”. Most people only feel their stomachs. Learning to feel your ab muscles will improve your relationship with your body and make you more efficient in all movements.

Bottom line:

Stop calling it a muffin top and change your eating habits, get enough sleep and protein, stop ravenous sugar cravings, and adjust your workout plan. If you do this, your lifestyle will already be changing in a healthier direction. 




Hana Medvesek With a background in physical therapy, Hana strongly believes that movement is medicine. She likes to run, lift weights, and try out simple, healthy recipes. View all posts by Hana Medvesek »