How to Get Rid of Love Handles

December 4, 2017
How to get rid of love handles - Dr. Axe

Over the years, one of the most asked questions I’ve gotten is, “How do I get rid of my love handles?” It seems to be a problem that most everyone — male and female — struggles with. I’ve never met anyone who actually “loves” their love handles.

In case you aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, love handles is the most common nickname for the area above your hipbone where oftentimes excess fat is stored. Although sometimes referred to as a “spare tire” or a “muffin top,” no matter what you call it, no one wants it. 

So how to get rid of love handles, exactly? Well, it’s more than just fat-burning workouts, though that’s a good start. You need to also look at losing fat via diet changes and choosing the right core-centric exercises to reduce your middle.

The Real Reason for Love Handles

Besides the obvious fact that love handles not being very attractive, they can underlie a more serious issue: obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. (1) With those increased rates of obesity, we are also more at risk for serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

For years, the standard measure of whether or not you were obese was finding what your Body Mass Index, or BMI, is. In case you were wondering, BMI is really just a clinical term for saying how much of your body is made up of fat and how much is lean muscle mass. Your BMI is determined by an equation of multiplying your height and weight to figure out your percentage of body fat. (2)  

Unfortunately, this method does not take into consideration that muscle is more dense than fat. What I mean by that is, you can have a very low percentage of body fat, but still weigh a lot because of muscle. Therefore, when you use your weight and height to find out your BMI, you just might find that you get classified as being “overweight.” Conversely, having a BMI in the acceptable range does not always necessarily mean that we aren’t carrying a little too much fat, which as I’m sure you know by now, is responsible for our collective muffin top.

Step 1: Fight Love Handles With Food

Since having a high percentage of body fat is responsible for love handles, it stands to reason that one of the best ways to get rid of them is to take a look at your diet. No matter how much you work those abdominal muscles, there is no such thing as spot reduction and until you lean out through a well-balanced program of proper nutrition and exercise, those love handles aren’t going anywhere.

One of the first things you should eliminate is addictive sugar. At first, with the exception of giving up that morning doughnut, cutting out sugar may sound relatively easy. But the reality is that sugar is in virtually all processed foods and drinks. (3)

The easiest way to avoid sugar? Avoid manufactured foods and choose vegetables, fruits, nuts and lean protein like fish and chicken. Another trick to help you lose weight is to make sure you are eating smaller meals throughout the day (aka, mindful eating). Oftentimes when we want to shed a few pounds, our natural tendency is to NOT eat. The problem with that is what usually happens, at the end of the day we are starving, and we go on a nearly unstoppable binge of eating everything in sight. Simply by cleaning up your diet, you’ll be surprised just how much better you feel and look.

Step 2: Add in Some Exercise

Once you get your diet under control, it’s time to address your exercise routine. Maybe you don’t currently have one, that’s alright. You are a clean slate, and we can get you set on the right path with the best way to workout in order to burn unwanted fat while at the same time building strength. And after all, that is exactly what you are trying to do. You want to change your BMI so that you have more muscle and less fat. Decreasing our percentage of body fat is what gets rid of love handles!

If you think that spending endless hours mindlessly logging miles on the treadmill is what I mean by exercise, I’ve got good news for you. Doing only cardio workouts can sometimes actually do you more harm than good. In addition, research indicates that regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible. (4)

However, don’t let that discourage you. There are more efficient methods of working out that will help you reach your goals quicker. Your best option is burst training. Also known as interval training, burst training combines short, high intensity bursts of exercise with slow, recovery phases. This is then repeated during an exercise session. The big difference is, you will be training at a higher intensity, usually around 85–100 percent of your maximum heart rate compared to the typical 50–70 percent with moderate, endurance activities.

Similar exercise methods to burst training include high-intensity interval training (HIIT workouts) and the Tabata workout. Another advantage of burst training is it can be done virtually everywhere, no fancy gym membership required. You can literally do it at home, in a park or in your hotel room if you’re traveling.

Here’s an example of a short burst workout:

  • Pick a few basic moves, that you will do for 4 rounds. Let’s say squats, jumping jacks, push-ups and running in place.
  • Perform each of these moves for 45 seconds with 15 seconds off before beginning the next move.
  • Try to work as hard as you can during those 45 seconds. Maybe try challenging yourself to see how many reps you can get in each of the working phases, that tends to keep you focused and working harder.
  • Take a minute off between each round.
  • Once you’ve completed all 4 rounds, you just successfully did a 20 minute burst training session … congratulations!

Step 3: Do 5 Simple Moves to Shape Your Waistline

I know I mentioned earlier that there is no such thing as spot reduction. Meaning we can’t just simply do crunches to melt away. I know we wished it worked that way, and there are certainly a lot of gimmicks on the market that promise us just that, but the reality is it’s a combination of proper nutrition and exercise.

That being said though, there are certainly exercises out there that when done in conjunction with those things can help us build better muscle definition and give us that slim, muffin-top free waist we covet. The following are my top 5 exercises for how to get rid of love handles.

1. Bird Dog Crunches

Sounds crazy, I know. But start this move on all fours. From there, simply extend your right arm out in front of you and your left leg out behind you. This part alone may challenge your balance! Once you feel stable enough to begin the next portion, work on bringing your leg and arm back in and trying to meet your elbow and knee together underneath you. Pause there for just a quick second before extending again and repeat for 10–15 reps. Obviously after that make sure you do the other side as well. Don’t be surprised either if you have one side that is more challenging than the other!

2. Side Plank with Leg Raise

This is another amazing move that really targets your obliques. On a soft surface, lie down on your side, it doesn’t matter which side you start with because I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, you’ll be doing it on the other side as well. Once on your side, stack your feet, knees, hips and shoulders so that that you are in as straight of a line as possible. Next, prop yourself up on your elbow, maintaining a tight rigid posture as you do so.

Now, extend your opposite arm straight up toward the ceiling. You are now in side plank, which may be challenging enough for now. If and when you wish to try a more advanced version, lift your top leg and hold. Your goal on these should be to hold the pose for 10–15 seconds for a total of 3 or 4 sets. Allow for about 30 seconds of rest between each one.

3. Spiderman Crunch

This one is essentially a variation of a push-up. Starting in a push-up position, as you begin to lower yourself down, lift your right leg and bring your right knee to your right elbow. As you come up, bring your right leg back to the starting position and repeat the process on the left side. Try alternating sides for 10 reps and aim for about 3–4 sets.

4. Single-Leg Toe Touches

Start this one by lying on your back with your legs fully extended and your arms overhead. From there, lift your left leg straight into the air with your knee slightly bent and try to maintain this position throughout the move. While contracting your abdominal muscles, take your right arm and reach up to touch your left foot for a total of 10 reps. Switch sides for another 10 reps and try to complete a total of 3–4 sets per side.

5. Cross-Body Mountain Climber

Again, for this one you’re going to want to get into a push-up or plank position. Then just begin by raising your right knee toward your left elbow, lower, and then raise your left knee toward your right elbow. Begin slowly to practice and then try to move as quickly as you can. This is also a great move you can add to your burst training arsenal as well.


Although diet and exercise are good for us and will help us to lead longer and healthier lives, it’s always a good idea to get clearance from your physician before beginning a new workout program. And if you are not sure how to do some of the moves, or want a little more guidance there are plenty of resources available to help you reach your goals safely and effectively.

Final Thoughts

Love handles don’t have to be something we learn to love and live with. We CAN break up with them, and we should! Carrying around excess weight is ultimately unhealthy and puts a lot of unnecessary stress on our hearts and our joints. Even though there is not exactly one trick to making them disappear, through a combination of better eating habits and incorporating more movement (and some very tough, effective exercises) into your day, you can definitely get rid of them.

Read Next: Ab Workouts & Best Exercises That Are Not Crunches 

From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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  1. Polina on

    The fitness industry has got to stop lying about spot fat reduction and be upfront about this issue once and for all. Only liposuction can remove spot fat!!! Period. If a woman has no fat anywhere else in her body and tries to lose even more weight just to get rid of any extra fat either on the love handles or saddlabags, then she will lose any necessary fat needed for her face and breasts!!! I see poor women all the time running for botox or hyaluronic acid injections to fill up their face and breasts. It gets worst with age..the older a woman is the worst it will look….

    • Brenda C. on

      Totally agree! 60 years old, exercise 6 days a week, Pilates, Sculpt, Yoga, and Dance Aerobics (which incorporate these exercises mentioned). Eat clean including bone broth protein and leaky gut supplement. Ready to do the cool sculpting to freeze off the fat. Tried a progesterone cream but that didn’t work. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s just heredity.

    • Ramesh on

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      s, for even the healthiest woman, it is a
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      time of life. Typical Vata symptoms include vagina
      dryness, indecisiveness, insomnia and a
      sudden onset of age-related mental decline—the famous
      us “senior moment.” . Ayurvedic medicine (based on 3000 years of Indian medicine have helped many. [email protected]

  2. Rhonda on

    I have done the burst fit and I really didn’t see much difference. I haven’t done it in about 5 months, maybe it was doing more than I thought because I gained 10 pounds and my love handles are back! I have some joint pain so sometimes I cant do all the exercises that I have to use my shoulder. I am 52 maybe that’s why?? Could that be a problem in losing?? I do have a problem with portion control because I eat all clean and I think I tell myself its ok to eat more. Thanks for the article I see a lot on pinterest, now I know its crap.

  3. Elizabeth Gandy on

    Rhonda, bummer… I know the feeling, but at the age of 57 young, I found portion control and cutting red meat down to once a week if at all. I exercise around 5/6 days a week (varied between weight lifting, yoga, Tia chi, circuits) I I have finally slimed down. The thing is consistently. Good luck

  4. Mama Beck on

    Any advice to those if us who have knee replacements? I am very active and can do nearly everything workout wise, except any movement that requires me to be on my knees! I’m 10 months out on one knee replacement and 3 months out on the other. My dr has told me that I may never be able to be on my knees. Advice please!

  5. June on

    I own a Curves gym & I have lots of members that have had knee replacements, & hip replacements. It’s a 30-minute full body workout. Because our machines are hydraulic, the workout is much easier on your joints. There are no heavy weights to adjust, ever. You should check your local Curves (ladies only) & ask them if they would let you have a free workout so you can try it. You’ll know after your workout if you can do it & I’ll bet you can! :)

  6. lyn on

    I have a hard time losing weight I’m 50 and I had my thyroid zapped out with radiation. so I keep gaining weight. I take 100mg of levelthroxion. I’m active in my job but I’m tired when I come home and have no energy… I hate it I need help….

    • Katie on

      I found this information for you. The person who wrote it named Sarah Wilson healed their Thyroid with food.

      * you need to experiment with different eating styles. Andrea played with macrobiotic eating and it worked for her for a while. Me, I’m finding a grains-free approach better.

      * cholesterol-rich foods are needed for thyroid health. Eggs! Eggs! Fat! Eggs!

      * protein and fat-rich foods are also key (I’ve gone on about this here).

      * get rid of chemicals and ALL endocrine disruptors. Again, check out my thinking here and here. The thyroid relies on the endocrine system. ANYTHING reported as an endocrine disruptor has to be eliminated. The average person can probably handle them in smalls amounts. But AI types – nope.

      * bone broth is the bomb. See my recipe here.

      * Iodine-rich foods are great, so are fish stocks and seaweed and sea salt

      * Avoid soy. Correct!

      * Cruciferous veggies like kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower etc…only eat them cooked due to the goitrogens.

      * meditation! Yes! Andrea suggests it helps because it aligns the key glands that are out of whack in AI types – the pineal, the hypocampus, the thyroid, the pituitary.

      * do easy exercise. But do it everyday. Hello! Exactly my thinking.

      * at the end of the chat she recommended the book Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck, for AI types who might have fertility/hormone issues (as I do).

      For more, check out her Nourishing Thyroid Health DVD. And Andrea’s blog.

  7. D P on

    Ditto the comment about videos and pics needed for exercises. It’s so helpful to see the action as instructions typical bog down the mind.

  8. Karen on

    I have asked this several times before but never received answers from Dr. Axe. So I’ll ask again. Since I’ve had my gallbladder removed 1 yr and 5 months ago, I have progressively gained weight. I have done some exercises but have given up several times out of frustration. I eat clean foods. My thyroid is fine as I just hate it checked. Anyone out there have this problem? I’m now desperate enough to go on a red smoothie 2-wk detox diet hoping to give me a kickstart to losing weight. I have so far gained 50 pounds since my gallbladder surgery. That why I’m trying the red smoothie thing. After 2 weeks I can eat my regular clean foods but always maintain the smoothie in the morning.

  9. Sanjeev Sabharwal on

    Everybody speaks about diet, but omits a glaring fact of life – alcohol
    The fact is, no diet, including this one, works unless one eliminates alcohol
    Even Okinawans drink alcohol, but how much is OK?


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