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Excess Fat

Written by: Becki Murray

Updated by: Alice Hart-Davis

Last Updated: 5 January 2024

‘Love handles’, ‘muffin tops’, ‘jiggly thighs’ – whatever we call them, we almost all have some degree of excess fat around our tummies and legs. Annoyingly, it’s not always a case of just losing weight either, as these areas of excess fat can be particularly stubborn to shift even with diet and exercise. Luckily, our FAQs shine a light on the trimming and toning treatments that promise a path to a more sculpted and toned body. That includes both invasive and non-invasive options, ranging from innovative laser-based devices to fat removal and fat freezing techniques that aim to reduce side effects and downtime.

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Excess fat

What is excess fat on your tummy, hips or thighs?

Excess fat is the name given to an accumulation of adipose tissue, in various parts of the body, beyond what is considered optimum for your age, gender, and height. This fat is often stored around the tummy, hips, thighs, and arms. While not all body fat is harmful – indeed its necessary for insulation, energy storage and organ protection – on your tummy and hips, it can also give rise to noticeable curves or bulges that are colloquially known as ‘love handles’ or ‘muffin tops’. These are characterised by a thicker waistline and bulging stomach, as well as wider hips and thicker upper thighs, which can alter your overall silhouette and the fit of your clothes. You are not alone if that leads to feelings of frustration or self-consciousness about your body image.

What causes excess fat?

In simple terms, you gain fat when there’s an imbalance between the calories you consume and your overall energy expenditure (aka calories burned). This results in surplus energy that is then stored as fat. Lifestyle factors such as your diet and level of physical activity are therefore closely associated with fat gain. However, how and where you store excess fat can vary widely from person to person, with fat distribution patterns meaning some people naturally store more fat in certain areas, such as the tummy, hips or thighs. This is a result of several factors including your age, genetics, and any underlying medical conditions. Pregnancy and menopause can also contribute towards excess fat retention due to hormonal changes, especially in the tummy and hip regions.

Are all excess calories stored as fat?

The short answer is no. Our bodies are actually pretty good at dealing with extra calories – meaning those that are not needed straight away for energy or to support body processes such as tissue repair. In fact, excess calories are firstly stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver, so that it can be quickly used when you need a sudden burst of energy. It’s when these glycogen stores are full, that your body then turns this calorie surplus into fat storage. However, there are also some types of excess calories that are more likely to lead to fat storage – namely food and drink that are high in sugar and certain fats. Plus, your metabolism also plays a role, with some people just more naturally aligned to store calories as fat than others.

What tweakments are available for excess fat?

There are a growing number of body contouring and fat reducing tweakments that are designed to help you achieve a more toned physique. An increasing number of them are also offering less invasive procedures specifically targeting fat around the tummy, hips and upper thighs, with better results and decreased downtime.

  1. Cryolipolysis Fat freezing is a non-surgical approach that targets and destroys fat cells in specific areas of the body, such as the stomach, hips and upper thighs, using controlled cooling panels. The destroyed cells are then naturally eliminated by the body over several weeks or months, leading to the gradual reduction of the targeted fat pockets. Cristal Pro is a device that aims to make fat freezing safer, while CoolSculpting continues to be a leading technology for the technique.
  2. Laser Lipolysis – Non-invasive laser treatments use controlled energy to target and liquefy fat cells, with the fat then naturally eliminated by the body or removed through a small incision. One of the most exciting technologies is the Emerald laser which uses a ‘cold’ green laser to target areas of stubborn fat, even in individuals with high BMIs. It’s pain-free and is said to have wellbeing and pain-relieving benefits too.
  3. HIFEM: Standing for high-intensity focused electro-magnetic technology, body contouring devices, such as EMSCULPT Neo and Stimsure, use electromagnetic contractions to stimulate and firm your muscles, while also burning fat. Aka its exercise in tweakment form.
  4. RadiofrequencySkin tightening treatments such as radiofrequency don’t specifically target fat, but they can contribute to a more toned appearance, by tightening skin on the body. Devices, such as BTL Exilis Ultra 360, do so by using energy that heats the deeper layers of the skin, stimulating collagen production and thus improving skin laxity.
  5. Liposuction – Probably the best-known surgical fat removing procedure for the body, this technique involves suctioning and scraping out excess fat through incisions. That means that it can provide immediate and noticeable fat reduction results, but it is an invasive procedure.
  6. Minimally-invasive Liposuction – New technologies are making less invasive liposuction techniques possible for excess fat removal. One making significant waves is AirSculpt, which uses innovative spinning technology to pluck out your fat cell by cell, through a freckle-sized opening. It can sculpt and tighten your body too, plus the fat removed can be transferred to lift and shape in a single procedure.
  7. Lymphatic Drainage – Taking up plenty of column inches right now, treatments that activate your lymph system have never been more popular. Celebrity-approved devices such as Slimyonik AIR Bodystyler and Body Ballancer use quite funny-looking but effective compression suits to deliver lymph-boosting pressure massage sequences, designed to boost your metabolism, increase blood flow and target excess fat and cellulite.
  8. Abdominoplasty – Aka the ‘Tummy Tuck’. This surgical procedure can remove extensive amounts of excess fat and skin specifically from the tummy area for invasive but dramatic changes in body shape and contour. It can also be combined with muscle tightening.

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How to lose excess fat on your tummy, hips and thighs through lifestyle changes?

Lifestyle plays a massive role in keeping you fit and healthy, so avoiding excessive calorie intake is critical for reducing excess fat cropping up on your tummy and lower body. Importantly though, while it can be tempting to try to lose excess fat by crash dieting or through fad nutrition plans, for fat loss that lasts long-term, you need a much more holistic approach. Yo-yo dieting, aka going periods without eating enough and then overindulging, actually risks putting your body into ‘starvation mode’ increasing the likelihood that any excess calories you do eat are stored as fat. Instead, try to adopt a balanced diet and undertake regular exercise. Likewise, targeted strengthening exercises, such as abdominal and leg-based workouts, can help improve muscle tone and the general appearance of your tummy and thighs.  

Does skincare make any difference to body appearance?

Body-targeting skincare products can’t decrease your fat directly, but they can have a modest effect on skin quality, making your tummy and legs appear smoother and firmer. Look for products that contain retinoids to stimulate cell turnover, thus boosting collagen and elastin production in the skin; caffeine for its energising effect that may support healthy circulation; and hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin, to keep skin plump and smooth.

Are there at-home devices that can help reduce excess fat?

Body brushing is a popular at-home technique that can encourage healthy blood flow, circulation, and skin quality, contributing to a reduction in the appearance of cellulite and sagging skin. However, these handheld massagers and skin-tightening gadgets can’t directly target fat, so won’t offer the same experience as professional in-clinic tweakments.

 

How much, on average, would treating the concern cost?

That really depends on the treatment you choose, but body tweakments can be more on the expensive side, especially if you have a lot of excess fat you want to treat. On average, you can expect lymphatic drainage therapies to start from £75; non-invasive laser like Emerald from £175 per treatment; fat freezing for the stomach from £500; and AirSculpt to start from £8000.

Are there any further implications of excess fat?

Most of the time excess fat on your tummy, hips and legs is a cosmetic concern, but high levels of abdominal fat especially can sometimes be associated with health risks, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. If you struggle with a lot of excess fat, you should speak to your doctor to discuss appropriate treatment options and recognise the importance of a healthy lifestyle and diet, alongside the desire for any tweakment option. 

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