Hi Lisa! Great question. The dreaded saddlebag (excess fat around the hip and thigh area) is a very common problem area for women, and one I get asked about often. First, it’s important to recognize that there is no one magical exercise that will eliminate the fat from that area on your body (aka spot reduce). What you can do is incorporate exercises that help to build more lean muscle mass in that region of your body, which may in turn lead to a reduction in your overall body fat (if coupled with a proper diet and caloric deficit).
One of the biggest mistakes I see women make is that they believe that repeating moves like side lying leg lifts hundreds of times will help to slim down that area. If you want to get rid of fat, you need to stand up and move as many muscles as possible and challenge your body. (That’s why I love moves like this one). Moves like side lying leg lifts have their place in a well-rounded workout regimen, but don’t be fooled into thinking that an exercise where most of your body is resting on the floor is going to help you reduce fat – especially in that one spot.
You mention that you lose everywhere but there, and I can sympathize! Sadly, we tend to lose fat noticeably first in areas that we don’t want to shrink (such as our chest or booty) and then it seems to come off sooo slowly in other areas — such as the saddlebag region. If you do reduce your body fat, you will eventually reduce the size of your saddlebags. And because it can be tough to tell from day to day, one of the best ways to track your progress is to use a measuring tape (don’t go too crazy, once a month is plenty) which can help you make sure you are losing over time.
The best recipe for fat loss – wherever the fat tends to show up on your body most- is eating a healthy diet that creates a calorie deficit (remember 3,500 calories is one pound, so I usually recommend cutting 250 calories a day from your diet, and then burning an extra 250 with exercise) and coupling it with a balanced workout routine that incorporates a variety of exercises. Fill your week with your favorite workouts, and alternate more challenging, high intensity days with low intensity sessions to avoid overtraining and burnout.
Finally, remember to be patient and stick with it. We live in a world where everything is promised to us yesterday! We see commercials and ads with guarantees of lost inches, six packs and model-thin thighs everywhere we go. Real, permanent fat loss takes time, and sometimes it’s a roller coaster ride of some ups and downs (trust me, I have been there, and its still a daily journey for me too). If you can focus on being the healthiest (not necessarily the smallest) you can be, your body will follow. And if there are some weeks, or months that go by and your thighs are a little larger than you’d like, remember to keep it in perspective. Love your body for what it is, and for all the amazing things it does for you today. Don’t let it prevent you from participating and enjoying your life!
Thanks for writing, and hope that helps. Best of luck on your health and fitness journey!