You know what I use to make sure my body isn't drifting into unhealthy territory? A tape measure. And I don't use it that frequently...maybe a few times a year. I don't want to talk about thighs, butts, arms or backs today. Right now, I want to focus on love handles.

A scale doesn't really predict the amount of fat you have through your belly area, but a tape measure does. If you notice that jeans are fitting a little more snug through the belly area, or your belt needs to be let out a notch or two, you've probably got a love handle situation that wasn't there a couple of months ago.

So what can you do about it?

Get Rid of Your Love Handles, Finally

#1: Jog Your Memory (and be honest with your recollections):

Belly fat and love handles don't come on overnight. Usually, it accumulates quickly over weeks or slowly over months...but it's not after the one time you had a plate of French fries.

Get out a piece of paper and think of the things that have changed over the past few months that could have caused a shift in body fat (even if the scale didn't move).

A few common culprits include:

  • Snacking or eating after dinner. If you're eating after dinner, you're probably not hungry, you just want to eat. This is A-OK, but not if it's getting deposited to your belly area. If you have to have something after dinner, make it healthier. A couple of squares of dark chocolate, a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, or sparkling water with a splash of OJ are all better than diving into a bag of chips or sleeve of cookies.
  • Reaching for the salt shaker.  I don't talk about sodium enough. It's important, but too much is not only harmful (hello, high blood pressure), but it can also trigger bloating and subsequently weight gain. If you've increased the number of canned goods you've eaten, including soups, started cooking with more broths, started ordering out more or just got into the habit of reaching for the salt shaker more often - you're probably getting too much salt in your diet. 
  • The extra spoonful: An extra spoonful here, an extra spoonful there...on their own don't do any damage, but the accumulation of an extra spoonful of pasta, potatoes, salad dressing, eggs, etc., can and will increase weight, and very likely belly fat. 

Get to know the habits that you've created over the past few months. What are they? How are you going to change them?

#2: Cut Back on Caffeine

Belly fat and caffeine happen. I know it's not fair and maybe you only have a cup of coffee a day, but I've had clients cut out their cup of coffee or their diet sodas and lose weight without having to do anything else.

Is caffeine making you gain weight?

Maybe.

Caffeine triggers stress hormones that can trigger fat storage in some people. Then again, in some people caffeine doesn't do this at all.

The only way you'll know is to cut out caffeine for two full weeks. Yes, you need to wean off caffeine altogether and stay off it for a while. Measure your waist and the beginning and then again at the end of two weeks. If you notice a change, you have your answer. 

If you're prone to caffeine withdrawal headaches, wean off by reducing your caffeine little by little. For example, move from one cup of coffee to a half cup, then to a small cup of green tea, ultimately eliminating it entirely. 

You can drink decaffeinated coffee or herbal tea in the meantime. There is a strong possibility that you could feel great off caffeine. A lot of people do! 

#3: Jack Up the Fiber

If you've been reading what I've been writing for the last decade, then you know I've built a strong case around fiber. 

Fiber binds to toxins that would otherwise like to cling to your fat cells. When fiber binds to toxins, it pulls them out of your body. You have fewer toxins in your body if you eat more fiber. 

Fiber increases good bacteria in your belly. Don't chalk bloating and a big belly up to fat alone. Very often bloating can make our belly seem much more rounded than it should be. After a few days of eating all the wrong foods, usually low in fiber, it's not uncommon to look like you've got a bun in the oven. 

Oh, and by the way, all those fibrous foods are usually loaded to the brim with nutrients that your body needs to better metabolize fat. 

A little extra fiber helps to eliminate constipation and improve digestion. Need I say more? I mean, if you're not going at least once a day...you've got a build-up of something that your body does not want. 

Be smart. Drink lots of water, too. Fiber needs water to do its thing - especially in the constipation area. 

And don't go from zero to 60 either. In other words, if you're only getting 15 grams of fiber in your diet today, don't increase that to 35 by tomorrow. Slowly increase the amount of fiber in your diet every day by about five grams or so. 

#4: Get More Active Than You Already Are

I haven't been dwelling on exercise as much lately, but I'd be remiss if I didn't encourage you to move your butt a little more. If you don't use it, you'll lose it. And it doesn't take long for mobility to fade away. I wish I were being a smarty pants about this, but I'm not. If you want to move like a well-oiled machine, you have to use your body in a way that's functional. 

More importantly, exercise is like medicine. Even if workouts never help you lose a single pound, they help keep you sane, motivated and less likely to feel bad enough to eat a bag of chips. It's true. 

Exercise also makes you thirsty, which means you'll drink more water. It helps to get your bowels moving, which means you'll be less constipated (winning!) and it helps improve mental clarity and memory, which means you'll be able to better remember all those unhealthy habits that triggered fat through your love handles in the first place. 

Look, I want everyone to be happy with their body - especially you!  Very few people should actually be a size two. And not everyone should have 16% body fat - especially us women. So don't aim for a size or a body fat percentage that's unattainable and often unhealthy. 

Start with healthy, then set bigger goals from there. 

Love your curves. Embrace your shape. But respect your body. You only have one. If you start shutting it down long before it's quitting time, you'll be dealing with ongoing inflammation and chronic conditions that will make the concerns you have with your love handles seem like a walk in the park.