We’ve all been there – you look in the mirror in the morning, see that your face is puffy, showing signs of excess body fat, and you decide to do something about it. You want to lose weight in your face, and you determine to do so.
However, is it so straightforward? Is there anything you can do to target the weight in your face in order to lose it and achieve a lean, chiselled look?
Yes and no.
The scientific consensus on spot target fat loss – actively aiming to lose weight from a specific point in the body – is that it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, the body simply doesn’t work that way. You cannot perform a set of exercises or leave out a certain food group and see one area of the body burning through fat.
Rather, fat loss is far more global. If you want your face to be slimmer, in other words, your whole body has to be slimmer. You will need to lose weight from everywhere at once.
Where your fat is lost from most immediately will depend more on genetics and gender than your fitness or dietary regime. For example, women often find their weight clinging to their thighs and bums, whilst men find it around their bellies (there are, of course, plenty of exceptions to these). It may also be that you find weight is easy to shift from your torso but not your face and chin, or alternatively that your face can look lean at a relatively large overall body fat percentage.
However, if you bring your weight down to a lean enough level (roughly speaking, 8-14% for men, 12-16% for women), you will find that even those tough spots begin to lose weight. Tough spots are simply where bodyfat will be lost from last – they aren’t areas from which it is impossible to lose weight!
To do this, you need a caloric deficit. No matter what fancy diets or pieces of exercise equipment you may be bombarded with by advertisers, this single, simple truth always wins. There are efficient ways of doing it, making use of things like macronutrient manipulation and protocols such as intermittent fasting. However, the basic law always stands:
If you want to lose weight, you need to burn more energy than you use, and we measure energy from food in calories.
In general, a caloric deficit of 500 kcal per day will lead to around 1lb / 0.5 kg of body fat loss per week. This scales upwards – a caloric deficit of 1000 kcal per day will generally lead to around 2lb / 1 kg of body fat loss per week, for example. It will be rare that anybody can safely go above this size of deficit, however.
If you want to deduct 500 calories per day from your caloric need, you will first need to know what your caloric needs are! We do this by first working out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR represents the number of calories any given person needs per day to maintain their current weight, assuming that they are entirely sedentary (they do no exercise of any kind at all).
It is easiest to use an online BMR calculator. However, the formula to manually find out a dieter’s BMR is:
Of course, few of us are completely sedentary. Hopefully, you lead a somewhat active lifestyle, with a bit of time given over each day, or at least several times per week, to exercise of some kind. Your actual caloric demand will therefore be much higher.
To find out how many calories you need per day to maintain your current weight, given your activity levels, we can multiply your BMR by your activity levels. This is done using the Harris-Benedict Formula. Simply find the multiplier below that seems most relevant to your activity levels:
Little/no exercise: BMR x1.2
Active: BMR x1.55
Very active: BMR x1.9
Let’s use a test case with an imaginary athlete. This athlete is a 28-year-old woman who weighs quite a hefty 85 kg (187 lbs) at five ten. She is very active: she trains five days per week, with active recovery on the other two days.
We can use a BMR calculator to state that their BMR is 1662. This is what she would need if she did nothing but sit around all day. Using our multipliers above, we go for ‘very active’ and times their BMR by 1.9.
This gives us: 1662 x 1.9 = 3158.
This athlete needs roughly 3158 calories per day to maintain her current weight (this is a lot, but she has a high body mass and live a very active lifestyle.)
If this athlete wanted to lose 0.5kg / 1lb per week, she would need to hit an average daily deficit of 500 calories, as we have seen above. This means that she would need to eat 2658 calories daily whilst being ‘very active’.
However, let’s take this set of biometrics for a woman with a desk job. She weighs the same as our athlete and takes part in 2-3 workouts per week, whilst living an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Her caloric needs will be lower, but by how much? Well, roughly, we can say that they are now just ‘active’, meaning that their multiplier is now 1.55.
This gives us: 1662 x 1.55 = 2576 calories. This is what she would need to eat to maintain her current weight
She would need to take in around 2076 calories every day to lose a pound (0.5 kg) per week.
These are, of course, estimates that can be too low or too high. However, they represent a good starting point. If you want to lose weight, simply work out your BMR and figure out which multiplier describes you the best.
Then, simply deduct 500 from this to represent your required caloric deficit.
There are two ways in which to find this caloric deficit, though a combination of both of them usually works well.
Firstly, you can exercise more, burning off the extra calories each day. Perform any kind of exercise using a calorie tracker until you hit 500.
Alternatively, you can eat fewer calories. This is often most easily done by removing unhealthy, highly caloric foods like processed food and fizzy drink. This is quite a common technique – it’s famously how Adele’s weight loss was achieved, for example. You will need to make sure that you take in fewer calories than you need even if everything you do eat is seemingly healthy.
As above, a combination of both usually works very well. Try eating 200 calories fewer per day and burning off an extra 300 calories through exercise.
There will be a few forms of exercise that are better than others – they are more geared towards burning calories quickly and efficiently. Larger muscle group exercises means a higher metabolic rate. Therefore, if you want to burn fat, you will do so more efficiently if you tone your muscles. Perform large, compound movements to both build lean muscle and burn calories.
Getting your caloric intake right is the most important part of any weight loss program. However, once you have this under control, you can begin to look another set of important details – your macronutrient requirements.
There are three macronutrients:
For reference, one gram of carbohydrates or protein will contain four calories. One gram of fat will contain nine calories. Working out how many of each of these macronutrients you need will make your diet far more efficient, will give you far more energy, will improve your overall health, and will generally lead you to feel less hungry.
This may sound complex. As above, only do it once you’re confident with your caloric intake – this is the most important part of weight loss. However, working out your macronutrient needs is actually very straightforward – at least as a rough estimate.
Broadly speaking, the following split will work quite well for the average person:
This is a good place to start, but will need to be adjusted according to goals, needs and personal taste.
For example, those living a very active lifestyle with plenty of resistance training may need more protein to help them recover, whilst those taking part in long distance, steady state cardio like running or hiking may need more carbohydrates to help power them through.
All of these together – a healthy diet with a decent daily caloric deficit of 500 – 1000 calories, combined with exercises to tone in the specific areas, should get you the results you want. Your whole body will be slimmer and the area in question will be tauter.
For the face, this means a global weight loss, as with any other area, plus some of the exercises above. You’ll have the slim, toned face you want in no time.
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