How Can I Lower My Body Fat Percentage?

by Suzanne Hiscock
"How do I get rid of belly fat?"

"How do I get rid of the fat on my thighs?"

Those are two frequent questions over at It's what's called 'spot reducing' -- as in, you want to 'reduce' fat in one specific 'spot.'

The thing is, as much as it would be awesome to do a few sets of crunches and burn the fat right off your belly, the truth of the matter is this: you can't spot reduce.

That's right, you can not spot reduce. Let us all have a moment of silence to digest this sad, sad fact.

Your body decides where to burn the fat through a complex process -- and the areas with most fat tend to be the last place where the fat seems to come off.

Kind of like when you're emptying a swimming pool with a deep end and a shallow end: as you empty the water, the shallow end will empty out first, while the deep end will take a while longer. In this case, the "deep end" is usually places like our belly, thighs, hips and buttocks.

Another way to look at is like peeling an onion. Take one layer off, the onion gets smaller. One more layer off, and the onion get smaller still.

But does this mean that you can't get rid of the fat on your belly, thighs, hips and butt? No! It just means you need to keep working at reducing your body fat until you reach a normal body fat percentage.

The best way to reduce your body fat is by creating a calorie deficit through healthy eating and exercise. A calorie deficit means eating fewer calories than your body burns in day.

Here are the four numbers you need to know to plan your attack on fat and reach your normal body fat percentage.

#1: Know Your Current Body Fat Percentage

If you want to get serious about reducing body fat, you need to have a solid plan of attack. That starts with knowing your current body fat percentage

The most reliable way to do that is through hydrostatic measuring. But the problem is it's not easily accessible and not affordable to most people.

For us regular folks, we can use a body fat caliper like Accu-meausure or the FitWatch body fat percentage calculator. While these methods are less accurate, they can still be used to take a body fat measurement. What you want you want to do is to measure the exact same way each time in order to detect a pattern of loss.

It's not so much what the number is but how the number changes. #2: Know Your Body Fat % Goal (and Set a Target Date)

Before setting a specific number goal, ask yourself what your overall goal is. Do you want to fit into a certain size? Do you want to look like a fitness model?

There's nothing wrong with wanting to look like a fitness model as long as you realize it's a tremendous amount of work to reach that goal.

Chances are you want to aim for a 'normal' body fat percentage. That number is different for everybody. For the the average person, a drop of 1 to 2lbs a week is normal.

When it comes to body fat percentage, look for an average decrease of .5% a week. That's POINT five. Going from 29.5% to 29% would show a healthy drop in body fat. A full percentage point drop -- say, from 29.5% to 28.5% -- is achievable but takes an awful lot of discipline.

Break your goal down into smaller goals if your long term goal seems overwhelming. And here are two fun calculator to help you calculate a target date -- and give you an idea of what you'll weight at a certain body fat percentage: #3: Know How Many Calories Your Body Burns in a Day

Everybody's metabolism is different. Some people burn a lot of calories in a day; others not so much. The amount of calories depends on a number of factors.

You can get into the nitty, gritty details here: How Many Calories Do I Burn in a Day?

You can get idea of how much your body burns at rest by knowing your basal metabolic rate (BMR): Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator

Add in exercise and you'll burn even more calories: Calories Burned Exercising

#4: Know How Many Calories You Eat in a Day

Knowing how many calories you eat in a day is critical to dropping fat. You can easily outeat a workout -- meaning no matter how much you exercise, if you eat more calories than your body burns, you will gain weight.

Use the FitWatch Calorie Tracker to track the calories you eat in a day. If you've never counted calories before, you're in for an eye-opening experience.

Put It All Together: Create a Calorie Deficit

Now that you've set a goal and you know how many calories you burn and how many calories you eat in day, it's time to create a calorie deficit. You want the calories you eat to be less than the calories you burn. You do that by either eating fewer calories, exercising more or a combination of both. A combination of both is the best way.

On average, a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day will be enough to drop 1lb of (hopefully) fat a week.

And that's the main issue: you want to burn fat, not muscle. That's why exercising while losing 'weight' is important. You want your body to burn fat; not eat into your muscle.

When it comes to calculating a calorie deficit, you don't even have to do the math yourself. Use my calorie deficit calculator to help you figure it out.

The FitWatch Tracker will help you to keep track of your calories in and your calories out.

Don't forget to track your progress. You can use the FitWatch Tracker to track your body fat percentage or you can track it in a spreadsheet.

And I can't emphasize enough the importance of exercise in reducing body fat. Exercise will help sculpt your body and build muscle so that you're not 'skinny fat'.

And that is how you get rid of fat on your belly, thighs and butt.

Even though you can’t spot reduce, you can lower your body fat percentage to a level where your body is a lean, mean fighting machine.

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About the Author

Suzanne Hiscock is a PN L2 Certified Master Coach, ACE-certified Health Coach, as well as an ACE-certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. For over 20 years, she's been helping people lose weight and get fit through her website,

And she’s really TRULY SORRY ABOUT THAT. You see, she didn’t realize she was contributing to diet culture; she just wanted to help people feel better. But losing weight isn’t the way to do it. She’s on a mission to change all that with an anti-diet approach. So, pardon the dust on the floor as the website gets revamped.