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Q & A with Ryan Healy: Can you spot reduce body fat?

Posted by Lara Salahi  July 3, 2013 01:59 PM

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Ryan Healy.jpgRyan Healy is a personal trainer for the Lynch/van Otterloo (LVO) YMCA in Marblehead. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, and earned her BS in Exercise Sports Science from Elon University. Find more posts by her in conjunction with the LVO YMCA at She can be reached at

Q. Can you spot reduce body fat?

A. One of the most common things clients or friends ask me is for exercises that work their (insert body part they think is too large here) so that they can slim that area down. If only it were that easy! If it were, the exercise products they sell on infomercials would be much more successful (you want me to shake what?).

Just like we can’t pick where we gain weight, we can’t pick where we lose it from either. Erik Ledin, NSCA-CSCS and certified sports nutritionist, said it best when he said, “Trying to burn fat from a specific area of the body is like attempting to burn fuel exclusively from the upper left corner of your gas tank.”

So what can you do instead of those 100 crunches every night to start losing abdominal fat? In order for any fat loss to occur, you need to be eating and exercising in a way that creates a caloric deficit in your body. In other words, you need to burn more calories than you consume. When in combination, eating a little less, and exercising a little more, really do create big changes.

Your nutrition and exercise plan should also be maintainable so that you can be consistent. A mediocre plan followed consistently is much better than the perfect plan followed for only a week. To achieve this, it helps to find activities you enjoy doing! You’ll be more likely to make exercise a regular part of your routine. Also, when attempting to eat a little less, try not to go overboard and cut your calories too much. If you’re always starving, unhappy, and eating only grapefruits each day, it’s unlikely you’ll want to eat like that for very long. Consuming about 250 calories less per day and exercising or moving 250 calories more per day is often enough to lose one pound per week.

Lastly, when eating and exercising for fat loss, both resistance training and adequate protein intake help preserve lean muscle mass so that a higher percentage of weight lost is from actual body fat, and not muscle. That’s what you want to achieve muscular definition; keep the muscle and burn the fat!

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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