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 of your hips, I respect your right to try to change them. 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 quickly, though. 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.
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.
Getting Rid of Hip 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.
Consume fewer calories than you burn. 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.
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.
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.