You Can’t Spot Reduce

Lookie there! A 10 year old with abs. How about that. I have them, too. Luckily, this young man saves me from having to post a picture of myself. ;)
Today’s post will start with a story…
“She’s in bed with Mono”
The summer after I graduated high school, I got mono. I was supposed to leave for college in a month and my future roommate called to introduce herself over the phone. My mom answered.
Roommate: “Hi! My name is Crystal. I’m Sarah’s new roommate for college this year, is she available?”
My Mom: “I’m sorry. She’s in bed with Mono.”
Roommate: “Okay. Well just tell her I called, I guess.”
(hanging up the phone)
Roommate’s Mom: “What’s the deal? She wasn’t there?”
Roommate: “Nah. She couldn’t talk. She’s in bed with mono…”
Roommate’s 7 year old sister: “Who’s Mono?”
Get it? It’s a funny. :)
Mono is not a boy in bed with me, but it did take my by surprise. I came to the doctor for a sore throat and he was telling me I had mono?
After my blood tests came back, the doctor sent me home with the recommendation that I drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. Apparently, there was nothing else he could do for me at that time.
I went home. I tried resting – but it was boring and I wasn’t tired. I drank lots of fluids. It really didn’t seem that bad.
Eventually, things started getting bad. I can remember the moment when I realized it was about to get a lot worse. I was still taking care of my little sisters during the day while my parents were at work. I was mixing some batter for pancakes when I broke out into a sweat and sat down. Suddenly – I was exhausted. From that point on, I don’t really remember a whole lot. My sore throat quickly progressed to an entire mouth infection covered in white sores. I stopped being able to swallow. I couldn’t sleep because I’d choke on my own spit. I lived half a life for about a week and during this time, I dropped from a 150 pounds athlete to a 125 pound waif.
One week – twenty-five pounds.
Before you get the wise idea to go kiss someone suffering from mono, let me tell you – it was not a healthy weight loss. You know what I lost? My muscle. I was wasting away and lymph nodes were swelling up left and right. Finally, I came to a point where I said, “To heck with this! I’m going back to the doctor!” Or at least I would have said that if I could talk…
When I got to the doctor, he had the audacity to ask me why I waited so long to come in and see him. I couldn’t talk, of course, but if I would have been able to I would have told him “It’s because you told me all I needed was rest and fluids!!!!” After seeing HOW HE WRONGED ME, he wrote me out a prescription for medicine and it literally only took a few days before I started to feel better. ;)
An intense two week mono… not so bad.
Here’s the kicker
As I mentioned before, this all happened about a month before I was due to leave for college… on a track scholarship… to throw discus.
I was sure that my coach was going to take one look at me and wonder what happened to the girl that could throw. I had no muscle. Like I said before, I went from a sturdy looking athlete to a waif. And the worst thing about it was that if I didn’t take care of myself, I’d end up with mono again – a relapse.
Out of fear for relapse, I did not have your traditional first semester of college experience.
I took it easy for the first couple weeks, but eventually I was forced to test out my body’s limits as the conditioning season for track started. I started the most intense conditioning season I had ever experienced. After practice, I would go to the schools cafeteria for dinner, but they didn’t have anything good… so I was stuck with eating oranges. I ate 12 oranges a day and small portions of whatever seemed to be edible from the cafeteria menu (I would not recommend this). After dinner, I’d hang out with the people in my dorm for awhile and I’d go to bed by 9:30 or 10pm. I never stayed up late.
With this routine in place, I started to change. I started to become “fit” again.
By winter break, I came home to my friends from high school. They made a huge deal about how much I had changed. When summer came, I was going to the lake with friends and once again, everyone commented on my abs. I didn’t know why. I just figured it looked a lot like the rest of my body – muscular. People started to ask me, “How do you do that?! You have a six-pack!”
My answer was always very simple…
  1. I lost a bunch of weight from getting sick
  2. I worked my butt off to keep my track scholarship

But, it really should have been, “Well… let me tell you. It all started with me being in bed with mono…”

Now that’s a joke, but here’s the lesson.
You can’t spot reduce.
Too many people are buying into the idea that you could do a workout to “target your legs or abs” and burn the flab away. That’s not true. You CAN target your legs or abs to build the muscle, but it might not look any different to you if it has 2 inches of fat laying on top of it still.
In order to get a great looking stomach, or great looking legs, you have to work out and eat less. If you’re unwilling to eat less, then you have to do more cardio (90 minutes of running, swimming or elliptical) to balance your intake for weight loss.
If you don’t have time to do that much working out… well, I guess we’re just back to square one – eating less. Funny how that works. ;)
Genetics play a role
Everyone is going to have tendencies to store their excess calories in different places on their body. I personally store mine in my legs and butt. The last place I store fat is in my stomach. I was just born this way. I’m your typical pear body shape.
Let’s say I am displeased with the fat on my legs. In order to “tone” them up, I would have to start losing weight. The first thing that would go is the excess fat on my stomach, arms, and face. And THEN, after all of that initial weight loss, I’d start to lose in my legs and butt.
That’s just the way it goes, I didn’t get to pick it.
Sidenote: My liver is actually the one to blame. He’s the one choosing where I break down energy stores (fat) for energy and where I store it if I eat too much. If you’re mad about where you lose weight first, take it up with him!
Summary Points
If you want to “trim up” an area of your body, you need to find out where you store your fat. It’s not hard, check out a mirror.
Start eating differently and add in some workouts.
Choose from the following strategies:
  • Fit in 90 minutes of cardio per day, 6x per week at a moderate intensity
  • Eat less food, or different (lower calorie) foods
  • Resistance training 2x per week (minimum)
  • Stay the course until you start to see results in your desired area
REMEMBER! Make sure you have muscle under the fat to expose. Working out and lifting definitely serves a role in looking “cut.” You can’t see muscle on a person that doesn’t have muscle to see.
And FINALLY, remember the point of eating right and working out should not be about “looking attractive.” You don’t need to look a certain way in order to be attractive. Trust me, you’ll have much better results if you don’t use poor self-esteem and negative thought processes to motivate your exercise and dieting regimen.
Love yourself first and then work out and eat right to get the most out your body. After all, it’s what’s going to carry you through this life. :)

2 thoughts on “You Can’t Spot Reduce

  1. I never had mono, but it sounds pretty crappy. Now, question is, how did you get it? Don’t lie. lol just playin’ :). But onto the spot reduction bit. I agree, and you know, while were on the subject, I say let’s just stop this obsession with crunches, reverse sit ups, and any other kind of “ab isolation” (definition of oxymoron) craziness. People, your abdominal muscles, from an everyday functional standpoint, and meant to contract isometrically. That means, train them to do what they’re designed to do. Sure, planks, ab wheel is good, oh, and here you go: squats.

    I pretty much tell all my personal training clients what you hit on in your last point, with a little more profanity thrown in for good measure :) Especially if they’re men. My rules: 1)Stretch 2)Lift 3)Run. That’s it.

    Allow my buddy Jimmy to elaborate:

    Good post. Keep ’em coming!


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