Weight gain can usually be hidden (or toned down) through strategic choice of clothes. Baggy clothes and high waisted bottoms can do the trick and hide those extra pounds you gained during quarantine, giving an illusion of flat tummy and long, lean legs. But what about face fat?
When your face starts to look chubbier than usual, you can’t really hide it, can you? Well, face mask hides half of your face, yes—but you get my point. Puffy cheeks may look good on some people, but let’s be honest here, it doesn’t work on most (including myself). Gaining weight and seeing your face getting rounder without any Plan B to hide it can get really frustrating sometimes. Unless you’re okay with wearing makeup and you’re skilled at contouring, your cheeks will still announce your weight gain like a neon sign. So, here’s the question that we’ve all been asking about:
Can you target fat loss?
It’s always my goal to help and guide people whenever I write blogs—it’s never about posting just to get some clicks, which is why I’ll be honest with you throughout this article. So, here’s the real shocker: you CAN’T target a specific part of your body to lose fat.
It’s important to know that you can actually get really fast weight loss results if you are willing to change things up.
The fat in your face is literally the same the rest that is spread across your whole body. Think of yourself as a glass of water, wherein the water itself is the fat and your body is the glass. Trying to lose it in one area is like trying to form an empty space of air right in the middle of the water—it’s just not possible using any natural means. You’ll have to know some water bending to do that, a.k.a. some unnatural means like liposuction or other modern fat removal procedures. The water acts as one entity inside a glass and so does the fat in your body. To reduce its amount, you’ll have to deduct from the whole quantity.
But why are fitness blogs and other influencers saying that “you can target weight loss”? Surely, once or twice in your life, you’ve come across some blogs that boast about targeted fat loss, most of which are tackling about fat loss in belly, leg, or arm regions, seldomly face fat. If you checked out the workout routines that these fitness trainers have laid out, you’ll notice that overall, it still consists of a general weight loss goal, with cardio and other calorie-burning workouts. These routines, however, are not entirely a sham; targeted weight loss is not a pure myth, and here’s a scientific study about a training program created to check the possibility of localized reduction. However, this study only dealt with the upper and lower limbs, namely the arms and legs, and it still included intense resistance exercise and an overall weight loss protocol. So, it doesn’t really apply to the stubborn face fat. You might have even noticed that people who are dieting lose fat in their body first before they reduce face fat. Generally, you have to go below 20% body fat first to lose those chubby cheeks. Some people with naturally round face need to achieve 15% or less to get a slimmer face.
Now that we’ve established that targeted fat loss is possible in arms and legs with intense focused exercise, let’s move on to getting rid of fat, chubby cheeks.
How to lose weight in the face and get rid of fat, chubby cheeks
The fat in our whole body is called adipose tissue or stored fat, and this is our body’s reserved energy resource, a.k.a. its very own Plan B. Our body uses up external sources of energy first, such as glucose, which we get from the food (carbohydrates) that we eat. The only time our body burns fat is when there is no glucose left to be used. So, before your body burns fat, you have to use up the glucose available in your body first.
Therefore, if you want to reduce face fat to get a slimmer face, you need to have a caloric deficit and reduce your overall weight first. How can you achieve this? It’s either you lower your food intake by dieting (less source of glucose = faster glucose depletion) or you exercise more (greater energy expenditure = faster glucose depletion) to burn through both glucose and fat.
However, not everyone is fond of exercise. Also, there are people who simply cannot handle the physical stress from exercising due to some health problems. So, another question pops up for these people: is there another way to lose weight?
Yes, there is. I’ve tried it, and I already saw some results just after 1 week! It’s back up by numerous scientific studies, conducted by graduates and professors from Harvard and Yale, doctors, and other reputable health experts. Read on if you want to know more about it!
Benefits of losing weight
Losing overall weight always leads to losing face fat, which is just one of the many benefits of losing weight. As you lose that extra inches from your waistline, you also get to lose that fat under the chin. It’s a win-win situation, right? If you’re still reluctant about what I said and still looking for a targeted fat loss technique on the internet, these benefits of losing weight might change your mind:
- According to National Health Service losing weight will reduce the following:
- blood pressure
- risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoarthritis
- inflammation and joint pain
- back pain
- Improved mobility and breathing
- Increased energy levels and better sleep
- Improved body image, confidence, and mood
- Overall decrease in stress
The truth about ghrelin, leptin, and insulin
Here’s something that you might not know: the hormones in our body play a HUGE role in fat loss. To explain how these hormones affect it, let me discuss first what happens in your body before, during, and after we eat.
Ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone,” stimulates appetite and fat deposition (storage of it in our body). This hormone is released from your gut when your stomach is empty, and it goes into your bloodstream. When the hormone reaches your hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls your hormones and appetite, you’ll feel hungry. So, as a result, you look for food to eat.
After eating, the food (carbohydrate) is broken down into simple sugars (glucose) by your body, which goes into your bloodstream. Once your blood sugar level goes up after eating, your pancreas releases insulin to regulate it. This hormone lets glucose enter the cells in your body to provide energy. This is why diabetic people have high glucose level in their blood; they either cannot generate enough insulin to assist the entrance of glucose in cells, or they’re resistant to insulin.
Once your body recognizes that everything is functioning properly (i.e., energy level is restored after eating or energy intake has been sufficient), leptin is released from the fat cells of your body’s adipose tissues. Leptin, also known as the “fat controller” or “satiety hormone,” signals the brain to decrease food intake, inhibiting hunger hormones like ghrelin so your body will not trigger any hunger pangs. As a result, you’ll feel sated and full.
Since leptin comes from the fat in our bodies, those with less fat in their body have less leptin and those with more have higher leptin levels. So, you might be wondering why obese people feels hunger more frequently despite the high levels of leptin in their body. This is because they acquired a resistance to the effects of leptin on appetite suppression. Thus, despite eating enough food, their brain does not respond to the signal that leptin gives.
To summarize, here’s a short list of what these hormones do to give you a hint on what to do in order to lose weight:
- Ghrelin – makes you feel hungry; promotes formation of fats
- Insulin – regulates blood sugar levels; allows cells to use glucose for energy
- Leptin – makes you feel full and sated; decreases food intake
Numerous researches throughout the years unveiled the roles of these hormones in weight loss and weight regain. This research indicates that alongside stimulating hunger, ghrelin can also regulate glucose levels in the blood by inhibiting insulin secretion, thereby contributing to weight regain. Another research proves that reduced level of leptin promotes overfeeding, and that leptin replacement helped reduce brain activity involved in hunger and increased satiety. High levels of insulin signify an abundant source of glucose in the blood for energy generation. Therefore, a high insulin level inhibits the breaking down of fats.
Lastly, this Yale study concluded that during fasting, the decrease in both leptin and insulin level activates a pathway that promotes the breakdown of fats. Check out these results from my long fast as well.
Therefore, to lose weight, you must:
- Reduce ghrelin levels
- Reduce insulin levels; and
- Increase leptin levels
If all your weight loss attempts have been unsuccessful, you might have been eating the wrong kinds of food or eating at the wrong time, leading to various fluctuations in your ghrelin, insulin, and leptin levels. During dieting, your body notices the lack in energy/calorie intake, and it adapts by making your ghrelin levels increase and leptin levels decrease. Therefore, your desire to eat grows, which makes it significantly harder to lose weight.
To help you, I’ll discuss some measures and techniques that I have PERSONALLY tried to successfully lose weight and get rid of that stubborn double chin and puffy cheeks.
How to naturally reduce ghrelin
Controlling your ghrelin levels is the key to controlling your hunger. Here are the things that you can do to decrease your ghrelin levels in a healthy way:
- Sleep properly – It’s been proven that lack of sleep increases ghrelin levels, leading to hunger pangs and weight gain. I always try to get 7-9 hours of sleep daily (at a reasonable time), and it’s been doing wonders for me.
- Go for a low-fat/high-protein diet and time your meals – A study proved that this type of diet results in successful weight loss without an increase in ghrelin levels. This study noted that meal timing and composition influences ghrelin levels and maintains weight loss. Specifically, fasting and having a high carbohydrate and protein breakfast will help you achieve long-term weight loss and prevent weight regain.
How to reduce insulin
When your insulin levels are low, it will be much easier to burn fat. To do this, you must strategically choose what you eat, just like in reducing ghrelin levels. You should avoid foods with high glycemic index, which are foods that quickly cause the blood sugar level to increase. Thus, you should avoid high-sugar foods, low-fiber foods, and highly processed foods. Some examples are baked potatoes, french fries, sugar-sweetened beverages, candies, white-flour pasta, cookies, junk food, etc.
Here are the types of food, which contains complex carbohydrates, that you should eat if you want to foster weight loss, according to Harvard’s The Nutrition Source:
- Foods with low glycemic load: apple, orange, carrots, lentils, cashews, peanuts, bran cereals, kidney beans, black beans, wheat tortilla, and skim milk.
- Foods with medium glycemic load: brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, whole-grain pasta, bulgur, and pearled barley.
How to increase leptin
It’s important to have healthy levels of leptin. Too much of this hormone can make you develop a resistance to its effects, which is what happens with overweight people, and too little will trigger hunger pangs. Just like the previous hormone regulation, you should watch what you eat and sleep properly.
- Sleep properly – It’s been proven that lack of sleep decreases leptin levels, leading to hunger pangs and weight gain.
- Increase your daily fiber intake – Eat fibrous foods like whole grains, oatmeal, and legumes.
- Avoid fructose-sweetened food and beverages – Fructose inhibits leptin receptors and quickly raises our blood sugar levels.
- Eat foods with low- or medium-glycemic load – These foods take a while to breakdown because they contain complex carbohydrates, increasing the amount of time in between your hunger pangs.
- Eat a high carbohydrate and protein meal for breakfast – Just like in reducing ghrelin levels, this type of diet, accompanied with fasting, will help you increase leptin.
- Take omega-3 – This fatty acid increases our body’s sensitivity to leptin, making the hormone more effective.
Taking all of these into account, one by one, can be very confusing. However, if you read it over, you’ll see some similarities and repeated mentions of fasting, strategic choices in food, and timed meals. Now, I know that a lot of people are wary about fasting, but a lot of studies have proven the advantages of fasting or intermittent fasting with regards to weight loss.
Benefits of intermittent fasting & fasting
Ever since the major debut of intermittent fasting (IF) as a means to lose weight last 2012 through a documentary by Dr. Michael Mosley, which is entitled “Eat, Fast, & Live Longer,” IF has been tried and tested by a large number of people, and it is even recommended by dieticians and doctors to prediabetic people to regulate insulin levels.
Fasting also regulates your leptin and ghrelin levels, since snacking throughout the day makes you feel hungrier, as indicated in Dr. Jason Fung’s book, “Obesity Code.” It has been proven with various scientific evidence that intermittent fasting, when paired with a healthy lifestyle and proper diet, does wonders to your body.
To summarize the benefits of fasting from the researches and documentaries that I studied, here’s a bulleted list:
- According to Dr. Monique Tello from Harvard, intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss through reduced insulin levels, and it reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In the article, the following information were mentioned:
- Between meals, insulin levels remain low as long as you don’t snack. During this time, fat cells release stored sugar instead to use up as energy. As long as you keep your insulin levels low by not snacking in between meals, your body will burn the stored energy reserves and you’ll lose weight.
- Since intermittent fasting involves meals that are fit into an eight-hour period during the day, it syncs up to our daytime metabolism and prevents us from eating at night. Eating at night has been proven to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.
- Lastly, Dr. Tello mentioned this study wherein a group of obese men with prediabetes showed improved insulin sensitivity, significant drop in insulin levels, lowered blood pressure, and a significant decrease in appetite after five weeks of intermittent fasting.
- A systematic review of 40 studies stated that intermittent fasting resulted in weight loss of 7-11 pounds for over 10 weeks.
- Intermittent fasting can cause immune response in our bodies that will repair cells and produce positive metabolic changes that will improve both overall health and tolerance to metabolic stresses and diseases, as discussed in this review and this systematic review.
- In this study, the researchers revealed that intermittent fasting increases stress resistance, increased life longevity, and decreased risk of disease, such as cancer and obesity. Furthermore, IF led to fat loss while maintaining muscle mass, resulting to a leaner body.
- This review stated that a person can lose up to 16% of body fat over 3-12 weeks.
How to get started with fasting & intermittent fasting
After reading various studies and watching documentaries and success stories (like this one), I took the chance and tried intermittent fasting myself, and I achieved excellent results! This is why I’m so adamant to share with you what I know and help guide you through your weight loss journey. With intermittent fasting, you can lose 5-10% of your body fat in 15 days!
First and foremost, go to your doctor and ask if IF is safe for you to practice. People who have suffered (or currently suffering) from eating disorders, pregnant/breastfeeding women, and diabetic people who receive insulin shots are usually not advised to do IF. If you received a go-signal from your doctor, then read on!
Timing, proper meal plan, and healthy lifestyle are the keys to successful intermittent fasting. There are different types of intermittent fasting, and it’s important that you choose which one is best for you. I suggest that you opt for the approach that will be easiest for you to follow.
- Alternate-day fasting – This is an approach of IF where you alternate between days of fasting and no food restriction. For example, during MWF, you’ll fast and only eat a meal that gives you 25% of your daily calorie needs. And during TThSatSun, you won’t have any food restriction and eat healthy meals thrice a day.
- Whole-day fasting / 5:2 approach – This involves eating regularly for five days a week, and then go fasting for the remaining two days (for example, during Wednesdays and Saturdays) and eat only one meal that provides 25% of your daily calorie needs.
- Time-restricted feeding / daily approach – With this approach, you can adjust the time from 16/8 or 12/12 approach. For the 16/8 approach, you have to schedule your meals within an 8-hour time frame, and go fasting for 16 hours. For example, you will fit all three of your meals within the time window of 7 am to 3 pm every day. And for the 12/12 approach, you have to fit your meal schedule within a 12-hour time frame, such as 7AM-7PM. This is the easiest approach that works for most people.
Once you’ve decided which fasting plan will work for you, start looking for meal plans that you can follow. Obviously, you should be eating MORE fruits, vegetables, fiber, healthy protein and fats, and complex carbohydrates, and you should be AVOIDING sugar or simple carbohydrates, sweets, refined grains, and processed foods. You can go on ahead and scroll upwards to the list of foods I suggested to control your ghrelin, leptin, and insulin levels.
As a general rule of thumb, this is the ratio for a well-balanced meal on a plate, dubbed by Harvard’s The Nutrition Source as the “Healthy Eating Plate”:
- ½ of your plate must contain of vegetables and fruits (except potatoes!)
- ¼ of your plate must contain whole grains (think whole wheat, barley, oats, and brown rice)
- ¼ of your plate must contain healthy protein (fish, poultry, beans, and nuts; limit red meat to minimum)
Also, when cooking and preparing salads, you should use healthy vegetable oils like olive, canola, and soy oil. Furthermore, NEVER FORGET TO HYDRATE! Drink plenty of fluids daily, preferably water, tea, or coffee (if you can handle your tea and coffee with no sugar, go for it). Limit dairy drinks to 1-2 servings only every day, and avoid sweetened drinks as much as possible.
Lastly, SET REMINDERS of your meal schedule and TRACK your progress. When checking for your progress, don’t just use the scale. Take photos for visual progress, take note of your body stats with a tape measure, and use a tracking app to make your calorie count easier. It’s always rewarding to know that you’ve made progress, and this will further encourage you to persevere until you reach your goal.
How to make your face look thinner
Before I end this article, you might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned toning of muscles. This is because it doesn’t really lower your fat levels without caloric deficit, and, again, you can’t choose where you lose it from. Having toned muscles just generally increases your metabolism. However, if you want a leaner look to achieve a skinny face with a sharp jawline and defined cheekbones, you can try some exercises that will help tone and strengthen your facial muscles, whereby your face will look thinner as well – you will, however, need to lose weight in order to really have it make a difference.
How to get a sharper jawline and get rid of double chin
Here are five face and chin exercises for men and women. Do these daily to make your face look slimmer.
- Lift your brows – Put two fingers above your brows and gently push the skin down. Raise your brows 10 times against the resistance you created with your fingers. Rest for a few seconds, and repeat thrice.
- Say X and O – Place two fingers on each of your cheekbone and lift the skin up towards your eyes. Open your mouth as if saying “X” and “O,” and hold the mouth position for 5 seconds for every letter. Repeat this 10 times.
- Stretch your neck and flex your jaw – Move your lower lip over your upper lip to flex your jaw, and tilt your head back until you’re facing skywards. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat this 10 times.
- Suck your cheeks in – Pucker your lips and suck in your cheeks. With this position, tilt your head back until you’re facing skywards. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat this 10 times.
- Puff your cheeks out – Inhale through your nose and with your mouth closed, let out a little bit of air to puff your cheeks out. Move the air from one cheek to another for 30 seconds.
Another thing that you should watch out is water retention. Face fat accumulation doesn’t happen in a blink of an eye. If you suddenly get puffy cheeks overnight, it might be because of water retention in your cells. To avoid this, decrease your sodium and alcohol intake and make sure to hydrate yourself and get some proper sleep. This will help your body to flush out that extra water in no time.
Now that you’re at the end of the article, bear in mind that sticking to the plan is the most important thing in every weight loss approach. Be responsible and know your body’s limits. If you’re having trouble, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor and loved ones for insights and emotional support. Good luck with your weight loss journey! Make sure to boast that slimmer face and defined cheekbones in your weight loss success story selfie!