It’s not just an urban legend that the first place you gain weight is the last place you lose it.
It’s actually true, and here’s why: the fat that a person gains first (for females, usually butt and thighs, for males, usually around the stomach) has been there a while so it has had time to get harder, browner, and more difficult for the body to break down for energy or fuel. The fat that is a more recent addition is still soft, white, and more easily broken down by the body for fuel.
But! The body does not want to give up its fat stores. It’s like breaking into your savings account. You only do it if you really have to, but it’s usually not your first choice.
The body will almost always choose to use glycogen for fuel first.
Glycogen is many sugar molecules (glucose) stuck together and stored in your muscles and liver that are ready to go at a moment’s notice. Glucose comes from the most recently consumed carbohydrates. Whatever glucose doesn’t get used for energy gets stored as glycogen. The body likes to use these stores up first.
Think of your glycogen stores as cash in your wallet. Your newest fat (white fat), is your checking/savings account. And your oldest fat (brown fat), is your 401K.
People typically use the cash in their wallets before anything else. This is the same as the body using its glycogen stores first.
If people need more money, they tap into their checking/savings accounts. This is the same as when the body runs out of glycogen stores, it taps into the white fat stores.
And finally, if people are completely out of money and they have a big expense or an emergency, they tap into their 401Ks. They usually don’t want to, and it’s a pain to navigate the system to withdraw this money, but it’s necessary. This is the same way the body treats breaking down its brown fat stores. It’s a last resort.
The only influence you have over this process is to consume fewer calories than you burn.
If your body has less energy coming in than it is spending on daily activities, then it will be forced to break into those fat stores. So limiting quick burning carbs and consuming 100-300 fewer calories each day can result in a loss of a few pounds a month; which almost all weight loss experts agree is the best way to lose weight. Slow and steady fat loss has less of a chance of coming back than fat loss that is too quick. Be the tortoise, not the hare.
Final Takeaway: The last place you gained weight is almost always the first place you’ll lose it. Regardless of what exercise program you choose, the best way to lose fat stores is to consume fewer calories than are needed for daily activities and limit quick burning carbohydrates.