When people ask me what body shape I have, I always say ‘big’ but in all honesty, I have to admit I am apple shaped like the rest of my family. There are basically four different body shapes (apple, pear, rectangle and inverted triangle) but we are going to focus on apple and pear shapes. Apple-shaped people carry most of their fat around the abdomen and for some time have been thought to be more at risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes than the pear-shaped person because their fat is stored around all of the organs. Pear-shaped people carry their extra weight in the hips, buttocks, and thighs. Is your shape hereditary? The answer is ‘yes’, genetics is the most important determinant for where fat is stored. Chances are high that your body shape is similar to one of your parents. Gender and age are also part of the equation where men tend to carry more weight around their midsection and women tend to have more fat around the hips and thighs. Hereditary factors may play a role in your total body weight not only due to genes but also eating habits. If your parents are overweight and have an unhealthy diet, chances are you were fed an unhealthy diet growing up which is why you may be overweight as well. We all know some people who have a tiny upper body, small waist and then bulge at the bottom, or the person who has the ‘pregnant’ belly and skinny little legs and no bum. I have had people ask me numerous times if they can ‘spot reduce’ meaning can they lose weight JUST in their hips and thighs or wherever… I’ve heard many women who are pear-shaped and are trying to lose weight in their lower body only to find that their boobs and waist get smaller which is the last place they needed to lose weight.
So, can you ‘spot reduce’? The theory of spot reduction, or losing weight in a targeted area only, has been promoted in the health and fitness world for some time but there’s really not a lot of evidence to support it. An example of spot reducing is doing sit-ups in an effort to reduce your belly weight. To know if spot reducing is possible, one must understand how fat loss works. The fat in your cells is found in the form of triglycerides which can be broken down later for the body to use for energy. Before they can be burned for energy, they must be broken down into smaller fats called free fatty acids and glycerol. Once they are broken down, they enter the bloodstream and then, during exercise, they can be used for fuel. It is important to note that the ‘fuel’ you are burning come from the whole body, not specifically from the area that is being exercised. Having said that, if you are doing sit-ups to burn belly fat, you are not just burning fat from the belly however, you are strengthening the muscles of the abdomen but you just can’t see it due to the fat on top of the abdomen. My husband says he has a washboard stomach but there’s a load of laundry in the washer (ha ha). So, whether you are apple-shaped or pear-shaped, you cannot lose weight only in a specific desired area of the body. When you lose weight, chances are you will likely be the same shape, only smaller.