This has to be the most common question I get – especially this time of year when we've all got a little holiday weight.
What it amounts to is “can you target which fat stores to lose?”
There is absolutely no [credible] science to suggest this is possible. And if someone says otherwise it’s a gimmick used to separate you from your money.
In fact, the science to show why it’s not possible is fairly simply (in addition to several studies showing this obvious fact*).
Fat is a source of fuel for the body along with carbohydrates (and least likely, protein). However, fat cannot directly be used as fuel. It has to be converted into glucose through a process that takes place in the liver called gluconeogenesis. So the muscle used in an exercise (say, abdominal exercises to get rid of belly fat) has nothing to do with where the fat is taken from in order to fuel the activity. Fat is taken from wherever it gets stored, which is largely determined by genetics. The converted energy is delivered to the working muscle via the blood stream – so where the fat is taken from to be sent to the liver for conversation is not related to where the converted glucose will be delivered.
Hope is not lost! It just takes an overall approach.
The good news is that an overall approach of exercise (ideally, both cardiovascular and resistance training) and diet (smart eating) resulting in a calorie deficit will reduce overall fat stores, including those in particularly desirable areas.
A pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories - to lose a pound per week (a healthy rate of loss) you need a daily caloric deficit of 500.
Lifestyle change not fad diets!
Eat healthy and exercise to lose weight in a healthy manner resulting in long term results. Crash diets and extreme changes will only result in temporary results.
Good luck on your journey to a healthier and a happier you!
* A good example: “1971 study conducted by the University of California, Irvine on tennis players. Tennis players constitute a population whose right and left arms have been consistently subjected to very different amounts of exercise over several years. Consequently, if spot reduction were a valid concept, one would expect the players’ dominant arms to have thinner layers of subcutaneous fat compared to their non-dominant arms. When the researchers measured the thickness of subcutaneous fat at specific points along the players’ arms, however, they found no statistically significant difference between right and left arms”. [http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/04/targeted-fat-loss-myth-or-reality/]