UNC Health Care
measuring tape in a swirl

Can You Lose Weight in a Specific Place?

Many of us have a body part that we wish we could change. We think we would be happier if our bellies were flatter, our thighs slimmer or our jawbones more pronounced.

This can lead us to develop health goals that prioritize appearance over wellness—“vanity goals,” says REX Wellness Center instructor Marquez Jones.

Clients regularly tell Jones, “I want to get rid of my belly” or “I need to get rid of my thighs.”

This puts him in an awkward situation because “there’s no magical way of just losing weight in one section of the body. It’s not even possible,” Jones says.

People lose weight differently. “You might lose weight around your fingers first, or maybe your feet. Your shoes might feel looser.”

No science has shown that it’s possible to change where your body loses weight first. The only way to lose fat in a certain place is to lose weight in a more general way.

To help his clients lose weight, Jones has them perform, “at a minimum, cardio three times a week for half an hour at moderate intensity.” Moderate intensity is guided by their heart rate range, and a personal trainer can help determine the optimal workload. He also recommends at least two days a week of strength training, which improves metabolism and helps the body burn more fat.

How to Make Exercise More Fun

Cardiovascular exercise is generally people’s least favorite type of workout, Jones says. The only way to succeed with a cardio regimen is to find a form of cardio that’s enjoyable.

“Make it fun. Some people like a group environment. Some like sports, like basketball,” Jones says. “If you grew up swimming, consider a pool regimen. If you have a history of dancing, maybe try Zumba. Bike rider? Spin class.”

People who pursue workouts they don’t enjoy will inevitably quit, Jones says. Personal trainers like him help clients find forms of cardio they enjoy and will stick with.

For strength training, Jones recommends focusing on the bigger muscle groups, such as the quads, hamstrings, glutes, back and chest. He teaches clients how to perform squats, deadlifts, rows and presses with weights.

Yoga can be either cardio or strength training, depending on the type of class, but either way it can help move the scale in the right direction, Jones says.

Bring in a Dietitian

For someone trying to lose weight, Jones recommends a visit to a dietitian. Dietitians offer personalized tips on how to eat more nutritiously while losing fat.

“If we all ate 90 percent right, my job wouldn’t be necessary,” Jones says. “For the most part if you eat the right way, you won’t gain weight. Just about everybody who loses weight definitely changes their eating habits somehow, whether it’s reducing portion size, cutting back on sugar or other changes.”

Comprehensive Weight-Loss Programs

Jones designed a program at the REX Wellness Center of Cary called Weight Warriors to help people meet their weight-loss goals through exercise, diet and education.

Participants in the Weight Warriors class see a dietitian to learn their calorie count (how many calories they should consume per day to meet their weight-loss goals). The dietitian also conducts classes on diet tips and dealing with hunger.

Eating plans and educational sessions are combined with an exercise program and coaching from a personal trainer.

“We do 11 weeks, people lose a few pounds, and we go from there,” Jones says.

Turning Vanity Goals into Better Health

When a client interested in spot reduction comes to Jones, he tactfully changes the story from one of “vanity goals” to one of health goals. When someone comes in wanting to lose a double chin, “I try to spin the conversation around to something else to keep them engaged with the idea of wanting to be truly healthy.”

To lose weight and keep it off, “have a goal that puts you in a different mindset, something that is really important to you,” Jones says. “I had a client that wanted to strengthen her knees so that she could travel to Europe. The byproduct of that goal was that she also lost a few pounds.”

Another good emphasis, Jones says, is to think about medications. Getting into better physical shape and losing weight can help clients reduce and even eliminate some of their medications.

By finding reasons to lose weight that are focused on health, clients are better able to stick to their plans.


Become a member of REX Wellness Centers today.