Some of us have specific body areas with what we call ‘stubborn fat’ where it can be remove by a fat belly removal treatment – those areas where we just can’t seem to lose the inches or shed the pounds! It can be anywhere on our body, but the more common areas are on our upper arms, thighs, and of course, our stomach. Another common complaint that we hear often is that these persistent areas of fat continue to hound us, despite the number of diets we go on, the wraps we try to use, the saunas we book for, or even the types of exercises we perform! But can fat really be ‘stubborn’? The science says yes. This article will help you to understand:
- Why stubborn fat exists and where it comes from,
- The common areas that stubborn fat tends to appear at,
- How to treat stubborn fat in those body areas,
- And some treatments that can be done to treat stubborn body fat.
Read on to find out more!
Why Do I Have Stubborn Fat?
Stubborn body fat can appear for many different reasons. There are actually different types of fat in our body, and you’re actually not imagining it when you say that certain parts of your body seem to lose fat easier than other parts!
In general, there are two types of fat present in our body – white fat and brown fat. White fat, or white adipose tissue, are what we are referring to when we think of ‘fat’ in our body. Its major function is to store energy to help our bodies to move daily in the form of ‘triglycerides’ and the majority of the cell’s solution consist of a very large fat, or lipid, droplet (as seen in the picture above). White fat cells are the energy storage and energy supply of the body. They help to break down triglycerides when needed to be delivered to organs during a bodily ‘exertion’ (think exercise, fasting, or dieting). This function also means that it can multiply quickly, a form of cell hypertrophy, when there is a continuous intake of fat as the body thinks that it can keep the fat for future use, like how a squirrel stores away acorn nuts in the winter!
Brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, does not store lipids like white fat tissue. Its primary function is to help dissipate energy in the form of heat, called ‘adaptive thermogenesis’, and is theorised to be in higher concentrations in small mammals such as rodents or newborns. This is because it helps them to counteract cold environments and produce enough body heat for survival, and is also why we take care to wrap newborns up well after a shower! They simply lose heat much faster due to higher brown adipose tissue which becomes steadily lost during the natural human growth process, and leaves a much smaller amount of brown fat in fully grown adults. Brown fat has been actually said to aid weight loss, as they use up energy to produce heat.
Aside from these two primary fat cells, scientists have found a ‘beige’ fat cell in certain individuals who are exposed to low temperatures, typically 3°C above a person’s shivering temperature point. Our white adipose cells are usually found beneath the skin’s surface, called ‘subcutaneous fat’, and in the deeper abdominal region, called ‘visceral fat’. In contrast, brown fat is located in the interscapular region between the shoulder blades, as well as around the neck, collarbone, and spinal cord or certain vital organs like our kidneys. The combination of white and brown body fat in our body can make certain areas harder for losing weight than others.
1. Location of stubborn body fat
Over the belly, which we will discuss further down below in ‘Stomach & Waist’, there is a combination of subcutaneous and visceral white adipose tissue. Remember that the function of white fat cells is to store energy. As more of these white fat cells are digested and absorbed in the small intestine to produce energy, something called ‘chylomicrons’ are formed. They are a type of lipoprotein (substances made of protein and fat that carry cholesterol through your bloodstream) and tend to accumulate in the abdominal region, especially in males.
Other areas, like the thighs and bottom, tend to accumulate more subcutaneous fat in females and may be implicated in the increased formation of cellulite in those areas. You will notice that there are usually less chances of accumulation of fat in areas which have a higher concentration of brown fat tissue, such as in the collarbone areas or along the middle of the back, and white fat tissues are usually to blame for being particularly stubborn.
2. Hormonal Changes
In an attempt to identify how hormonal changes affect body areas with stubborn fat, a public health study was done in 2012 to 2013 to identify the effect two popular of weight loss methods, dieting and exercise, among women who were post-menopausal. The results showed that while there was the greatest reduction in subcutaneous fat in the group that engaged in dietary restrictions plus exercise, intra-abdominal fat loss was not significant. It also found that 6%-7% of fat loss was required to decrease the total amount of abdominal fat!
As oestrogen levels decrease during hormonal changes such as during the post-menopausal period of a woman’s life, it becomes more difficult to lose fat. In males, testosterone often encourages the building up of muscles and keeps fat levels low. As males hit their 20s and 30s, the level of testosterone actually drops about 5%-10% each decade, making it difficult to shed stubborn body fat as the years go by as well!
3. Lifestyle factors
Exercise can play a role in burning away stubborn body fat. Exercise helps to convert some white adipose cells into brown adipose cells, which is a good thing as that encourages more heat or energy production in cells instead of merely storing up lipids. A reduction in fat cell sizes can be seen with endurance exercise training, and another study analysing aerobic training versus resistance training found that aerobic training helps more with reducing fat mass and that the combination of both types of training helped to decrease waist circumference significantly more than just resistance training alone.
When it comes to the nutrition part of an individual’s lifestyle, some nutritional supplements have been shown to help convert white fat cells into brown fat cells. Some of them are the flavonoids resveratrol and quercetin, which are found in fruits and vegetables, particularly pistachios, grapes, berries, and wine. Reducing carbohydrate, trans-fats, and sugar intake also helps to reduce stubborn body fat. These ingredients tend to be high in calories and energy, hence our liver has to convert them into a form of storage, which tends to be in lipid cells. These can also accumulate in our liver, causing fatty liver disease!
Let’s look a little deeper into certain body areas with stubborn fat. Women may find that they have trouble with storage of excess fat in the upper arms compared to males. Indeed, a recent study using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and BIA (bio-impedence analysis) which can help to visualise the ratio of lean muscle to fat tissues showed that males did not have much difference in the amount of fat between the upper and lower limbs, but females were shown to have a significantly higher percentage of fat in the upper arms.
How To Treat Stubborn Fat In This Area?
Treating stubborn fat in this area can be done through some forms of laser therapy. Fotona TightSculpting Laser Lipo works by heating up deep tissues causing lipolysis to safely remove fat cells while your upper skin layers remain unharmed. High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) also works similarly and is suitable for those who are able to ‘pinch an inch’ – about 2.5cm – of fat around the upper arm regions.
Stomach & Waist
Excess fat in the waist may occur in males more than pre-menopausal females, although the exact evidence on why males tend to accumulate abdominal fat is still unclear. One theory is that once the dietary fat has been absorbed by the gut, the lipoproteins in the intestines in males tend to reproduce more lipids than females. Post-menopausal females may find that they start to accumulate more stomach fat due to a decrease in estrogen and an increase in androgens. Similar to males who have more androgens, the accumulation of stomach fat happens.
How To Treat Stubborn Fat In This Area?
Depending on your goals, Liposonix treatments are non-invasive and recommended for those who are able to pinch about 2.5cm of excess fat around the waist region. Those looking for more drastic contouring of their body shape may consider autologous fat transfers, which moves excess fat from those regions to other areas such as the buttocks or breasts, or liposuction which is also another more invasive procedure compared to laser therapy. Focusing your exercise routine on core and back workouts in addition to aerobic exercise can also help to reduce overall body fat while toning the muscles of your stomach, giving you a more defined look.
As ageing happens, the combination of skin tissue sagging from loss of collagen around the cheeks and neck as well as the accumulation of fat in those areas can create a double chin. After all, how often do we exercise our face or necks other than chewing our food? Double chins can be notoriously difficult to get rid of naturally.
How To Treat Stubborn Fat In This Area?
Due to a combination of reasons for stubborn fat in this area, it may not be enough to perform fat-blasting lasers to remove fat cells. Certain lasers like the Fotona laser are also able to improve skin surface laxity, ‘lifting’ up the sagging skin in those regions to improve appearances. Another procedure specific to chin sculpting is the HIFU V-sculpting treatment. Treatments can also be combined with dermal fillers to improve facial proportions! Chin fillers or cheek fillers can help to give a more V-shaped appearance.
Thighs & Bottom
Estrogen in women cause the accumulation of fat in the buttock and thigh regions, which can also be associated with visible cellulite. Morphologically, cellulite is considered as a ‘lipodystrophy’ which is when your body stores fat abnormally in certain areas. It often affects the areas where fat tissue is deposited in the largest amounts in the body, like the thighs and buttocks. As we use our lower extremities for walking and moving around, some scientists theorise that the vast majority of fat is also genetically located in subcutaneous fat tissues around the thighs to serve its function as a place for storing triglycerides just in case it is needed for energy. While useful for human evolution (and running away from predators), it can be unwanted in our current modern lifestyle!
How To Treat Stubborn Fat In This Area?
Lasers and fillers can help to give a smoother look to those areas of stubborn fat affected by cellulite, as well as increasing the muscle mass of the glutes and thighs through resistance exercises. Those who do not fancy a muscular look and struggle with cellulite may consider the use of lasers to aid in slimming those regions and achieving a smoother look; those who would like a toned look can consider HD Liposuction which aims to target specific areas and remove fat deposited under the skin so that the muscles underneath can be accentuated. This procedure is suitable for the front and back of the thighs.
“Women Are Shaped Like A Pear, And Men Like An Apple”
Have you heard of that saying before? It is a homage to the classical ‘body shapes’ that we typically see in a body, where women tend to accumulate stubborn body fat around the thighs and buttocks, and men around the abdominal region. At SL Aesthetic, we use a variety of aesthetic technologies for fat belly removal treatment in those body areas and reduce the stereotype of pears and apples. Contact us to book a consultation and get started on your journey of removing stubborn body fat today!