Take it from a woman whose hips, from certain angles, look almost concave: there are worse curses than being curvacious. But we’re all entitled to our body image issues, and if you’re dissatisfied with the size or shape, I respect your right to try to get rid of your hips and thigh fat. There’s obviously a limit to how much slimmer they can get, since hip size ultimately comes down to bone structure, but if you’ve got a substantial layer of fat on your hips, you’ve got options.
Don’t expect to lose your hip fat or thigh fat quickly, though. Because of our genetics and the way our bodies are wired, hip fat and thigh fat are some very stubborn types of fat to lose. Women are genetically programmed to store fat in their lower bodies, and while excess hip fat isn’t linked to health problems like heart disease, it is notoriously hard to get rid of. Spot toning alone won’t do the trick; the best way to reduce fat on your hips is with a healthy diet and whole-body exercise.
If you love your curves but wish their curves would lie flat, you’re probably in the market for a body shaper. Shapewear, which is available from Spanx, Maidenform, Victoria’s Secret, and several other brands, is worn underneath regular clothes to reduce the appearance of unwanted fat. A shaping slip or a pair of shaping shorts will compress your hip fat just enough to smooth out any lumps or bulges so your hips look slimmer and firmer. This is cheaper and faster than the more involved methods below, but it’s up to you.
Ideal Waist-to-Hip Ratio
As an indicator of individual disease risk, waist-hip ratio (WHR) — the measurement around the smallest part of the waist divided by the measurement around the largest part of the hips — is generally considered more reliable than body mass index, which can’t differentiate fat from muscle. For women, a WHR of .8 or lower is considered healthy. Men can have a WHR of up to .95 and still be at a low risk of developing heart disease.
A low waist-hip ratio also suggests that a woman has higher levels of estrogen and may be more fertile, so evolution has programmed men to find women with large hips and relatively small waists sexy. Studies consistently show that men prefer a WHR of .7 or less.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Hip and Thigh Fat
Burn more calories
At a minimum, we should all be doing 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week, just to stay healthy. If you’re trying to drop some hip fat (or any other kind of fat), you should ideally be getting your heart rate up for 60 minutes at a time, five to seven days a week. You should also mix some weight lifting into your cardio routine to build more calorie-burning muscle tissue. And if you spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer or TV, making an effort to just get up and move around more every day can also help you lose weight. In fact, Amazon has quite a few instant videos for aerobics that may prove helpful for you, they’re easy and some are free through Prime.
The same technique that addresses hip fat will reduce thigh fat. Cardiovascular exercise is crucial if you want to lose thigh fat. Thigh toning exercises can firm the muscles and skin to help your legs appear a bit thinner, but they can’t actually force your body to burn fat on your thighs instead of somewhere else. When the body uses fat as fuel, it takes it from all over, not just from the limb that’s in motion. In other words, you can’t really spot-burn fat. But the fact is that you can use some of your own fat cells to actually burn their fellow fat cells on your behalf. It just requires you to sweat and get the heart rate up.
Consume fewer calories
If you eat and drink more calories than your body uses in a day, those calories get stored as fat. If, on the other hand, you take in fewer calories than you need, your body uses that stored fat to fuel itself. Enter your gender, height, weight, and age into an online basal metabolic rate calculator to estimate how many calories you burn each day just to stay alive, then add in the calories you expend during exercise and your usual daily activities. Once you know the maximum number of calories your diet should contain, a calorie counting chart can help you decide what to eat.
Change the Type of Calories You Eat
Refined sugars and saturated fats are bad for your health, beyond just fat retention. Get rid of those calories! Replace them with whole foods and healthy snacks such as vegetables, fruits, and raw nuts. In addition to helping with your thigh fat effort, this kind of diet shift is just good for your body overall.
Keep in mind that this kind of diet, one with less sugar and fat, will not fully affect the cellulite issue — the “cottage cheese” look of dimpled skin — but it absolutely will play an important role in reducing the amount of thigh fat you might have.
Limit your consumption of junk food and alcohol
If you want to lose weight without actually counting calories, this is a good place to start. You know junk food when you see it: it’s sweet, salty, or greasy, and it usually finds its way into your mouth between meals. Things like potato chips, cookies, soda, and fast food pack a lot of fat and calories in just a few bites or sips, and people who cut them out of their diets can lose a lot of weight quickly.
Alcohol is another major source of empty calories, and studies suggest that booze (including beer) actually slows fat metabolism in the body for a few hours.
Even moderate drinking can reduce your body’s ability to burn fat because alcohol is broken down into acetate in the liver, and as long as acetate is in the bloodstream, the body uses it for fuel instead of fat.
What is the “right” level of alcohol consumption? If you are someone who doesn’t feel the need to drink, then by all means, don’t. But for females, a limit of 1 drink per day is what is currently recommended. So yes, you can have that glass of red wine after work.
If you must snack, snack on healthy stuff
There’s nothing inherently wrong with frequent eating — in fact, eating a little bit every couple of hours can help speed up your metabolism. It’s when you frequently eat high-calorie, low-nutrition foods that you start building fat reserves on your hips and elsewhere. Instead, try snacking on fresh fruit, raw vegetables, and nuts — raw, unsalted almonds are my favorite — to stay satisfied between meals. Keep your snacks small, though; when you’re trying to lose weight, too much healthy food is still too much food.
Keep your appetite in check naturally
Forget the appetite-suppressing diet pills, with their potentially nasty side effects. Instead, drink lots of water, especially just before meals, to keep your stomach feeling fuller than it actually is. Green tea has a similar effect and might actually be a better choice, since it contains caffeine — a natural appetite suppressant — and an antioxidant called EGCG, which may increase metabolism. Since getting too little sleep can make you hungrier during the day, thanks to increased levels of a hormone called ghrelin, aim for at least seven hours a night. Your body will reward you with increased levels of another hormone, leptin, which dampens your appetite instead. We recommend Tazo Green Tea (link to Amazon).
Hip and Thigh Exercises
One of the easiest exercises to get rid of hips is the lying abduction. Lie on one side with your elbow on the floor and your head propped in your hand. Keeping both legs straight out from your torso and your toes pointed forward, lift the top leg until it forms a 45-degree angle with the floor. Hold for a couple of counts, then lower your leg. Repeat at least 10 times before switching sides.
Side Step Ups
With side step ups, it’s easy to adjust the resistance as your hips and thighs become more toned. Stand with one foot on the floor and one foot on a stool, chair, or exercise bench. Keep your back and neck steady as you straighten your upper leg, letting the other foot come off the floor. Lower slowly back down and complete at least 10 reps before exercising the other leg. To make this exercise more difficult, use a higher stool or hold free weights in your hands.
To do a standing abduction, stand with your feet about hip’s distance apart. Keeping the rest of your body as vertical as you can, lift one leg out to the side. Even small, controlled movements will work the hip muscle; only lift your leg as far as you can without losing your balance. Repeat at least 10 times before switching legs. If you want to increase the resistance, do the exercise while standing inside an exercise band, or hold a dumbbell against the side of your thigh as you lift.
Inner Thigh Exercises
Tone your thighs with inner thigh exercises. The muscles on the inside of your thighs are called the adductor muscles. As you could no doubt deduce, the adductor machine at your local gym is designed to strengthen and tighten this group of muscles. It’s a pretty simple thing: two pads at knee level, attached to weights for resistance, that you press together between your legs while your feet go along for the ride in a pair of stirrups. You can also do this at home, sitting up straight on the edge of a chair or the floor with the soles of your feet flat on the ground, toes pointed forward. Squeeze a rubber ball, ThighMaster, or Pilates Magic Circle between your thighs, hold for a few seconds, and repeat.
Outer Thigh Exercises
Tone your thighs with outer thigh exercises. The muscles of the outer thigh are the abductor muscles, and you’ll find a machine at the gym designed to work these, too. It’s called — wait for it — the abductor machine, and it provides resistance as you push your legs outward against the pads. You can get a similar effect at home by standing on a resistance band with your feet about hips’ distance apart and your hands at your hips, holding the handles of the band. Step one leg to the side inside the band, then step the other leg over to meet it. Start with five steps to the left and five to the right, and add reps as you can. Here’s an excellent set of resistance bands that you may want to start with, from Amazon!
Hip and Thigh Fat FAQs
Is thigh fat normal? Are my curvy hips normal?
Yes, it absolutely is normal. Genetics play a big role in determining how much what your shape will be like, and what kind fo hips and thighs you will have. Women tend to experience fat more in their thighs and buttocks, which men often experience fat building in their gut. It is actually healthier to have it in your thighs.
Is fat around your hips unhealthy?
There is evidence that thigh fat is actually not all that unhealthy — and that women with some thigh fat may actually be healthier than women with skinny legs. Still, it can be unsightly and something that reduces your confidence.
But even though thigh fat is not as unhealthy as fat in other parts of the body, losing fat, in general, is good for your heart.
What to do about inner thigh fat?
When people ask about losing thigh fat, they are often referring to the outer thigh fat that can give you a little more of an hourglass figure than you want. But inner thigh fat is common as well.
It is important to realize that we all have differently-shaped legs. The “thigh gap” that some people talk about is actually not genetically possible for most women, and should never be a goal. Instead, focus on keeping your overall fat percentage as low as you healthily can.
Inner thigh fat usually sheds with overall fat loss. But if you simply have strong legs – which is a GOOD thing – don’t expect to lose all of that inner thigh mass. If it is muscle, be lucky you have it.
Do men get hips and thigh fat?
Men can absolutely get thigh fat. While it is more common for men to deposit their excess fat in their gut and love handles, some men are genetically programmed to gain thigh fat. Others have it just because they are generally obese.
Because men are generally able to build muscle at a relatively fast rate, they can often reshape the legs into more of a stronger look by doing squats, lunges, and other leg work. But there is no substitute for shaving off pounds overall if you want to get rid of thigh fat.
Thigh fat tends to be more of an image concern for females than for males, probably because of societal inputs and influences.
Does pregnancy cause wider hips and thighs?
Yes. Gaining 20 to 40 pounds — or more — to deliver a healthy 8 pound baby means that your body is putting on plenty of fat and fluid. Couple that with the fact that 15% to 30% of pregnancy fat tends to build in thighs, and it is highly likely that you will experience more thigh fat as a result of pregnancy.
While much of your pregnancy weight gain is due to water weight, there is no doubt that your hips and legs will experience some fat gain. It is normal and common.