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Low body fat but still have love handles

Posted by: PFB

Q. I must be the fattest "lean" guy in the world. I have 8% bodyfat, a 32-inch waist, but I still have love handles. What's wrong with me?

A. Your waist size is a combination of three things: the width of your hips, how thick your oblique muscles (your outer abdominal muscles) are, and the most obvious, how much fat you have around your waist. Although many nutritionists and coaches gauge leanness with overall skin-fold measurements, I don't rely on overall bodyfat percentages, as I know some men with 15% bodyfat look just as lean as others who have only 8% bodyfat (if the fat is uniformly distributed and not accumulated only at the waist).

It seems the majority of men don't appear lean until the fat around their midsections is gone, and in most males, this "middle" fat is the last to thin down while dieting. So when I ask for a "leanness evaluation" during a telephone conversation, I ask for only one "reading": the skin fold at the abdominal area in millimeters.

Lean natural bodybuilders usually have abdominal skin folds of between six and eight millimeters, depending on how "tight" their skin is. One of the bad things about aging is skin elasticity declines, and loose skin pulls upper abdominal fat downward and makes you look fatter. The best way to avoid such sagging is to not get fat in this area, as that stretches the skin out. Also stay out of the sun or at least use a sunscreen. As to your "fat" 32-inch waist, let's analyze your problem. Find some skin-fold calipers, and do the pinch reading on the fat between your belly button and hipbone. If it's over eight millimeters, you need to lose some more fat. Another test (but you'll need someone to help) is to pull the skin that covers your shoulder blade upward and towards your armpit. Tight, elastic skin is quite resistant to this pulling. But if your skin elasticity isn't great, not only will you be able to pull quite a bit of skin upward, the abdominal skin fold done during the "pulling" will be significantly less.

If your "fat" 32-inch waist is simply fat, then you have all the tools to reduce it. If your skin is overly loose, then you're pretty much out of luck (unless you're willing to have plastic surgery, and this particular procedure involves some more-than-usual postoperative pain).

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