We all have a section of our body we struggle with—a trouble area that always seems to suffer when we don’t eat properly or stick to our workout routine. Some people hate their thighs, some people can actually feel that chocolate doughnut go right to their butt, and a lot of people have a really hard time handling their love handles. And let’s be clear—there is nothing to love about love handles. It’s an ironic name really. Those extra flabs of skin that hang out around your mid-section are super stubborn and can be really hard to get rid of. They also happen to be really common. As Everyday Health reports, according to certified trainer Jason Keigher CSCS, CPT, who works with clients in New York City in an article for Everyday Health, “love handles are one of the most common reasons people exercise and hire a personal trainer.” This is because love handles are hard to hide, as most clothes and styles (everything from low-waisted pants to fitted sweaters and t-shirts) flaunt this flaw.

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So what are you supposed to do? The good news is there are ways to lose the love handles for good, but it takes work, time, patience and a lot of dedication. A few extra crunches won’t quite cut it, as love handles aren’t just muscles that need toning and strengthening. They are caused by excess fat, so you’ll need to adjust your diet, your fitness routine, your daily habits and your cardiovascular program. Here are love handle workouts and tips to do obliterate those muffins in plenty of time for summer beach season.

Increase Cardio
In order to tone your mid-section and get rid of love handles, you first need to lose the belly fat (which is really what love handles are). That means you need to blast calories, so any activities that get your heart rate up and burn off energy will do the trick. Try different aerobic activities that include intervals and that will get your heart pumping and your body sweating. You can go for a run, do a boot camp class, try indoor cycling, or take a dance class. The more calories you burn the more you will slim down head-to-toe, and you will notice a difference in your abdominal section, especially with those pesky love handles.


Get More Sleep
One reason many people suffer from excess belly fat is because of stress and because they aren’t taking care of their bodies. Studies have shown that anxiety can trigger weight gain, which means it’s not just your diet to blame, though we’ll get to that next. As Prevention reports, according to Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women, “even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds.” This is because your body reacts to stress by releasing cortisol, which causes your body to store fat and makes you feel hungry as a defense mechanism to fight the tension you are experiencing. Bottom line: stress can do damage to your body and make it really hard to stay slim, even if you do everything else right. So make sure you find healthy ways to manage your stress so you can look and feel your best.

Eat Frequent, Smaller Meals
When it comes to your eating habits, if you eat smaller, healthy meals throughout the day you’ll keep your body fueled with nutrients and you’ll minimize cravings because you’ll never feel hungry. Plus, your metabolism will stay active all day so you will be consistently burning calories and won’t experience a spike in cortisol (which can happen in response to hungry or skipping a meal).


Cut Back on Carbs and Sugar
Speaking of healthy foods, we hate to be the ones to break the bad news, but if you’re serious about losing the love handles, you’re going to have to sacrifice some foods you love, like carbs, alcohol, sugar and other sources of empty calories like juice and soda. Whole grains are OK, but other carbs (like that pizza you’ve been craving) will set you back in your mission to get rid of your excess belly fat. As Huff Post reports, according to Dr. Oz, in addition to ditching sugar and alcohol, you should increase your intake of foods that have a low glycemic index, because foods that are high on the GI can cause spikes in cortisol, make your blood sugar levels swing and make it really hard to get rid of belly fat. “To help keep cortisol levels stable, choose low-GI foods (with a rating of 55 or less) like beans, lentils, and chickpeas, instead of high-GI options like white rice and potatoes,” he suggests.


Strengthen Your Core
This is among the best love handle workouts, period. A strong core will support you in all of your movements and will help you stay toned and slim, even when you aren’t actively working out. Strong abs also help you have better posture, and the taller you stand when you walk or the more you lengthen your body the more you can minimize the appearance of belly flab and love handles. Do planks to build your core strength, and work on engaging your abs as you sit at your desk or do any other exercises.

Focus on the Oblique Muscles
When it comes to your abs, your obliques (the muscles on the side of your mid-section) can trim your waist and help eliminate love handles, so that you see a strong stomach and none of the excess fat you’re working so hard to get rid of. These exercises are a great place to start if you want to tone your tummy, back and sides. Start with oblique twists, then move on to taps, side plants and standing obliques. Mix it up and try all movements until you find a combination of positions and exercises that work for you.