gorge on junk food, woman eating cheetos

Everyone has a problem area that they are working on in their fitness journey. Underarm fat is a typical one that comes up, but there are a lot of problem areas. Some of the most common problems that people have and the questions that I get asked the most include:

  • How do I lose under arm fat?
  • How do I get rid of belly fat?
  • How do I get a firmer butt?
  • How do I lose thigh fat?

While both men and women deal with these issues, and my advice on this subject certainly applies to both, I think that a majority of this article will be about addressing women’s concerns. I don’t want to single them out since we’re all on a quest for better bodies, but they seem to have of a variety of problem areas, whereas men commonly have issues with just their bellies.

The solution to these problems is a 3-pronged approach that includes: weight training, nutrition, and cardio. Of course that’s such a generic answer, and stating it this simply doesn’t solve your problem. While the truth is that you can’t spot reduce fat, there are some things that you can do to focus on specific areas.

You Can’t Spot Reduce Fat

Fat removes itself in layers from your entire body, and there is nothing you can do to eliminate it from just one area of your body – short of surgical procedures.

Explaining this concept often leads to a statement that I know every health and fitness person has heard: “I want to lose body fat but I don’t want smaller breasts or butt.”

Our genetics aren’t something that we can leave behind in the gym in a pool of sweat. Hopefully you can find a balance between incremental changes and acceptance of yourself.

Let’s focus on the things that we can change and accept the things we can’t.

Now, about that body fat…

Weight Training

When you’re talking about losing underarm fat or belly fat, you’re really talking about toning up. Now before you say it, allow me to write it out. I already know what you’re going to say.

“I want to tone but I don’t want to get bulky.”

No, I’m not psychic. I’ve just been through this before, and I know that it won’t be the last time. There seems to be some kind of mental disconnect when explaining this concept to people. They don’t listen. Like a feature on Fox news, it’s almost as if the pairing of weight training and bulking has been mentioned so many times that it’s taken as fact.

Weight training isn’t about machines, dumbbells, barbells, and loads of iron. Your own body weight is sufficient, as are kettlebells!

Lifting weights does not make you get bulky! Eating too many calories makes you get bulky!

This is what happens when people unaccustomed to weight training start to train:

  1. Begin new weight training program
  2. Notice bigger arms, legs, whatever
  3. Get on the scale and see that they have not lost weight and maybe even gained weight
  4. Quit weight training because they’re getting bulky
  5. Feel distressed, hopeless, and fall back on comfort food

Let me explain this process thoroughly, and hopefully I’ll get through to at least some of you. When you first begin weight training, your muscles underneath all of that body fat are going to expand. This is what happens when you develop muscles.

Now here is the important part. At the beginning, your newly-discovered muscles are still covered with body fat. So while your muscles are expanding, the body-fat covering makes it look like you are getting bulky. This is only going to last for a short time (several weeks) provided that you are also paying attention to your nutrition and how many calories you are eating.

Don’t be discouraged or scared at this point because changes are about to happen!

As you develop muscle, you are going to be able to work out harder and with more intensity for the duration of your workouts. Have faith in the program and in the advice of your trainers, and the fat will begin to shed.

Stick with it, and soon the fat will disappear, and your newly developed muscles will be visible. You will look toned and no longer bulky.

Lifting weights does not turn you into a bodybuilder!

Ladies, this is directed to you. Those women bodybuilders that you see on magazines, websites, and TV, got that way by lifting EXCESSIVE amounts of weight, working EXTREMELY hard, and eating a nearly perfect diet of high calories and lean proteins.

Doing 2-3 hours of weight training per week is not going to turn you into She-Arnold!

One thing that I must talk about here is the scale. The scale is a poor indicator of health. A lighter person is not a healthier person. A stronger person is a healthier person. I’m not talking bodybuilder strong. I’m referring to handling your own body weight, push-up, pull-up kind of strong! You see, muscle weighs more than fat does. It’s likely that while you are developing muscle tone and shedding fat that you won’t appear any lighter on the scale. However, I guarantee that if you’re on top of your nutrition and sticking with your workouts, your clothes are going to start fitting differently. You’re going to be more pleased with the way you look in the mirror, and you will feel better about yourself!


While weight training is essential in developing a toner, leaner body, nutrition is key. If you are eating too many calories, then you are going to get bulky regardless of whether you’re weight training or sitting on the couch.

If you have honestly never kept a food journal or food diary, then you definitely have no idea how many calories per day you are actually consuming. Without this knowledge you will NOT be able to shape a meal plan that will fit your needs, let alone help you get results from all of the time and hard effort you’ve spent working out.

I have written a series of articles that takes you through the process of keeping a food journal and directs you to the tools that will help you get control of the most important part of this whole process. Begin the series here: Keep a Food Journal With Myfitnesspal (Part 1).

Understand that finding a nutrition plan that works perfectly for you will be a lifelong process just as doing workouts will be. You will never be done tweaking it and making adjustments to it, just as you can never stop working out and expect to remain fit. The reason why there are so many nutrition plans and fitness people telling you different things is that no one method works exactly the same for everyone. Our fitness level, age, genetics, climate, stress, sleep, and a number of other factors all come into play here.

There is room for interpretation and experimentation. I wish that I could write up a nutrition guide that would work for everyone so that we can all have 6 Pack Abs. Heck, I’d be rich!

Here is a 5-Step process for finding a nutritional meal plan that will work for you:

  1. Keep a food journal, track your calories, and be aware of how much you are eating per day.
  2. Lower the amount of carbohydrates that you eat per day in small increments until you begin to feel sluggish, then raise the amount of carbs until you feel your energy return. This is the zone that will allow you to lower your body fat percentage. Also keep in mind that this zone fluctuates with factors that include fitness level, age, genetics, climate, stress, and sleep.
  3. Make sure that you are getting plenty of protein from lean meats or other sources.
  4. Try to eat mostly whole foods, not processed sources. If it comes in a box, has lots of ingredients, and has chemicals you can’t pronounce, then it is a processed food. Whole foods generally have one ingredient and it is the name of the food: chicken, fish, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and berries.
  5. Sleep! Lack of sleep will affect your energy levels and your body’s ability to metabolize food. It affects the chemical processes that occur within your body’s digestive track and can wreak havoc on all of your body’s systems.


Cardio is like icing on a cake!

I’m so sorry for that pun, that’s disgusting. What I mean to say is that while weight training and working on your nutrition are going to deliver changes to your body, cardio will burn that extra fat to finally put you over the top of those barriers so that you can reach your goal.

Cardio will:

  • burn calories
  • increase lung capacity for greater endurance and more intense workouts
  • help your body create hormones that make you feel good
  • decrease stress
  • help you sleep better at night

If you’re a person who works out at a gym, then you probably know someone who consistently does their hour of cardio 2-3 times per week but doesn’t seem like they ever get any results. This person might even be you. This brings us full circle back to the beginning of this article where I talked about toning up being a 3-pronged approach. You can do cardio every day, but if you’re not also working on your nutrition and your strength, then you’re probably not going to progress.

Cardio might help you maintain your weight for a while, but if you’re only doing cardio, and particularly if you’re doing the same cardio for every workout (such as only running on a treadmill), then your body is going to adapt to what you are doing.  Then the benefit from that workout is going to decrease.

For best results with your cardio, mix it up. Do a number of different things. You’ll have better results, and it will be more fun. If you need some suggestions for getting outside your comfort zone, how about these: running, cycling, walking, swimming, skating, jump rope, spin bike, elliptical, Stairmaster, rowing machines, dancing, calisthenics.

Good Bye Underarm Fat!

Sometimes making changes is difficult. Hopefully, you have a strong support network of family and friends who are encouraging. There will be some speed bumps in your path and others might not be as supportive as you wish, particularly if you are making positive changes in your life that others wish were happening in theirs. Dealing with setbacks, doubt, and criticism is something that every one of us will face at some point.

Don’t give up!

Following this 3-pronged approach will give you results! You will be able to lose underarm fat, throw away your spare tire, and get rid of some junk in your trunk!

You might even have success just following two of these three things. However, if you’re just doing one of these things, then I’ll bet you’re not getting results, and that’s probably why you’re reading this article right now.

The nutrition portion is always the hardest part to master, but you can do this!

The exercise part can be done in 3 to 5 hours per week. I guarantee that you are spending at least that much time on the computer, watching TV, or on Facebook.

The benefit is so great that entire books – and in fact, my entire website – is dedicated to this topic, and still, enough cannot be said. You will look good in the mirror, you will have more energy, and most importantly, you will feel fantastic!

Perhaps you have something to add or a story to relate? I would love to hear about it. Please comment below.

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About The Author

Johnny Nasello's picture

Johnny Nasello is a 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, and nationally recognized expert group fitness instructor living in Portland, Oregon. Keep up with his current trainings, classes, insights, and ridiculously awesome Online Bootcamp and Yoga program at his blog www.johnnyfit.com.


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